My Point of View: Republicans waging culture war against LGBTQ 

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, September 13, 2022

My Point of View by Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

I grew up with the Christian value of comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable (the powerful).

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

Our current state representative, Peggy Bennett, has repeatedly opposed rights for LGBTQ people. She has defended “conversion therapy” for minors which studies have shown to be harmful to youth, she has stated objection to gay marriage, and she opposes comprehensive sex education which would include the specific sexual health education needs of LGBTQ students.

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This past summer, Peggy Bennett helped orchestrate a campaign against a popular area drag queen performing at Wind Down Wednesday in Albert Lea. Angie Hoffman carried it publicly, and Bennett distributed a call to action against the drag queen. The call to action referred to the performer’s act as “adult themed content” that not everyone agrees is appropriate to “promote to our children.”

This was a scare-mongering characterization. To those unfamiliar with this drag queen’s act, picture Tony Curtis in “Some Like it Hot” but adorned with much bigger hair. 

A social media fracas ensued, many people came to the drag queen’s defense, and the drag queen herself helped educate people about her act. When the dust cleared, the performer took the stage and gave a composed and delightful performance while wearing an enormous wig. She certainly posed a danger of turning children into fans of Patsy Cline and Dolly Parton, if anybody wants to make an issue of that.

We can be an inclusive community. We can let our children match on the outside who they are on the inside. Our society won’t fall apart if they don’t conform to rigid stereotypes and gender norms. LGBTQ people exist, and they have the right to exist in public.

The fear against LGBTQ people that remains, especially in smaller communities like ours, is destructive and isolating to kids (and adults) who don’t fit gender binaries and heterosexual norms. LGBTQ adolescents have a four times higher risk of suicide attempts than their peers. Transgender people have a four times higher risk of being victims of violent crime than people whose gender identity matches their birth sex.

Acceptance saves lives and allows children to feel belonging in their own families and hometowns; it does not destroy society. Bennett has actively stood in the way of LGBTQ people’s right to be who they are and she has spread misinformation about them. Bennett has afflicted children and adults who are targets of bullying, rejection and misguided attempts to change who they are.

When we learn that old ways are harmful, we can change. Change does threaten certain power dynamics, especially with regard to some religious hierarchies, and that can make progress a slow and uphill battle.

Despite the gains our society has made on LGBTQ rights, those achievements are not set in stone. Many conservatives, including Justice Thomas on the Supreme Court, have indicated a desire to overturn the Obergefell decision, which legalized gay marriage across the U.S. in 2015. 

Whom does Bennett comfort? She comforts those with the highest incomes who will be the biggest beneficiaries of the tax cuts she supports. The most egregious of these is the estate tax she wants to repeal, which less than the top 2% of Minnesota estates pay.

Bennett is actively working to accelerate the accumulation of wealth among the richest people in our state.

Republicans will never convince me that a corporate CEO works as hard, dollar for dollar, as a full-time server, nursing home aid or construction worker to earn their income. That’s why a graduated income tax and fair tax policies are so important, because they spread educational opportunity and good public services among everyone. It makes society function better.

Republicans often claim that giving LGBTQ people (and women!) equal rights erodes the family and society. This is bullfeathers. LGBTQ people just make convenient targets. Do you know what actually destabilizes society and weakens families? Widening wealth inequality and underfunded public services and infrastructure, which is a direct result of Republican tax policies.

Bennett is waging a diversionary culture war against LGBTQ people on behalf of the economic interests of very wealthy people who would benefit the most from the tax cuts she supports. 

Our children, including our LGBTQ children, deserve so much more. Four terms of past-date, out-of-touch leadership from Peggy Bennett is enough. Please vote for Mary Hinnenkamp to represent us in the new House District 23A. Hinnenkamp supports all our children, strong public education and fair tax policy that undergirds robust public services and infrastructure.

A final note — in Jill Marin’s letter defending Gene Dornink and Peggy Bennett on Aug. 27, she did not disclose that Bennett is a church elder in the Marins’ church. This relationship is an important context that not every reader may be aware of.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson is a member of the Freeborn County DFL Party.