Evolving narratives on sexual orientation
Igor Volsky at Think Progress examines whether or not Rick Perry's comparison of homosexuality to alcoholism will hurt him in the campaign. I think it probably will—that kind of overt bigotry is becoming less acceptable by the hour lately. Igor agrees, to an extent, saying that bigotry like this makes you look bad and distracts from economic issues, pointing out that it hurt Ken Buck in his bid for Senate in Colorado. He adds:
Republican presidential candidates from Michele Bachmann to Mitt Romney continue to make offensive and homophobic remarks in debates and on the campaign trail, despite the public’s growing acceptance of gay people. It’s unlikely that these positions will resonate with a constituency beyond the party’s social conservative base, since, as Paul Thornton notes in today’s Los Angeles Times, “the radical ideas espoused by Bachmann, Perry, Santorum and others are [already] held up not for genuine consideration but for scorn.” “Perry’s and Bachmann’s views aren’t weighed against President Obama’s ‘evolving’ stance on same-sex marriage; rather, they are simply ridiculed. It says as much about our society as it does the candidates.” And if that’s the case, then Buck’s candidacy was the first in what may be a long line of Republican contenders who will pay a political price for their homophobia until they learn to accept and respect the LGBT community.
Here's what I find fascinating about all this: the "homosexuality is like alcoholism" thing actually came about because social conservatives are trying to sound more tolerant of gays. It's actually an attempt to evade accusations of bigotry. The old line was basically that gays are molesters and perverts who only do gay stuff because they're bad people. The narrative is that gays are broken people with a disease, a compulsion—and that they need "help" to overcome it. But the public saw through that attempt at revisionism as quickly as it was concocted.
In fact, many conservatives have moved past even that and are trying to argue that they believe that sexual orientation is fixed and gay people deserve rights. They've retreated to arguing that opposition to marriage equality isn't discrimination at all, but somehow "protecting traditional marriage". Again, their attempts to evade the label of "bigot" by cleaning up bigoted arguments isn't working. Each new move lasts a couple years, and then the public starts to see through the new gambit, as well.
Of course, the rates of progress vary by community. I think the very far right is still stuck in the "gays are demons who snatch children" mode, the larger Christian right is in the "gays are sick people who need 'help'" phase, the "traditional marriage" coalition is collapsing since it was a last-ditch effort to retain inequality in more liberal areas, and people of moderate to liberal politics have accepted gay people and are moving on.