THE PLANK OCTOBER 20, 2009
In their latest attempt to turn the tide against the public plan, some Republicans have begun trying to appeal to gay Americans to join their anti-government crusade. As The Hill notes today, Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn has co-authored an op-ed blasting “government-run health care” for The Advocate, the leading LGBT magazine. Together with his co-author, GOProud’s Christopher Barron, Coburn rails against the Ryan White CARE Act for forcing AIDS patients onto waiting lists to receive life-saving drugs from a government program. “These bureaucratic inefficiencies and mismanagement have literally cost lives,” Coburn and Barron write. What’s the lesson learned for the gay community? To push for health care reform that avoids “creating an inefficient and expensive government program,” the pair concludes, championing Coburn’s private-insurer-friendly Patients’ Choice Act as an alternative to the Democratic plan.
Coburn doesn’t explain, of course, how the private market or his own reforms will succeed in making expensive AIDS drugs more affordable than the current Ryan White programs, other than repeating the line that insurers shouldn’t be able to discriminate against those with pre-existing conditions. But what makes the argument even more difficult to take seriously is the fact that Coburn--one of the most conservative Republicans in the Senate--has a long history of vicious attacks on gay rights, the gay community, and “the gay agenda.”
In 2004, Salon flagged some of Coburn’s comments on the subject:
The gay community has infiltrated the very centers of power in every area across this country, and they wield extreme power ... That agenda is the greatest threat to our freedom that we face today. Why do you think we see the rationalization for abortion and multiple sexual partners? That's a gay agenda.
Salon also notes that Coburn--who’s voted against gay marriage and gay adoption--authored a bill in 1997 that proposed to end anonymous testing for HIV/AIDS, requiring the names of those who tested positive to be reported to public authorities. It’s unclear whether Coburn still holds such extreme views, but he certainly continues to be surrounded by such sentiments. Just last month, Coburn’s chief of staff declared that “all pornography is homosexual pornography,” warning that smut could lead young people to adopt that dreaded gay lifestyle.
Coburn’s history makes it a bit incredible to think he can now appeal to the LGBT community when it comes to the life or death decisions surrounding health care reform. If he’s softened his anti-gay views, that’d certainly be a welcome development. But if Republicans seriously want to make inroads within the gay community, they should think twice about who might be their best envoy.