Target: United States House Representative James Lankford
Goal: Apologize for hurtful comments against LGBT community and families on welfare
James Lankford (R-OH), the fifth ranking House Republican, shocked and offended LGBT groups when at a recent community town hall he suggested using “the power of humiliation” to challenge a program that helps LGBT individuals with substance abuse issues.
Lankford took a question from a constituent complaining about a program that counsels LGBT individuals with substance abuse problems. Lankford agreed with the woman’s concern, promising to open an investigation into the matter.
The woman said about the Substances and Mental Health Services Administration, “They are going around the nation, they just did this here in Oklahoma, December 7th, and having conferences that are educational. […]About 2 percent of the conference is dealing with substance abuse and mental health issues. 98 percent is doing indoctrination or pushing the homosexual agenda. This is what our president is doing. He has a federal agency doing it. Our state, the Oklahoma Mental Health and Substance Abuse Department, put this conference on and is indoctrinating our citizens who are totally against this. Is there any way you can look into this?”
Lankford responded, “Oh yes, sure. You know I can absolutely get a chance to take a look at it. We’ll start the process, try to see what we can do to identify it. Some of those things you have the power of humiliation where you can raise it and put in sunlight. They love functioning in the dark. You put some sunlight on it, that does help. But, we’ll see. I’m glad to take that on.”
The program Lankford undermined has been incredibly helpful in helping the already-underserved LGBT community, particularly youths who face different challenges from their straight peers. Past statements about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act show Lankford has a history of anti-LGBT rhetoric. ThinkProgress asked the congressman last year whether LGBT workers should be legally protected from workplace discrimination. Lankford shot down the proposal, calling homosexuality “a choice issue.”
This is not the first occasion in recent memory that Lankford has made offensive comments about a vulnerable American community. Lankford recently met with his constituents in Oklahoma City and was asked about his views on gun violence. Lankford laid the blame on the feet of the children of “welfare moms” who have committed fraud.
“We’ve overmedicated kids. Quite frankly some of the overmedication of kids are because welfare moms want to get additional benefits and if they can put them on SSI through maintenance drugs, they can also put them on Social Security disability and get a separate check. That is wrong on every single level. Not only is it fraudulent to the government, but it also tells a kid with great potential, ‘don’t try because you’re disabled,'” Lankford said.
ThinkProgress also did a study of the numbers in order to discredit the statement. It showed that in 2011, the Inspector General’s office opened up 4,600 fraud cases related to Social Security disability programs. The number of people who are committing the type of fraud described by Lankford is a tiny fraction of that overall number. Meanwhile, nearly 10,000 people are gunned down in an average year. These numbers call into question whether Lankford’s comments can be taken seriously on any level.
Ask James Lankford to apologize for his hurtful comments about the LGBT community and mothers on welfare.
Dear Representative Lankford,
One of the things that makes the United States the greatest nation on earth is our freedom of expression. You have every right to voice your opinions and ideals. However, another thing that makes the United States the greatest nation on earth is our sense of community and justice. By making hurtful comments about the LGBT community and families on welfare, you continue to alienate large swaths of Americans. As you saw in the 2012 election, most Americans will not stand for divisive and intolerant rhetoric. We urge you to continue to reach out to communities that you have maligned, and try to see all Americans as worthy of the same rights and respect.
Please apologize for your hurtful “humiliation” comments about LGBT individuals suffering from substance abuse disorders. Also, please apologize for blaming “welfare moms” for gun violence. Both types of comments contribute nothing to our national conversation and only serve to further divide us. As a leader, you have a responsibility to represent the values we Americans pride ourselves on, and the kinds of comments you have made do not reflect these values.
[Your Name Here]
photo credit: US House of Representatives