On Oct. 17, gay rights group Human Rights Campaign released the latest version of their annual congressional scorecard, which ostensibly ranks congressmen and senators based on their support for LGBT rights. Democratic legislators quickly took to Twitter to brag about the results, with prominent figures like Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, and Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., showing off their perfect scores.
I am honored to receive a 100 on @HRC’s Congressional Scorecard for my support of LGBTQ equality. No Ohioan, and no American, should ever face discrimination because of who they are, or who they love. #HRCScorecard https://t.co/rzjfyvCDn7 pic.twitter.com/3fWFnqvJm1— Congressman Tim Ryan (@RepTimRyan) October 17, 2018
From marriage equality and non-discrimination legislation, to protecting health care rights and opposing homophobic nominees, I'm proud to stand up for the #LGBTQ community now and always. #LoveIsLove #HRCScorecard pic.twitter.com/eY02Z8NqC5— Senator Bob Menendez (@SenatorMenendez) October 17, 2018
It’s no surprise that many Republicans remained silent, because most received low rankings or even scores of zero. Yet in many cases, the negative HRC reviews don’t indicate that GOP legislators are anti-LGBT or homophobic — because the organization’s ratings are basically just partisan progressive propaganda.
HRC President Chad Griffin makes the organization’s political bias immediately clear in the press release accompanying the newly published rankings. While some of the issues mentioned obviously impact the LGBT community, Griffin’s address quickly detours into blatantly political matters which have little to do with gay rights. He argues that “when Congress fails to protect Dreamers, that impacts LGBTQ people,” and calls anyone who would dare vote against Planned Parenthood funding an enemy of the gay community.
Apparently, holding conservative views on abortion and immigration now makes you an anti-gay bigot in the HRC’s estimation. But the absurdity doesn’t stop there.
The rankings themselves are nakedly partisan. Senators are docked points in a gay rights evaluation if they voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, against Planned Parenthood funding, for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ confirmation, or even against “voting rights” legislation. The HRC also declares constitutionalists bigoted by default, and marked down any senator who voted to confirm either Justice Neil Gorsuch or Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
I’m left wondering: Could even the most gay-friendly conservative legislator have scored well on such a partisan evaluation? Yet the biggest problem with these partisan “gay rights” rankings is their inherent homophobia: They assign progressive political beliefs to the entire LGBT community, an incredibly diverse group, and in doing so, strip us of our individuality.
For example, if a gay man like me won election to Congress, would the HRC label me an anti-LGBT bigot for my libertarian views on healthcare and support for conservative judges? Probably.
After all, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is an ally of the gay community who has publicly supported gay marriage, opposed the homophobic “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that banned gays in the military, and backed anti-discrimination legislation. The HRC once recognized this, and even endorsed Collins in 2014 — but that was before progressive partisans hijacked the organization. Now, after she dared to vote for Kavanaugh, their latest rankings gave her just a 33 out of 100. The only reason she even fared that highly in their rankings (many other Republicans got zeros) was because she voted for funding for Planned Parenthood and against Affordable Care Act repeal. Yet what does that have to do with gay rights?
Still, the HRC rankings do accurately evaluate gay rights records on a few categories. Representatives are ranked on whether they support non-discrimination protections for LGBT students in public schools, for their stances on the criminalization of conversion therapy, and on a few other on-topic issues. If GOP representatives were docked on their gay rights record on this basis, that’s at least reasonable.
The HRC should refocus their efforts along these lines. As long as the supposed gay rights organization punishes legislators for unrelated policy positions, no one should take them seriously.
Brad Polumbo (@brad_polumbo) is an editor at Young Voices and a senior at UMass Amherst.