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.