ho·mo·pho·bia noun ˌhō-mə-ˈfō-bē-ə : irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals - Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Homophobia is rampant in the right-wing, not only among fringe but mainstream Republican ranks. And wherever right-wing rejection of the Other exists, it responds powerfully in reaction to the advance of the cause of liberty. Two years into the administration of President Barack Obama, it has come to Congress in the form Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC).
Virginia is an interesting creature. Members of Congress must be willing to stay in touch with the world and with events in that world. They have to make some pretty weighty decisions, after all, and information is vital. But Virginia, like most Republicans of the present age, prefers to cover her ears and repeat “la,la,la” over and over again to block out things that challenges her bigotry.
Virginia Foxx, no surprise, was an outspoken opponent of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009.
For the record, in case anyone has forgotten, Matthew Wayne Shepard (December 1, 1976 – October 12, 1998) was at the time of his murder a 21-year-old student at the University of Wyoming. He was pistol whipped, tortured, and tied to a fence before being left to die in a remote area near Laramie, Wyoming, in the night of October 6-7 1998. He died at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado, on October 12 from severe head injuries.
The New York Times described his death:
“According to the local police and prosecutors, the two men lured Mr. Shepard out of a bar by saying they were gay. Then, the Laramie police say, the pair kidnapped Mr. Shepard, pistol-whipped him with a .357 Magnum, and left him tied to a ranch fence for 18 hours until a passing bicyclist spotted Mr. Shepard, who was unconscious.”
He was “left to die in the frigid Wyoming night.”
She is on record (on the floor of Congress, no less) as saying that the hate-related murder Shepard by two homophobic men was “a hoax.” Of course, it was far from a hoax and Matthew’s mother, Judy Shepard, was in the audience at the House of Representatives that day and heard it directly. Like her son’s murder by homophobes, Virginia’s callous stupidity was not a hoax.
“I also would like to point out that there was a bill — the hate crimes bill that’s called the Matthew Shepard bill is named after a very unfortunate incident that happened where a young man was killed, but we know that that young man was killed in the commitment of a robbery. It wasn’t because he was gay. This — the bill was named for him, hate crimes bill was named for him, but it’s really a hoax that that continues to be used as an excuse for passing these bills.”
Robbery? Robbers don’t usually torture their victims to death, leaving them tied to fences in remote areas of the country to die.
Foxx finally apologized to say it was a “poor choice of words” after public pressure. Poor choice of words? Not that you were actually wrong, Virginia? You just could have put it more politely? Is that it?
Despite all the hate and disdain for reality Virginia Foxx could muster the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (also known as the Matthew Shepard Act), passed on October 22, 2009 and signed into law by President Obama on October 28, 2009. The other individual for whom the bill is named was James Byrd, Jr. was an African-American man who was tied to a truck Jasper, Texas in 1998 by two known white supremacists, dragged along behind it, before being decapitated.
This is the world the GOP has brought us as a holiday gift, institutionalized homophobia on the floor of Congress.
Virginia, you see, it was announced on January 4th, will be chair the House Subcommittee on Higher Education. Isn’t that a disturbing thought? It’s difficult to imagine somebody more ill-suited to chair the committee on higher education. Are we to believe that somebody this close-minded is capable of advancing the cause of higher education?
This is the woman who incidentally was one of 11 members out of the entire Congress to vote in 2005 against the $51 billion aid package to victims of Hurricane Katrina. In 2006 she added to her medievalist reputation by being one of only 33 Republicans to vote against the extension of the Voting Rights Act. In 2010, in what is hardly a surprise, she voted against the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act, the Aiding Those Facing Foreclosure Act of 2010, and as an encore, against the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.
It seems there is nobody Virginia likes.
Yes, like many other Republican members of Congress, it’s difficult to define what exactly Virginia Foxx is for. We certainly know what she is against, that her target seems to be any legislation that can be dated from beyond the 13th century, as her 0% rating from the Human Rights Campaign tells us.
The Religious Right dominated the eight years of the Bush administration and America teetered dangerously close to theocracy. After being nearly banished from power in 2008, they are back and their agenda is in full swing only days after convening the 112th Congress. They’ve made no secret of their prejudices or their plans to repeal the European Enlightenment and all gains made since. And long-time opponents of gay rights like Virgina Foxx are more free than ever to pursue their agenda of bigotry and to institutionalize as a national policy their religiously-fueled homophobia.
For Virginia Foxx’s voting record, see the list maintained by the Washington Post here.
To meet the rest of the Religious Right’s congressional team, see People for the American Way here.
Sign Care2’s petition to get someone who’s knowledgeable and open-minded to chair this subcommittee!