August 11, 2011 | by Mark Lee
LGBT equality portends trouble for Democrats

We’ve all been at a social event where a gay or lesbian friend, acquaintance or stranger has expressed support for a Republican candidate or policy position only to hear ice melt in nearby glasses – if not drowned out by the disapproving comments or outright anger on the part of some.

Political hegemony regarding both party affiliation and political ideology emanating from much of LGBT organizational leadership and many community activists creates a quickly learned lesson among the rank-and-file that tolerance for divergent views is not among our community’s strongest attributes.

But an objective examination — without political bias or advocacy one way or the other — suggests that the hallmark monolithic dominance of the Democratic Party among LGBT voters could noticeably weaken in direct correlation to broadening public acceptance and corresponding gains in civil and legal equality.

Early signs of this likely cultural transition and forecast of a reasonably anticipated political transformation in coming years are already evident.

CNN exit polls and other respected surveys indicate that the percentage of self-identified lesbians and gays currently voting for Republican candidates is surprisingly sizable and, although a minority, is increasing over time. In recent presidential elections, between one-quarter and one-third of us voted Republican. In the most recent 2010 congressional races, one-third of declared gays and lesbians voted for the GOP candidate.

For a community whose battle cry has long been “we are everywhere” and “we are everyone” this should come as no surprise.

As gains in equality spread across local jurisdictions and states, the importance of LGBT-centric issues on the voting habits of gays and lesbians will undoubtedly lessen. We will increasingly enjoy the freedom to vote — like everyone else — according to our own unique perspectives and individual self-interests on issues other than LGBT rights as those rights become more commonplace.

We need only look to the effect assimilation has had on other aspects of our community life to understand this phenomenon.

Even urban gays and lesbians continue to geographically disperse within cities and throughout metropolitan areas, maintaining much less of an affinity or essential connection to the traditional “community” historically centralized in a “safe haven” core constructed in response to a broad sense of alienation and offering protection, identity and camaraderie. This has resulted in fewer LGBT-focused businesses, reduced patronage at community-identified bars, restaurants and nightclubs, less participation in community-oriented organizations and civic groups, and diminished readership of community-focused publications.

This trend is particularly evident among younger gays and lesbians, whose lives are more integrated within a larger context and for whom sexual orientation is a normalized cultural marker.

The political leanings of both Millennials and Generation X are increasingly fluid and unpredictable. Rock the Vote’s midterm election poll found that only a third of all younger Americans now identify themselves as Democrats, with those calling themselves Republicans within near parity of that number.

A recent Pew Research Center poll found an even starker disparity among young white voters under 30. A 52 percent majority now lean Republican, a striking increase from the 42 percent who said the same in 2008 and 11 percent more than the 41 percent who now lean toward Democrats.

In addition, the distinctly high percentage of gay and lesbian small business owners, entrepreneurs, sole proprietors and independent contractors within our national numbers – as high as 10 percent according to the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) – could easily distance themselves from Democratic positions on economic and business issues of importance to them and their professional endeavors once unshackled from a desire to support those who support our civil rights.

There is little to suggest that broader support for LGBT equality among Democratic elected officials will translate into a lasting “halo effect” benefiting the party. Increasingly evident diversity of opinion on other issues will likely be reflected at the polls in the relatively near term – more quickly and significantly than Democratic affiliated community partisans either realize or are willing to acknowledge.

Will it really be all that startling in a center-right nation split 50-50 between the two political parties to soon discover that we are a largely integrated part of that dichotomy?

Perhaps that will prove to be one of the most prominent measures of our achievement of equality.

Mark Lee is a local small business manager and long-time community business advocate. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

8 Comments
  • I’d wager cheap shots like “tolerance for divergent views is not among our community’s strongest attributes” make most community members not want to continue reading your opinion piece there Mr. Lee. In fact, we’re pretty damn tolerant of divergent views in the LGBT community, but we are not required to be tolerant of those who single us out for oppression.

    • I think that the author is right on point with that observation. I’ve been involved in queer community organizing and activism long enough to have seen just how prone our community is to a stifling orthodoxy.

  • You’re way ahead of the times. As long as Republicans base a goodly part of their GOTV efforts on homophobia, only a self-loathing fool of a gay (e.g., GOProud and other Roy Cohn/Terry Dolan types) would support the GOP. For now, although Democrats are not always the friends we wish they’d be, Republicans remain steadfastly our enemies.

  • I had a client who is a staunch Republican, and he started in on a lecture about my political views one day. What I said to him is this:

    “You know that I was born a lesbian, and what I’ve experienced in my life is a lot of prejudice from people concerning the fact that I don’t lie about my sexual orientation and act like I am straight. The ones who have given me the most grief are people who are gay and in the closet themselves, and people who are Republicans–which sometimes can also be in that first closet-case category. I’m not a hard-core Democrat either, but at least the Democratic party has made an attempt at giving me, a tax-paying citizen of the United States, the same rights as a heterosexual murderer, who is in prison sitting on death row and can still get legally married! There are over 1,000 rights that my partner of 18 years and I don’t have, that any married heterosexual couple do–even those who are drunk, just met, and got married in Las Vegas! At this point, me voting Republican would be like a African American voting for the KKK, or a Jewish person voting for a Nazi!”

