Lawmakers Supporting Health Care Reform Subjected to Racist and Anti-Gay Slurs

March 22, 2010
On Saturday, March 20 prior to Sunday's passage of landmark federal health care reform legislation by the U.S. House of Representatives, several Democratic lawmakers were subjected to racist and anti-gay slurs by "Tea Party" activists as they entered the capitol,  The Washington Post reported: "Members of the Congressional Black Caucus said that racial epithets were hurled at them Saturday by angry protesters who had gathered at the Capitol to protest health-care legislation, and one congressman said he was spit upon. The most high-profile openly gay congressman, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), was heckled with anti-gay chants. "Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) issued a statement late Saturday saying that he was spit upon while walking to the Capitol to cast a vote, leading the Capitol Police to usher him into the building out of concern for his safety. Police detained the individual, who was then released because Cleaver declined to press charges." The Washington Post also reported that some key Republicans denounced the slurs but called them isolated incidents: "On CNN’s 'State of the Union,' Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) denounced the use of such slurs 'in the strongest terms.' "House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), said on NBC’s 'Meet the Press' that the 'isolated incidents' were 'reprehensible.' "Later on the same program, Michael Steele, the Republican National Committee’s first black chairman, agreed that the incidents were 'reprehensible,' and added, 'we do not support that.' “'What you had out there yesterday were a handful of people who just got stupid and said some ignorant things,' Steele said." But the article goes on to say that not all Republicans were quick to condemn.  "Roll Call reports that Reps. Steve King (R-Iowa) and Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) both downplayed the incidents." The Huffington Post's Sam Stein also reported on the racist and anti-gay slurs. Meanwhile following passage of the health care bill late last night the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force issued a statement calling the legislation a "step forward," in some areas:  "The legislation includes language to prohibit discrimination in some funding for federal public health programs; allocates $8.5 billion in funds for community health centers; prohibits exclusion on the basis of pre-existing conditions; and improves data collection on health disparities." But the Task Force  expressed "deep disappointment" about "the absence of LGBT-specific provisions that were in the original House bill, including tax equity for employer-based health insurance coverage of same-sex couples and expanded Medicaid coverage for people with HIV." "The Task Force is also disappointed in the inclusion of funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs; the continuation of a ban on legal immigrants' Medicaid eligibility and on undocumented residents' access to health insurance; the ongoing restrictions and attacks on funding for women's reproductive rights services; and the lack of a public option." GLAAD highly encourages media outlets to focus on how comprehensive health reform will affect LGBT people. The Task Force statement clearly explains what works and what's missing. And regarding  the racist and anti-gay slurs directed at lawmakers on Saturday, we thank the national media outlets that spotlighted the disturbing incidents and encourage the media to continue reporting on the matter.