A story today in the San Francisco Chronicle details the story of the exclusion of openly-gay Presidential Candidate Fred Karger from the California State GOP Convention.
Karger has also been excluded from the Fox News Republican Presidential debates, despite his polling at the 1% level in several national polls, a requirement for inclusion. He recently polled at 2%, tying with Pawlenty and Huntsman, while outpolling Santorum. In a recent Zogby Poll, Karger tied Gingrich. Fox News denied him after "clarifying" their rules to include only certain types of polls. He has also been excluded from an upcoming Presidential debate at the Reagan Library in California. His spokesman noted that Republican party officials often don't even return the campaign's phone calls.
Why has Fred Karger been excluded from the State GOP Convention? Is it because he is not a credible candidate, as some have suggested? Or is that just a pretext for homophobia?
If he were being denied access to these events because he is not a credible candidate, then I would expect that to be given as a reason for his exclusion. That is what people do when they have a valid reason for excluding you. They explain why.
However, the reason given for Karger's exclusion is not that his candidacy isn't "credible." Instead, all these coy little reasons are being given. The reason given by a Republican party official for the latest exclusion from the California State GOP Convention was this:
"The schedule is completely filled."
Here's another example from the story:
Karger was all set to attend the national Conservative Political Action Conference, where he had arranged for a booth and even provided his credit card to pay for it. He was surprised to get a call saying "Fred was no longer invited ... because there were no booths available," Miniter said.
Miniter called to check - inquiring about booth rental for another group - and suddenly, "they were more than happy to rent to us," he said.
In regard to the upcoming GOP convention, state GOP officials refused to give any reason at all for Karger's exclusion to reporters, dismissing the discussion by saying they did not want to "negotiate in the press," and refusing even to give their name to the reporter.
As a transgender person who is subject to exclusion myself, and as an attorney and professor in the area of transgender employment law, believe me when I tell you that I know what a pretext sounds like.
Fred Karger's exclusion is nothing more than homphobia, pure and simple. He's not being excluded because he's not credible. He has quite a resume in the political area. He's polling above with and above some other credible candidates. The reasons given for his exclusion on each occasion was different and does not match up with the argument that his is not a "credible" candidacy, unless Republicans define "credible" as including the phrase "not gay".
The Republican party is homophobic. Fred Karger is being excluded because the Republican party cannot stand gay people. And they know they can get away with it. The media at large doesn't see it as a major story because, duh, the Republican party is filled with homophobes. The words "prejudiced" and "bigot" apply here. But when you're gay or transgender, people wink and nod and smile to one another and say, oh, "he's not a fit for our company," and tell butt jokes in the back room after the interview. It's so endemic that it's not even really news. It's the same reason that you never saw newspaper stories about the exclusion of African-Americans in the early part of the twentieth century. It's not news. And homophobia is not news today. It's just part of the world we live in. That's why the fight for civil rights for LGBT people is more important than ever. We've just begun to make some progress, and we are far, far from the finish line. That's what the exclusion of Presidential Candidate Fred Karger means. And that is why his candidacy is so important for the LGBT movement. The treatment he's receiving is the treatment so many of us receive every day -- exclusion, pretextual reasons, stout denials of homophobia and transphobia, and winks and nods in the back room.