    My client really couldn’t argue these points, and I do think that our conversation may have opened his mind to the fact that LGBT people are not treated fairly when it comes to our rights in the USA. I think a lot of people don’t realize the rights LGBT don’t have because we can’t get legally married. If you’d like to see a list of these rights, check out my website here:
    http://www.amazingdreamspublishing.com/marriagerights.html

  • It seems to me that the 2 previous responses miss the writer’s point — he isn’t arguing the “case” but is making an observation about what he sees as likely to happen based on increasing “assimilation” of our community and comparing it to the effects already felt in other ways. These off-mark/irrelevant arguments in fact seem to be proving his point in a way — that there is mostly anger at those who may disagree with their point of view or not give the same importance to it based on their own real-world lives.

    • I agree with you Tom. Things are changing and their is a generational gap within the gay community as younger gay couples opt not to move into the gayborhood but live in mixed communities and, as gay rights become more accepted and they are just think how far we’ve come in the past ten years, these younger gays may start to vote differently from their older counterparts as gay rights become the norm. Next comes the question of transgender rights and it pains me to say there are plenty of gay people I know who, as long as they get their rights, couldn’t care less about the rights of transgendered people and would vote republican. It’s the future and we must start the dialogue now.

  • Mark is right. So long as gays are denied human rights, we will identify with others who are denied full equality and vote Democratic. When the day comes we are no longer denied human rights, many in our community will vote just like every other American.

    The only good point is that their is a lag time. Jews, Catholics, and middle class children of working class parents voted Democratic for a while longer than any social disadvantage.

  • stan James (pseudonym)

    While I respect the rights of lgbt people to support conservative economic causes – its the “dismal science” anyway………..

    the right wing tea party combines with the repub southern bible belt to vilify and hate gay people, trans etc. Their only goal is to gain total control and in the words of bachmann etc and their “pledge”, end all forms of gay marriage, reinstate dadt, fill the courts with extremist xtians and the brainwashed catholics of a pope who have vilified gays for most of his life, even serving in the German army while Hitler was tossing the gays he could find into the ovens with Jews, slaves etc.

    Back during WWII there were jews called Kapos.. They worked for the Nazis, often more vicious then the nazis themselvesl Until their number for the ovens came up.

    Back after the civil war, where the only real means of communication was tellegrams or very slow mail, in 35 years the extremists xtians (apparently with some catholic support – the view is muddy) turned the situation around via the KKK and segregation

    Both of which are so similar to forcing closeting of gays. its the old story of how its so easy to sell hate against someone you dont know and so hard to sell hate to someone you know and respect.

    which is exactly what the real ending of DADT is all about – a million of the 2 million of our mil who dont know any gay people discovering people they know and respect are gay. the best analogy is its like a polio vaccine for religious based hatred of gays.

    Its far to early to give the repubs control of both houses of congress (at risk anyway – 23 dems up for repelection, only 10 repubs. And the white house which has done so much administratively for gays, all items that could be turned around in a week.

    And the supreme court – with the marriage case pending in CA and certain to go to SCOTUS, where two of the progressive justices are well into their 80s and the right wing frothing at the mouth to replace them with xtian extremists.

    The danger is real. Its the right wing xtians, eg Don Schmirier of EXodus, Scott lively of “watchmen on the walls”(xtian hate group), FRC with its George Reker – just another self hating gay person finally outed after a lifetime of smearing gay people. Schmirier and Lively are some of many xtians directly involved in supporting the genocide of gays bill in Uganda (lots of muslim influence there also) . FRC spent $25000 to hire a lobbyiest to crush a simple condemnation of the uganda genocide bill in the House of Reps, To me its current head Tony perkins – he’s got lips just like Minister ted haggard, The second in command (along with perkins) is peter spriggs – a known racist who served with Perkins in the LA legislature – next to hte great hate state of missisiipi in demonizing gays as htey did blacks.

    its your life – my only risks is that the genocide law would also, if enacted here, get me sent to a hellhole prison for my life for supporting and simply knowing gay people (shades of KGB “spy thy neighbor”

    You vote repub at your own risk. I vaguely remember the freakouts of the McCArthy era (catholic church supported the invasion of Russia by AH because the communists werent religious)

    The tea party, from my active involvement in gay rights since the matthew shepard murder, is just atnohter KKK, its NOM pals are on the hate group lsit also re vilifying gays etc

    Just take a look at whats going on in the world via the website http://www.christianaggression.org/

    And realize it could happen here. And the Jews were repsected in Germany – its bankers, doctors , lawyers. In ten years the extremists (now seen on the hypnotic subliminal site “fox news) turned it all around and 55 million died.
    Be careful. Remember about propaganda – If you tell a lie often enough and outrageous enough, it will be seen as the truth. It got that psychopath elected in 1933. it could destroy every last thing this country stands for, including freedom of / from religion. And much worse

    Comments stephen_1553-k@comcast.net I’ve done a few things like support HRC as a volunteer, been on the board of Equality Maryland, met matthew Shepards mom 4-5 times, His dad twice his brother once.

    And given so much money to the gay rights movement that my wife wants to disown me.

    Ps looking for me – most friday nights at Grand central in baltimoe – graying, 6 feet tall, about 170#,

    gold rimmed glasses. sometimes with a nortorius religious symbol made out of toys etc. I also have met kevin Naff a couple years ago.

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