GOP’s new strategy: use TikTok falsehoods to target LGBTQ nonprofits’ federal funding

Mark Segal Philadelphia Gay News Publisher
Mark Segal Philadelphia Gay News Publisher. File photo 2017

Every LGBTQ nonprofit in the nation should take note of something that happened last week and put it on their radar screen, as it very likely will put them under the microscope when applying for federal funding. Simply put, the Republicans have found a new way to go after the LGBTQ community by taking away funding from your local community center, your LGBTQ health clinic, your HIV/AIDS service organization, your LGBTQ youth programs, or even LGBTQ affordable senior housing.

Any one of them could be next on the Republicans’ hit list.

And to do that, conservatives used fake information, and then Democratic Senators fell into their trap and defunded a one-million-dollar grant for renovations to a community center that since the 1970s has provided meals to HIV/AIDS patients, counseled homeless youth, provided senior programs, provided job training and other services to low-income individuals, and served as a meeting place for scores of community organizations. Does this sound like your community center?

I’m not sure how many millions of our tax dollars go to LGBTQ nonprofits, but what I can tell you, as a comparison, is that the largest federal nonprofit funding goes to the Catholic Church and its affiliates. The Associated Press puts the number at $1.4 billion and $3.4 billion, and that was for COVID alone.

We get a drop in the bucket, and they are attempting to take that away. Here’s how it happened and can happen in your city.

A grant from the federal government to an LGBTQ community center was withdrawn from the funding system of the federal government because a conservative TikTok site suggested that the community center was allowing an independent organization to rent space from the community center to use it for kink sex parties.

That was false; no sex took place, only discussions of sexuality, and the community center rents space to outside organizations who abide by their rules, which includes no sex in the building. What those trolls didn’t say was that the group that rented the space wasn’t an LGBTQ organization; it had many heterosexual members.

Here’s the point: if your organization is renting space to third-party organizations, the Republicans might use those programs to defund you. They might go after a safe sex lecture, for example. The right wing has a fascination with our sexuality, and they like to paint us with that brush only. Maybe that is why there is a need for sex-positive seminars in our community?

After the TikTok went viral, it was just like an old Keystone Cops movie. After all, this did take place in Pennsylvania, the Keystone State. First, the junior Senator, John Fetterman, the most progressive U.S. Senator, wrote the committee rescinding his support. When his rescinding letter was posted, he said he had nothing to do with it and that his staff did it without his knowledge. Then the senior Senator, Bob Casey, also withdrew his support, stating, “That consenting adults have the right to do whatever they want in their free time, but these types of appropriations projects warrant the highest level of scrutiny on behalf of taxpayers.”

And that caused it to die in a Senate committee. These are two Senators who support LGBTQ marriage and marriage equality and have been endorsed by LGBTQ political organizations. Here’s the clincher: Senator Bob Casey is up for reelection, and it’s the one seat Republicans believe they can pick up. so I wasn’t surprised when less then 24 hours later I received a text from a major supporter of Casey’s Republican opponent. It asked me, “Are you signed up for McCormick now?” That’s David McCormick, the Republican candidate running against Casey. And that Republican candidate is seeking LGBTQ support; he even signed onto an amicus brief supporting marriage equality.

My reply was, and I know you know this before I type it out, “Is he willing to commit to funding the community center?”

This happened in a state with two Democratic Senators, one progressive, the other centrist. Will Republicans do this in your state with your funding request? You’d better hope not. But if they do, you’d better hope that you have the backing of your Senators and they’ll support and defend you to the end and stand up to the homophobes who treat our lives like a game. Otherwise, you can kiss that funding goodbye.