Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Republican, extolled the values of pluralism with regard to the treatment of LGBTQ Americans by religious conservatives in his farewell speech on the Senate floor this week. Yet he never went into detail about what that pluralism would look like in practice.
Hatch called on his party members to find some common ground toward advocating for the best interests of those who prioritize religious liberty and those who fight for LGBT rights.
Hatch said Wednesday:
“Nowhere is the pluralist approach more needed than in the fraught relationship between religious liberty and LGBTQ rights… Religious liberty is a fundamental freedom. It deserve the very highest protection our country can provide. At the same time, it’s also important to account of other interests as well — especially those of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. Pluralism shows us a better way. It shows us that protecting religious liberty and preserving the rights of LGBTQ individuals are not mutually exclusive. I believe we can find substantial common ground on these issues that will enable us to both safeguard the ability of religious individuals to live their faith and protect LGBTQ individuals from invidious discrimination.”
This is one of those talking points that sounds perfectly fine until you realize even someone like Ted Cruz could deliver it. They’re all for compromise… until it involves the religious side giving anything up. (It’s not like Hatch said a Christian baker should sell a cake to a gay couple getting married.)
But setting that cynicism aside, Hatch’s words shouldn’t be ignored either, in part because they’re coming from a prominent Mormon. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is well known for being especially hostile to the LGBTQ community, arguably swaying the Prop 8 decision more than a decade ago.
It might have been more effective for Hatch to mention something about how pluralism was intended to be one of the original American values — as opposed to being a “Christian nation” or “one nation under God.” The Founders wanted a place where people of various backgrounds and beliefs could coexist.
The members of his political party, however, will not be so easily swayed toward his all-inclusive way of thinking.
The GOP has been home to white evangelicals since the election of President Ronald Reagan. And in addition to winning white evangelicals, Trump won the support of most white Protestant Christians and white Catholics. No group supports the GOP more than white evangelicals, as the 2018 midterm election exit polls showed. And no group is less supportive of same-sex marriage and the advancement of LGBT rights than white evangelicals, according to the Public Religion and Research Institute.
The number of Republicans overall who are sympathetic to the challenges gay Americans face — as Hatch noted, there is no federal legislation protecting Americans from discrimination based on sexual orientation — may not be significant enough to heed Hatch’s request.
While I try to remain hopeful that people will change their thinking the more they get to know LGBTQ folks in their everyday lives, what’s more likely to happen, at least in the GOP, is that no change will occur until current officials retire or die out. Even if they’re replaced by conservatives, the demographic changes suggest that even that crop of candidates, who probably grew up knowing gay and trans people, would be appalled by the bigoted thinking of their political forebears.
Of course, we can always hasten that change by just voting the anti-LGBTQ members of Congress out of office.