One way in which they also disagreed: how to describe the tragedy and victims. Republicans, it turns out, were far less likely to invoke four letters — LGBT — or say anything about the gay community. In fact, according to a Washington Post analysis, more than 10 times as many Democrats addressed the LGBT community in their statements — 123 — as Republicans — 19.
This was a tragedy, of course, that occurred at a gay nightclub. Whether the shooter was motivated by homophobia is something that investigators are still trying to determine. Omar Mateen is reported to have visited gay chat rooms, used gay dating apps and even frequented the club where he killed 49 people, Pulse.
Sympathizing with an LGBT community that has clearly been shaken by the attack has been an easy call for some Republicans. Utah's lieutenant governor, Spencer Cox, gave a stirring speech on Monday night recalling a time in his childhood when he wasn't so nice to gay classmates and apologizing. Even Donald Trump has mentioned the LGBT community — albeit in his own distinct way — since the attack.
Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 14, 2016
On Thursday, Trump even argued the LGBT community "is starting to like Donald Trump."
But the Republican Party more broadly has just demonstrated how much less certain it is about invoking those four letters. And perhaps nothing is more illustrative of that than the Republican National Committee itself.
Mashable noted Wednesday that the RNC's initial statement on the tragedy, posted Sunday, said, "Violence against any group of people simply for their lifestyle or orientation has no place in America or anywhere else."
By Monday, that sentence was gone:
Lindsay Walters, a spokesperson for the RNC, confirmed to Mashable that the sentence had appeared in an earlier version of the statement erroneously posted to the committee's website.In the final version, posted Monday, the text preceding the deleted sentence was edited to read: "A terrorist attack against any American is an assault against us all, and Saturday’s violence will only harden the commitment of our people to maintain a free, peaceful, and democratic society in which all beliefs are tolerated."Walters said the revision was meant to be more inclusive because it invoked a common humanity and referenced all Americans instead of singling out LGBT people.
It's no secret why deciding whether to cite LGBT people is a tough call for some Republicans. Many in the party not only oppose gay marriage and/or support religious freedom laws allowing denial of certain services to gays, but plenty also think that being gay or transgender is wrong, period, and shouldn't be encouraged. A 2015 Pew poll showed that 59 percent of Republicans would be "upset" if their child was gay or lesbian (including 30 percent very upset). Gallup polling shows 37 percent of all Americans think that being gay is morally wrong — and you can bet that the rate is much higher among Republicans.
You can tell a lot about politicians not just by the causes they advocate, but by the issues they talk about at all and the words they use to do so. In the aftermath of the Orlando mass shooting, Democrats were quick to embrace an LGBT community that has embraced them at the ballot box.
Republicans, though, continue to find themselves conflicted between a socially conservative base and a country that is moving quickly to the left on issues such as gay marriage and even acceptance of LGBT people more broadly.