09/13/2010 05:13 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Only One Party Stands for LGBT Rights

Last month, former Chair of the Republican National Committee Ken Mehlman came out of the closet as a gay man. Since then, depending on which pundits and strategists you listen to, you'd think there is a tidal wave of Republicans falling all over themselves to declare their support for LGBT equality.

But something just doesn't add up.

Indeed, only a small handful of Republican commentators and strategists have agreed to raise money for the organization fighting to overturn Proposition 8. Republicans were far more visible in the effort to pass the discriminatory Proposition 8. We must remember the larger part of the story here -- while it is great to see this trickle of Republican support for the greater equality, this is not representative of the Republican Party in any sense of the word.

I would like to congratulate Mr. Mehlman on the courageous step he has taken in acknowledging his true self and for committing himself to an issue as important as the reversal of this divisive Amendment. However, this action does not, in any way, indicate a larger shift in the thinking of the Republican Party. Period. For years, Republican's have fought tooth-and-nail against their Democratic colleagues on issues like the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell and the passage of a fully-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act. For every fight for equality, they have been on the other side, working to stop progress.

We should not forget that while Mr. Mehlman was at the helm of the Republican Party, the Republicans used opposition to basic equal rights for LGBT Americans as a wedge to drive turnout of Republican voters and ensure the re-election of President George W. Bush. In their relentless efforts to demonize LGBT Americans, the GOP went so far as to push a federal marriage amendment that would lock LGBT Americans into second class citizenship in the very same document that guarantees equal rights for all.

In stark contrast, it was Democratic majorities in the Vermont House and Senate that overrode the Republican governor's veto of marriage equality. It was Democratic legislative majorities with a Democratic governor in Maine and New Hampshire that passed marriage equality. It was Democratic majorities that passed civil unions in Hawaii and marriage in Connecticut. In Iowa, Democrats have been fighting off Republican efforts to overturn a landmark Iowa Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality.

If Republicans gain any sort of control in Congress, the true differences between the two parties will become glaringly apparent. The nearly universal opposition in the Republican Party to meaningful gains for LGBT Americans will rule the day and the progress that we are making will first be stopped and then rolled back.

We cannot let this happen.

We Democrats are the Party of equality and we have been the party that has been delivering results in advancing the cause of equality for LGBT Americans and more broadly Democrats in Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, the Lily Ledbetter Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Matthew Shepherd and James Byrd Jr. Hates Crimes Prevention Act. But we don't just look back at our accomplishments. Our Party is -- with virtually no Republican help - currently working to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. We are expanding rights for LGBT Americans through administrative actions. For example, the Department of Health & Human Services has extended medical decision making rights to LGBT Couples and the Department of Labor has extended the Family Medical Leave Act to cover LGBT families.

As we stand on the precipice of so much positive change, this is not the time to become apathetic or turn back the clock. Do not allow Republicans to cause us to stay home in November, because "one party is just as good as the other" on LGBT issues. We have to stand with the Party that has continually stood for equality, and encourage the community to do just that this November.