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Last November, I predicted that Republicans would make mince meat (an expression my grandfather always used) of the LGBTQ+ community in order to create a cultural divide to win the midterms. And they've done that: they've not only gone after our community, but have weaponized children, in their demented attempt to scare suburban moms, casting gay teachers, lesbian mothers, trans athletes, and children as boogeymen.
It's like watching a runaway train -- and one that seems sent to us from Anita Bryant. Now, over 200 anti-LGBTQ+ bills are either pending or passed in state legislatures across the U.S.
Suburban moms were cited by the Brookings Institute as the reason Joe Biden won the presidency. They pack a powerful constituency punch, and to win their midterm votes, Republicans are trying to scare the bejesus out of them to get them in line.
Republican campaign operatives are taking their cues from how Republican Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin won his off-year election. He promised to root out critical race theory in classrooms around the state. With exaggerations, lies and deceit, he cast critical race theory as a threat to children. Suburban moms freaked out, even though there was no formal curriculum of critical race theory in classrooms in Virginia, and turned out in droves.
These moms voted for Youngkin, being prompted by an issue that did not exist. Thus, the Republican party knew they had a winning strategy.
Led by two other cunning Republican Governors, DeSantis of Florida and Abbott of Texas, the GOP has launched a cruel assault on the LGBTQ+ community. I wrote about this travesty last week.
Fed up with what I perceive to be complacency and a lack of urgency about speaking out and fighting back against this trove of discriminatory trash against LGBTQ+ kids, I wrote that anyone who backs these horrible measures should burn in hell. I also asked, "How are we holding those accountable for what's going on right now? Will there be any repercussions? There will be for the children, but how about for those who have done them so wrong?"
I was tired of seeing perfunctory, toothless statements from organizations and legislatures every time one of these hurtful bills had passed. And I wondered why those in power were not being more aggressive by calling out the Republican's woeful misuse of the words "groomer" and "pedophile."
Then came some powerful words and actions, first from gay Missouri State Legislator Ian Mackey, who after a colleague proposed a measure that would ban transgender girls from competing on girls' sports teams, said this, "I was afraid of people like you growing up," he said Monday. "For 18 years, I walked around with nice people like you, who took me to ballgames, who told me how smart I was and then went to the ballot to vote for crap like this. I couldn't wait to get out."
And this week, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, who is straight, was moved to tears during a recent interview on the News Not Noise podcast when the subject of the latest barrage of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation being proposed and passed by the GOP came up.
However, one the most surprising, and perhaps the most effective, responses was from a young, straight Catholic suburban mom: Michigan State Senator Mallory McMorrow. She lambasted her colleague Lana Theis for referring to McMorrow as a groomer in a fundraising letter, and tore into her other colleagues for supporting anti-LGBTQ+ laws that impact children. The video of Senator McMorrow's speech went viral.
I reached out to Senator McMorrow, and after thanking her for speaking up, I wondered why this was so personal to her? "Yes, it was personal, and the reason is that I have been hearing from so many moms in my district who wonder why politicians are going after children," she says.
McMorrow explains that she's been speaking frequently with a mom in her district who has a trans daughter. "This mom is dumbfounded as to why the state government would take her daughter away from playing sports with her friends and singling her daughter out as if she's doing something wrong by just being her authentic self. Finally, she, like so many of us moms, can't. understand why there is so much hate."
When I asked McMorrow about being labeled a groomer by her colleague, she has a quick answer. "Ok, she said I was a groomer, but my concern was for all the LGBTQ+ people who have to hear that word and the other offensive term pedophile day after day after day. One of my considerations in fighting back so hard is that I know several people who have been groomed. We can't expect these people to speak out about something that is utterly painful for them. I'm in a position of authority, and I was thinking about all those who have to hear this garbage every day, and how hard it must be for them, so hopefully I helped them by speaking out."
McMorrow says that she had read about the California train incident involving one of our editors, his husband and their children. "It made me sick to my stomach to read that story. It was chilling. My hope is that those kids are ok, and that they don't have any repercussions from what happened. That story was in the back of my mind when I was considering how to respond publicly."
I ask how the reaction has been since her widely-seen speech. "I'm just a State Senator in Michigan, so we have a very small staff," she explains. "So before I went onto the floor, I told my team that we might be overwhelmed with reaction, and that some of it might be very harsh, and they should be prepared for that."
However, to the Senator and her staff's surprise, McMorrow says that 99% of the calls, emails and texts have been positive. "I was busy picking up the phone with my staff, and I ended up talking with a Republican, Christian mom in Texas, who said that everyone in the country needs to hear what I said, and she also talked about why local governments are further marginalizing kids that are already ostracized She said that that is the least Christian thing you can possibly do."
Was it McMorrow's goal to reach those critical bloc of voters, suburban moms, when she gave her speech? "Yes. It was a starting point, I hope, and I hope that it causes other moms to step up and start speaking up, particularly those of us in positions of power who have a voice."
And McMorrow raised another critical point. "We have to acknowledge that moms have been asked to do a lot over the last two years. We've taken the brunt of the pandemic, and my sense is that Republicans around the country are trying to take advantage of moms who have been distracted and who are exhausted. They are trying to pivot them to a hateful movement, and we can't allow them to get away with this."
"My hope is that what I said starts a groundswell of ticking off other fed up suburban moms to the point of having them fighting back and speaking out, against all this hate directed at us and to our children," McMorrow concludes.