by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
On March 11, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Equality California, National Center for Transgender Equality, Transgender Law Center, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, and Lambda Legal joined together to express outrage over U.S. Representative Peter King's ongoing 'Muslim Radicalization' hearings - the first of which was held this week - in the House of Representatives.
The groups join Americans from many diverse backgrounds to condemn the scapegoating of Muslim people, said the NCLR in a statement. As Floyd Mori from the Japanese American Citizens League said, 'We feel very strongly that it does point back to the time when just because we were of Japanese ancestry, people looked upon us with hate and terror.'
The internment of Japanese Americans - one of our nation's most shameful episodes - resulted from a similar attempt to cast an entire group of citizens as 'un-American' and deny them their civil rights. As groups representing LGBT people of all faiths, races, national origins, and backgrounds, the organizations condemn these hearings and urge elected representatives to stand fast against anyone who would exclude any group from the American family.
'Representative King's hearings only fuel the fires of unjust hatred and discrimination that Muslim, Arab, and Middle Eastern Americans of all sexual orientations and gender identities already face on a daily basis,' said National Center for Lesbian Rights Executive Director Kate Kendell. 'As members of the LGBT community, which continues to fight for our equality and justice, we stand in solidarity with the growing chorus of voices condemning these shameful hearings and calling for an end to the politics of irrationality and fear.'
LGBT Americans are no strangers to this type of scapegoating. In the 1950s, Joe McCarthy targeted LGBT people and sought to portray them as dangerous and un-American. In a report titled 'Employment of Homosexuals and Other Sex Perverts in the U.S. Government,' a group of United States Senators concluded that 'homosexuals and other sex perverts are not proper persons to be employed in government' because 'they are generally unsuitable, and they constitute security risks.' Those hearings - like the 'Muslim Radicalization' hearings - heard testimony from supposed experts that reinforced these prejudices. In the years that followed, thousands of LGBT civil service employees were harassed, terrorized, or fired from their jobs.
'LGBT people know all too well what it means to be singled out, scapegoated, and persecuted simply because of who they are,' said Geoff Kors, executive director for Equality California. 'The targeting of Muslim Americans is deplorable. It has no place in society and is un-American, un-democratic, and unjust. We stand in strong solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters and condemn the marginalization of any individuals or groups based on age, religion, creed, race, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, gender, and gender identity or expression.'
Transgender Law Center Executive Director Masen Davis said, 'As minorities within the U.S. who are greatly underrepresented in government, our struggles for equality are all connected. All LGBT people, of all races and religions, must step forward to join other fair-minded people in creating a world where discrimination against Muslim, Arab, and Middle Eastern Americans is no longer acceptable, in which we transcend ignorance and bigotry. As advocates who use the legal system to make positive change, it is deeply concerning and distressing to see government hearings twisted for such an unjust purpose.'
Added Lambda Legal Executive Director Kevin Cathcart, 'Every American, regardless of ethnicity, religious belief, or sexual orientation, should be asking, 'Where does this lead?' We've all been down this road before, most notably during World War II and the Cold War, with tragic consequences for tens of thousands of American citizens. Singling any group out as a whole because of a suspected lack of loyalty on the part of a few of its members is wrong; doing it when the internment of Japanese Americans and the spectacle of the McCarthy witch trials are still within living memory is simply repugnant.'
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