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Gay Rights and the Tea Party

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Tom Scott is a U.S. conservative talk-radio host who ran as an independent candidate in 1994 against Eunice Groark, a Republican and the first female lieutenant governor of Connecticut back in 1990.

Scott became submerged in hot water in 2005 when, as Tampa mayoral candidate, he opposed local gay rights marches, and urged elected officials to vote against them.

But his excuse at the time was that his opposition was not down to discrimination, but the "issue was spending public dollars to advocate or advertise gay pride".

He went one further, too: "I oppose any kind of discrimination in any form".

Tom Scott is also a fellow-traveller of the tea party movement. To the accusation that the tea party is a cell for racists and homophobes, Scott -- a black person himself -- replied that "the real basic platform of the Tea Party" is a dissatisfaction of high taxes and big state.

This probably doesn't sit well. After all, the tea party did more than just raise the issue of supposedly bad finance. When the Cato Institute's Julian Sanchez raised the spectre of epistemic closure, and right-wing bias towards Fox News, this was at a time when the birther movement were waving placards claiming the President of the United States was not a real American.

Who were the birthers? Well people like Tom Wise who felt Obama's documents had been altered. He, also, was a Tea Party coordinator.

But there seems to be some desire for a real Tea Party, not the rag-tag bunch who pose conspiratorial questions and look stupid, like Tom Wise (not well named).

Sanchez' colleague at the Cato Institute David Lampo has taken it upon himself to do the seemingly impossible task of bringing gay rights to the conservative right. For him this should start with the Tea Party movement. Though, further, he doesn't think it'll be too hard.

In his new book, A Fundamental Freedom: Why Republicans, Conservatives, and Libertarians Should Support Gay Rights he cites:

A Montana Tea Party group recently kicked out one of its board members for remarks that seemingly condoned anti-gay violence. In Texas, a bastion of hard-core Republican conservative theocrats, the Republican Party recently replaced its "Schlaflyite culture warrior" chairman (in the words of author and journalist Jonathan Rauch) with a more traditional Reaganite who emphasized economic issues over social ones. As a Dallas Tea Party leader told Rauch, "We do not touch on social issues. We believe the biggest danger to the country is the fiscal irresponsibility that's going on in Washington."

I once again ponder on the question: Is an organisation like the Tea Party the sum of its parts (which brings to mind the birthers and other nonsense) or a whole which cannot always control the message of its parts (the whole's message being one of non-discrimination and economic issues)?

On the Republicans in general and gay relationship recognition, Lampo cites some very interesting figures:

When it comes to relationship recognition for gay couples, as far back as 2004, a CBS News poll showed that 46 percent of Republicans backed either civil unions or same-sex marriage, and that support has continued to grow. A CBS News poll in August 2010 showed 59 percent of Republicans supporting either same-sex marriage or civil unions (25 percent backed marriage, 34 percent civil unions). A May 2011 survey by Public Policy Polling showed a majority of Republicans, 51 percent, in favor of either same-sex marriage (12 percent) or civil unions (39 percent).

In his Washington Post piece he notes a sea change in Mitt Romney, siding with homophobic organisations to rally up the troops. But for Lampo these troops are imaginary. The conservative Right are coming round to gay rights -- even on issues such as marriage.

So perhaps there is something in this. Perhaps this shows something interesting within conservatism that appeals to gay marriage, rather than the stock criticism that conservatives and gay marriage are as oppositional as Jeremy Hunt and truth-telling.

As a congregation of conservative rabbis in Arizona recently put it: "Same-sex marriages have the same sense of holiness and joy as that expressed in heterosexual marriages."

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