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On LGBT Rights, Republicans Risking Their Own Demise

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This June, as we celebrate LGBT Pride Month, we approach the one year anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Windsor v. United States striking down the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional.

With marriage equality spread to 19 states and the District of Columbia and public support for marriage equality reaching record highs, the forward march of progress on LGBT equality is encouraging. But the last few weeks have also provided a stark contrast between the Democratic and Republican parties on LGBT rights and a reminder of what is at stake in the coming elections.

Without question, no President has done more for the LGBT community than President Obama. It is the reason that he received such a warm welcome at the Democratic National Committee's LGBT gala in New York on Tuesday.

The Obama Administration's determination that DOMA was unconstitutional and their refusal to defend the law in court was a key catalyst in the push for marriage equality. His administration has also overseen the end of the discriminatory Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy and extended key benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees. Democrats in Congress fought to include protections for the LGBT community in the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization, and President Obama signed the Matthew Sheppard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law.

This week, it was announced that President Obama would sign an executive order to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity for federal contractors. This is an example of President Obama's promise to take action where Congress has failed. Though the Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to ensure these protections would extend to all American workers, House Republican leadership has prevented it from coming up for a vote.

Democrats will admit that as a party we have not been perfect on LGBT issues, though our progress has certainly accelerated in recent years under President Obama's leadership. But Republicans have made clear that they plan to continue standing in the way of moving our country forward.

In the last two weeks alone, Texas governor Rick Perry compared being gay to alcoholism, and the Texas GOP passed a party platform endorsing gay conversion therapy. In a radio interview, a Republican congressman from North Dakota expressed his skepticism that LGBT workplace discrimination even exists.

Now, leading Republicans -- including most of their top potential 2016 presidential contenders -- are descending on Washington to curry favor from their party's most ardent opponents of equality. Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson rallied with anti-equality groups, while Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan and Rand Paul make their appeals to those attending the Faith and Freedom conference. It seems Republicans have taken Eric Cantor's primary loss as an indication that they will need to win over their party's most radical members in order to claim the Republican nomination in 2016.

The American people are moving towards greater support for LGBT equality. The Republican obsession with blocking marriage equality stands in opposition to the American ideal of expanded opportunity for all and has occurred at the same time that Republicans continue to obstruct action to address the economic issues that matter most to working families. If Republicans continue to embrace the bigotry and hatred often seen among the Tea Party base, they risk authoring their own party's demise.