My name is Jessica Lee. I am gay and a conservative. Sounds a little like the first step in a 12-step recovery program, right? Alas, some folks on the left think a 12-step program is exactly what I need. The idea that a woman could be gay and hold right of center political beliefs is anathema to much of the gay community.
I have been offered an opportunity here to present the views of gay conservatives like me. As a board member of GOProud, an advocacy organization for gay conservatives and our allies, I believe strongly that there are many conservative policy initiatives that could improve the everyday lives of gays and lesbians.
I didn’t spring from the womb a Goldwater conservative. I grew up in a staunchly liberal household and held those ideals during my youth. Over the years, however, my personal and professional experiences caused my political views to shift and I embraced the conservative and libertarian values of free minds, free markets and limited government. I also came to believe that there is a very compelling case to be made for a conservative/libertarian approach to advancing equality.
Traditionally, there has been a rigid ideological hegemony in the gay community. Namely, there is a widely held belief that one cannot be a good gay person and support equality without being a Democrat. Fortunately, this is starting to change, mainly for two reasons.
The first reason for this change is that the conservative movement itself is changing and becoming dramatically more inclusive.
I saw this growing inclusiveness first-hand as GOProud co-sponsored this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC. CPAC is the country’s premier conservative event and in 2010 had more than 10,000 attendees. We were pleasantly surprised by the reaction that our decision received. While one or two organizations, such as Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, announced they would boycott the event because of our participation, the overwhelming reaction from the organizers of CPAC and many other conservative groups and bloggers strongly supported our co-sponsorship.
At the event, GOProud had a booth and I was part of the team manning it. Frankly, I did not know what to expect and braced myself for hostile reactions. What happened was the opposite, as we were overwhelmed by offers of support and encouragement from the many attendees who made a point of visiting our booth. In fact, our booth was much busier than that of the National Organization for Marriage, which was positioned one booth away from ours. Indeed, the results of the CPAC straw poll confirmed what we were experiencing — only 1 percent of CPAC attendees said same-sex marriage was an issue of concern for them. In fact, my experience at the conference led me to conclude that it is easier coming out to conservatives as gay than it is coming out as a conservative to gays.
The second factor that is challenging the ideological hegemony of the gay community is the disappointing performance of the Obama administration and Congress in advancing equality of opportunity for our community. Even with large majorities in the House and the Senate and control of the White House, Democrats have failed to deliver on their campaign promises to us.
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is the most dramatic and disappointing example of the Democrats’ failure. Despite overwhelming public support for repeal, Congress is at an impasse on the issue and the administration of our “fierce advocate,” despite his promise to repeal, is now urging Congress not to vote for repeal this year.
It is clear the gay community is taken for granted by the Democratic Party. No matter how much money we give them or how many doors we knock on for their candidates our issues are never a priority. And not until we make Democrats compete for our money and our votes will they be.
I know as gay conservatives, we have an uphill battle. I understand how entrenched the Democratic Party is within our community. But you can be a good gay person who supports equality and not be a Democrat. Gay conservatives share many of the same goals as our friends on the left, even if we may disagree on the best policy route to get us there.
Jessica Lee is a new board member of GOProud and regular contributor to the Blade. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.