Democrats and Political Homophobia

Merriam-Webster defines homophobia this way:

Irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals.

We all know practitioners of homophobia — mostly Republicans, right-wingers, Catholic leaders, etc.

There is, however, a version of homophobia that is much more insidious: Political Homophobia.

Political homophobes aren’t gay-hating in the traditional sense. In fact, publicly, most are strong supporters of LGBT equality. But, behind closed doors, many Democratic leaders, consultants, Hill staffers and the rest will vociferously argue that there is no political benefit to actually supporting LGBT rights. Political homophobia is rampant among some Democrats. In some ways, it’s worse than blatant homophobia, since we think most Democrats are on our side. And outwardly, they are.

Political homophobia dictates policy in DC more than we’d like to think. I believe it’s happening in the West Wing right now. I’ve been told by several people that while the president’s chief of staff, Rahm Emmanuel, isn’t a homophobe in the traditional way (he always voted the right way when he was in the House), he is always the first person to suggest that his colleagues (and now boss) avoid gay issues. He’d rather not deal with them because he thinks they’re bad politics.

Now, maybe in 1993 that was true. But Rahm, if he truly is the problem behind the throne, doesn’t grasp the change in society over the past two decades. He also doesn’t understand that the American people think Obama is a different kind of politician — one who will do what he says because it’s the right thing to do.

The West Wing’s political homophobia is not only damaging relations with the LGBT community, it’s damaging the Obama brand. And even a politician obsessed with “bad politics” knows that this isn’t good.


On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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