Frank Rich, in New York Magazine:
A few prominent Republicans, including Trump, Ryan, and Mitt Romney, have begun to speak in support of the LGBT community in the wake of the shooting. Is this political opportunism, or might it mark a real change in the GOP's stance toward LGBT recognition?
Again, it’s business as usual. Republican politicians always speak warmly of the LGBT community after its members are the victims of a horrific crime. Nonetheless, it took Ryan until Tuesday to acknowledge that gay people — or “the gays,” as Trump calls them — were targeted in Orlando. It took Rick Scott, the Republican governor of Florida, until Wednesday. There’s nothing to suggest that such politicians’ belated expressions of sympathy with the gay victims of a terror attack will change their anti-LGBT acts of public policy.
To see Republican hypocrisy in its rawest form, I implore everyone to take five minutes and watch Anderson Cooper’s rightly acclaimed CNN interview with Pam Bondi, the attorney general of Florida. Bondi is shedding many public tears, or at least rhetorical ones, over those who were slaughtered in her state, and she is congratulating herself (in the Trump manner) for all the good she is doing now for the victims and their families. But Cooper repeatedly refused to let Bondi wiggle away from the “sick irony” that as attorney general she had slimed gays when arguing in court against same-sex marriage, accusing them of doing “public harm.” And he also forced Bondi to confront the fact that if she had succeeded in overturning same-sex marriage, gay spouses would not be able to visit their loved ones fighting for their lives in an Orlando hospital. “I have never really seen you talk about gays and lesbians and transgendered people in a positive way until now,” Cooper told her. Bondi does, of course, have nothing but positive things to say about those gay people in the Pulse nightclub now that they are dead or wounded. Whether this is a genuine change of heart or merely a cynical political exploitation of a massacre can be determined by watching the Cooper interview for yourself.
The GOP’s continued institutional opposition to LGBT rights — exemplified not just by Bondi’s history in office but by the flood of so-called “religious liberty” bills nationwide seeking to undo same-sex marriage — is matched by the party’s inability to shake its reflexive homophobia. That stain extends to conservative elites. To take one badly timed example: In Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, published only hours before the Orlando bloodbath, you could find a column by the paper’s frequent contributor Joseph Epstein, whose career has been notable mainly for its homophobia. In 1970, a year after Stonewall, Epstein wrote a notorious 11-page essay for Harper's explaining why he “would wish homosexuality off the face of this earth” and why nothing his children "could ever do would make me sadder than if any of them were to become homosexual.” On the morning before Orlando nearly a half-century later, we find him being nothing if not consistent: He argued that Trump's benighted voters have been driven to him by media coverage of such things as "a lesbian couple kissing at their wedding ceremony" and "the need for men who 'identify' [Epstein's scare quotes] as women to have access to the public lavatories of their choosing." In Epstein's telling, the Trump voters appalled by such matters are not bigots — they are merely protesting what Epstein calls "progressivist" political correctness. Though his piece purports to be anti-Trump, it makes exactly Trump's argument.
Yes, there are gay Republicans, and there are many Republicans and conservatives who are not homophobic and in some cases support gay civil rights. But the toxins of bigotry remain at the core of the party institutionally, both in its actual stands on policy and its countenancing of homophobia like Epstein’s at its most elite levels.