As students at a college with a vibrant queer community, we hear a lot about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered activism. We can recognize the relevance of LGBT rights in the upcoming presidential election. An unfortunate truth, however, is that the current focus of campaign media coverage — the Republican party — has featured repeated attempts to shoulder this component out of the picture.
I question how any student who supports LGBT rights could stand behind the Republican Party. Most students are receptive to LGBT issues: a 2011 poll conducted by the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute indicated that 71.3 percent of college freshmen nationwide support same-sex marriage. Given the sentiments of our demographic and the prominent role many college students play in the LGBT movement, it is vital we stand behind a presidential candidate who does not wish to hold back the movement’s progress.
During the Florida primary debate last week, Republican candidate Rick Santorum vocalized his adamant belief that the repeal of don’t ask, don’t tell was a mistake. Santorum demonstrated an embarrassingly weak grasp of the issue when he asserted that the repeal was an endorsement of “sexual acts” in the military.
Santorum seems to think that allowing LGBT individuals in the military to come out awards them special privileges. One has to wonder how he worked that out, considering the only way this right could be called a special privilege is if straight soldiers were not allowed to “come out” as straight.
The most distressing part about Santorum’s comments, however, is not the content — it is the reaction of his Republican audience. It began before Santorum even opened his mouth: The audience produced audible boos in response to the video of Army Capt. Stephen Hill asking a question regarding the progress made for gays in the military.
The fact that any audience member booed an honorable member of the American military is disturbing. Even worse: He was booed for asking a relevant question regarding basic human rights.
Santorum’s comments suggest outright homophobia, but the other presidential candidates are not much better. No Republican has expressed outward support for the LGBT community.
Other campaign issues are equally relevant, but it is difficult not to question the judgment of someone who does not even demonstrate respect for the equal rights of all citizens.
Equality is one of the central tenets of American democracy. Such disregard for equality spawns domestic unrest and prevents America from tackling these other problems with a capable and unified citizenry.
College students should not allow our nation to be led in the direction of bigotry; otherwise, we could spend our lifetimes cleaning up the mess.
Francesca Bessey is a freshman majoring in narrative studies. Point/Counterpoint runs Fridays.