Dana Rohrabacher, the 15-term Republican incumbent washed away by Democratic challenger Harley Rouda when the blue wave came ashore in Southern California’s 48th Congressional District last week, isn’t your average homophobic extremist.
He is, in fact, an architect of the decades-long battle against LGBTQ rights and a politician, among many others, whose bigotry is partly responsible for the deaths of thousands of people from AIDS.
Rohrabacher was a lieutenant of President Ronald Reagan throughout his two terms as a speechwriter and special assistant, helping Reagan court the evangelical right, which Reagan has been credited with bringing into politics. Reagan, bowing to the zealots from whom he helped amass enormous power (power they still wield with President Donald Trump), was among the most anti-gay presidents in history, ignoring the AIDS epidemic until far too late.
Rohrabacher was first elected to Congress in 1988, at the end of the Reagan administration, representing a district in Orange County, a bastion of conservatism in the ’80s and beyond. He was among a trio of California right-wing Republican congressmen ― including Bob Dornan and William Dannemeyer ― who demonized people with AIDS in that era, voted against efforts to stem the epidemic and battle discrimination and pushed legislation that was discriminatory against LGBTQ people.
Rohrabacher also teamed up with the virulently anti-gay Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina in attacking government grants to queer artists. Rohrabacher railed against the National Endowment for the Arts in 1990 ― even as George H.W. Bush’s White House tried behind the scenes to get him to pull back ― for supporting artists who created “drawings of homosexual orgies, bestiality and a Statue of Liberty turned into a transvestite, complete with male sex organs.”
Over the years, Rohrabacher twice backed a federal amendment to ban same-sex marriage, voted against preventing anti-LGBTQ discrimination in employment and voted against legislation extending hate crime coverage to LGBTQ people. In 2009 he said allowing people with HIV to enter the country, even on tourist visas, was “humanitarianism gone wild.” And this year, Rohrabacher, who became a national embarrassment as a Vladimir Putin apologist in the Trump era, caused a national uproar when he supported allowing homeowners to turn away gay buyers.
Now, after 30 years, this bigot has finally been booted.
And he’s not the only one.
here has been much discussion in the aftermath of last week’s midterms about the rainbow wave, a record number of LGBTQ candidates elected in races across the country ― over 150 at last count. But on the other side of the coin, many ardent homophobes and anti-gay candidates were taken down too.