Gay liberals often express disgust and criticism at gays who align with the Republican Party. The animosity between the two groups has become more apparent with the increase in the number of openly gay conservatives. Organizations like the Log Cabin Republicans and GOProud have given gay conservatives legitimacy within the political arena, allowing a platform in the media to express their view of why the LGBT community should embrace the Republican Party. With the increasing media coverage given to GOProud, liberals have become more vocal about their disdain for gay conservatives. The heightened criticism from liberals has not been met with a decline in gay conservatives. Instead, it seems that there are even more gays openly supporting the Republican Party. It's likely that the increase we have seen is partially due to individuals' willingness to come out of the closet, since being gay is no longer necessarily an end to one's social life or political career. With the increased occurrence of individuals "coming out," it is possible that a greater variation of men and women are identifying as homosexual -- a greater variation of individuals with variable ideologies, political or otherwise. Because homosexuality does not necessarily define an individual, and, as it follows, because homosexuals are not a homogenous group, it can be expected that with the paradigm shift in American society, a greater proportion of gay conservatives will become increasingly visible.
How should we deal with this increase in visibility and participation of gay conservatives? I suggest we work with this group and not further ostracize them from the LGBT community. We have already seen some progress with convincing prominent Republicans to support gay rights. For example, Grover Norquist, Andrew Breitbart, and Ann Coulter joined GOProud's board. Although associating with GOProud has been met with controversy, the affiliation with conservative heavyweights shows us that the political winds are changing direction.
Despite this, criticism of gay conservatives is not misguided. To learn about the modern Republican Party's view on LGBT rights, one must look no further than the presidential candidates. During the primary campaign, the candidates seemed to compete over which one of them was more anti-gay, going as far as signing a "marriage pledge" from the National Organization for Marriage, which the Southern Poverty Law Center deems a hate group.
The national level is where we need the most help. As many know, Republicans in Congress have historically been anti-gay. Nearly every piece of legislation pushing for gay rights is voted along party lines, with Republicans overwhelmingly voting in the negative. Although DOMA was signed by Bill Clinton, it is now being defended with over $1 million by the "fiscal conservatives" in the U.S. House. Even closeted gays have been a threat to our rights. For example, Ken Mehlman worked tirelessly opposing gay marriage. While Mehlman tries to convince the LGBT community that he is now an ally, he recently co-hosted a fundraiser for House Speaker John Boehner, who is leading the campaign to fund DOMA's defense. Our job should be focused on convincing Mehlman to put pressure on Republicans like Boehner.
Despite setbacks on the national level, there has been progress. The Log Cabin Republicans sued to stop enforcement of "don't ask, don't tell," which Congress ultimately repealed. In fact, several Republican Congressmen voted to repeal the policy. Likewise, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hates Crimes Prevention Act was passed with support from a few Republicans. I do not mean to minimize the vitriol spewed by Republicans during the debate of these two bills. My point is that we are seeing Republicans vote in favor of pro-gay legislation in numbers unthinkable only 10 years ago.
I am not suggesting that we fully support the Republican Party to maximize support for equality legislation. Why support a party that rejects the LGBT community? This is not to say that Democrats are perfect on the issue of gay rights, either. However, the difference between the two parties is undeniable. Democrats overwhelmingly sponsor, lobby, and cast votes for gay-supportive legislation. Barack Obama, although "evolving" on the issue of marriage, has done more for LGBT rights than any other president in history. Between the two parties, Democrats are the clear choice if a voter considers gay rights an important issue. The reality we must embrace, though, is that we need Republicans to pass federal protections.
The left's fantasy is that gay conservatives will come to their senses and align with the Democratic Party. This is unrealistic. Gay conservatives vote for a variety of reasons other than gay rights. Their opposition to President Obama is based on issues like health care, not his views on gay rights. Convincing gay conservatives to step away from the Republican Party does not mean they will start voting for Democrats. Their opposition to the fiscal policies of the Democratic Party will likely lead them to vote for a third party. The reality is that gay conservatives are generally happy with the Republican Party, based almost exclusively on fiscal and foreign policy issues. Therefore, we should not tell gay conservatives to stop voting Republican, but instead put pressure on their party to end opposition to gay rights.
Personally, I would never vote for a Republican who does not believe in equality. For this reason I have always voted Democrat or third-party. What I fear is a Republican Party that is permanently fighting against our rights for the next decade, as they have done for years. The sooner we can convince the Republican Party that a strong anti-gay platform is ineffective, the sooner we can move forward with equality. GOProud and the Log Cabin Republicans need to stop pretending that the current Republican Party supports gay rights. If gay Republicans take a stand to fight the damaging rhetoric coming from their party, we may see progress sooner rather than later. Instead of further ostracizing gay conservatives, we need to embrace dialogue. When the result is to change the Republican Party forever, we all win.
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