Texas Gov. Rick Perry got a lot of criticism earlier this month when he compared homosexuality to alcoholism while answering questions at an event in San Francisco:
“Whether or not you feel compelled to follow a particular lifestyle or not, you have the ability to decide not to do that. I may have the genetic coding that I’m inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that, and I look at the homosexual issue the same way.”
Last week he tried to defuse the controversy over his remarks by suggesting that he had been distracted by the question over homosexuality and that, in any case, he really thinks America should be “respectful and tolerant” of everyone:
“I got asked about issues, and instead of saying, ‘You know what, we need to be a really respectful and tolerant country to everybody,’ and get back to talking about, whether you’re gay or straight, you need to be having a job. I readily admit I stepped right in it.”
Those comments are so cynical and transparently political.
It might be a little easier to believe Gov. Perry if he hadn’t made an almost identical comparison between homosexuality and alcoholism six years ago in his book On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting For:
Even if an alcoholic is powerless over alcohol once it enters his body, he still makes a choice to drink. And, even if someone is attracted to a person of the same sex, he or she still makes a choice to engage in sexual activity with someone of the same gender.
The truth is that Perry said what he did in San Francisco because he was trying to score political points at the expense of LGBT Americans. If he really believes America should be “respectful and tolerant” of everyone, perhaps he could set an example by apologizing for saying that gay military veterans returning home from war probably should choose to live somewhere other than Texas. Maybe he could acknowledge that he was horribly wrong when he complained that the Obama administration’s defense of the human rights of LGBT people imprisoned, brutalized and murdered in other countries is “not in America’s interests” and “not worth a dime of taxpayers’ money.” Or maybe he could express regret for the cynical television ad during his disastrous presidential campaign in which he criticized openly gay military service men and women or when he compared opposing gay Boy Scouts to opposing slavery.
We won’t be holding our breath waiting for any of that to happen. The truth is that Gov. Perry has built a political career around appealing to voters who think LGBT people should be treated as, at best, second-class citizens. “Respect” and “tolerance” are empty words from people like that.