There are people both in the Republican Party and in the gay community who strongly believe that gays do not belong in the Grand Old Party.
To my brothers and sisters in the gay community, while the Democratic Party has been much better on equality, when you step away from that string of issues, there is a wealth of policy positions where there is room for discussion and differing opinion.
As Urvashi Vaid says in her book, “Irresistible Revolution: Confronting Race, Class and the Assumptions of LGBT Politics,” “Beyond a shared basic rights agenda, there is no political unity between progressives and conservatives in the LGBT community.” This is highlighted on issue after issue with gun control, abortion, immigration, tax, and a panoply of other items that comprise our daily lives.
When you listen to some national gay organizations, they speak of the evils of Republicans. They often imply ALL Republicans. Either they are not mindful that we have a growing number of Republican allies in the House and Senate and around the country who support us on many of our core issues, or they are simply party hacks. It’s OK to be a party hack. I am. Just don’t masquerade as a non-partisan national LGBT organization if that’s what you really are — an operative of the Democratic Party.
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would not have been repealed three years ago without the six Republican senators who supported ending the law. Nor would the Senate have passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would provide employment protections for LGBT individuals in the workplace, without the votes of 10 Republicans.
Fifteen years ago, those votes would have been unheard of. The Republican Party is going through a cultural shift (albeit slowly) as more Republican legislators consistently step up for LGBT Americans. States like New York, Maryland and Illinois bear witness to that.
Conversely, there are those in leadership positions within the Republican Party to whom it is anathema for gays to be in the GOP and, worse yet, that we exist at all. It would be dishonest to say that, for gay Republicans, the last 20 years have been easy. The ascension of many within the Christian right into the party has often made life rough. That is, however, not a blanket statement. There are many good people who are part of the Christian right.
The tenor of the marriage equality debate, on both sides of the aisle, has been nasty at times. Within the GOP, it uncovered the fact that there are those who see the party as a closed, inward-looking operation who view defeat in the pursuit of ideological purity as acceptable. The tone of the marriage equality debate by certain members of the GOP fails to recognize that, beyond marriage, there are other issues where the LGBT community can contribute to a winning coalition for Republicans.
What the Democratic Party fails to understand is that families cannot live on love alone. As my counterpart, John Fluharty, executive director of the Delaware GOP, often says, the GOP message of education, job creation, and economic growth and less government in our lives, are indeed the Republican Party and speak to many in the LGBT community when hate is not interjected.
Sadly, it’s the David Agemas of the party, with their ecclesiastical rants, who are the squeaky wheel. And it is because of their boisterous noise that the Republican Party is on the brink of shrinking instead of growing.
RNC Chair Reince Priebus has done a great job of starting to reach out to minority groups that have not supported the party in recent elections. And while he does not have a plank in his Growth and Opportunity Project for gays and lesbians, he shows no malice toward us either.
We simply can’t throw a temper tantrum and leave an organization or a political party when we don’t get our way. That’s what they want.
We persevere. We engage. We listen. And then we continue to change hearts and minds. We gay Republicans are here, to the chagrin of the gay left, and annoyance of the Republican radical right.