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We Asked Republican Senators About Pride Month. It Got Awkward.

Fourteen Republicans are, alas, not celebrating Pride Month. But hey—a couple of them acknowledged that it exists!

Ted Cruz smiles.
Noam Galai/Getty Images
Senator Ted Cruz visits “The Megyn Kelly Show” at the SiriusXM Studios in New York City, on May 20.

“I’m proud of every American,” Texas GOP Senator Ted Cruz replied, trying to be punny, when I asked if he celebrates Pride Month. “That’s none of your damn business,” he shot back when I asked if his friends or family celebrate Pride.

Mitt Romney was more forthcoming. “Of course,” said Utah’s retiring senior senator and former GOP presidential nominee: He has gay friends and family. But when I asked if he’ll celebrate Pride with them, he laughed and said, “Ah, no.” In 2023, a whopping 86 percent of Utahns polled supported LGBTQ nondiscrimination policies.

The New Republic asked 14 GOP senators this week about LGBTQ Pride Month. None had any plans to celebrate the movement for equality that began in New York City with the Stonewall uprising of 1969 and has become, over the decades, an audacious global street carnival honoring queer liberation in major cities around the world.

In 1982, Wisconsin became the first state to pass a statewide anti-discrimination law that included sexual orientation, an achievement that Ron Johnson, the state’s junior senator, didn’t mention when I asked him about Pride Month.

“Is Pride a positive human problem?” Ron Johnson said under his breath after an awkward pause. Dumbfounded, I began to repeat the question, but he interrupted. “Pride comes before the fall,” said Johnson, more loudly—if also more cryptically—this time, before stepping into an elevator with Rick Scott, Florida’s junior senator.

I did quickly get to ask my question of Scott, who might be the next Republican Senate leader. “No, not really,” he said. The Sunshine State didn’t legalize same-sex marriage until 2015. Florida still has no statewide laws to explicitly protect LGBTQ residents from discrimination. I asked Marco Rubio, the state’s senior senator, if Pride is a big deal in Florida. “Not to me, it isn’t,” said Rubio, who is on Donald Trump’s veep short list.

“The best thing I can do to help Pride is end the war in Gaza,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, as he walked into the Senate chamber. In 2022, Graham voted against the Respect for Marriage Act, which protects same-sex and interracial marriage. South Carolina remains among the worst states for the LGBTQ+ community, according to a new report by Out Leadership.

Neither Senator Susan Collins of Maine nor Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina had plans to celebrate Pride, but both said they were proud of their part in repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which had outlawed same-sex unions since it was signed into law under President Bill Clinton in 1996. DOMA was repealed by the Respect for Marriage Act, signed into law by President Joe Biden in 2022. Twelve Republican Senators voted for the repeal, including Todd Young of Indiana.

“I support life,” said Young when asked about his Pride Month plans in a Senate hallway. The senator stopped walking after considering his response, then returned to confront me about whether I celebrate Pride. I don’t go out much anymore, I told Young, which is true. “But you don’t have a problem with it, right?” said Young, looking me dead in the eye. None, I replied. “Well good,” said Young as he turned and walked away. “Just checking,” he added over his shoulder. The Out Leadership report lists the Hoosier State as high risk for those in the LGBTQ community.

Senator Eric Schmitt of Missouri had no plans of his own to celebrate Pride, he said, but he was familiar with festivities in St. Louis. “I think down on Cherokee Street they got something going on,” he said. In 2023, Missouri Attorney General Andew Bailey promulgated an emergency resolution limiting gender-affirming care in the state. The resolution was eventually blocked in court. As Missouri’s attorney general in 2019, Schmitt argued that the 1964 Civil Rights Act does not include protections for transgender people.

Josh Hawley, Missouri’s senior senator, introduced a bill that would allow parents to sue clinics that provide trans health care, which he said would be his priority next year if Republicans control all branches of government. “I’m not a big Pride Month supporter or fan,” said Hawley. “I just think this idea that we’re supposed to—especially with the trans piece—I mean, now we’re being told that men can get pregnant. Our kids are being told in schools, often behind their parents’ backs, that if they’re a boy, they should be a girl.”

Log Cabin Republicans, a group representing LGBT conservatives and straight allies, wouldn’t say if any congressional Republicans celebrate Pride this year. None of the Republicans interviewed for this article had any plans to celebrate Pride.

Meanwhile, Democrats have been steadfast in condemning the GOP’s culture war on LGBTQ Americans, especially trans folk. “The targeting of LGBT and trans communities specifically has been extremely concerning,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told The New Republic last March. “It’s something we’re going to have to figure out and use every opportunity that we have in order to defend these folks.” Representative Maxwell Frost agrees. “They can’t do it alone,” he said of defending trans people. “It has to be all of us. Like with any marginalized community, you can’t just leave it up to that community. It has to be every single one of us pushing back every single day.”