By CHRISTIAN BERLE & MARISA UCHIN
As a Democrat from San Francisco and a Republican from New England, we have put our heads together on why the work the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund does is critically important to achieving LGBT equality.
From Arizona to Mississippi to Kansas, recent attempts to pass anti-LGBT legislation remind us of the adage “if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.” These examples illustrate why it is so important that we elect openly LGBT candidates to office: to ensure that our voice is heard, and that basic freedom and human rights are guaranteed for everyone, regardless of whom they are or who they love. That goal has remained the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund’s central credo ever since its founding in 1991.
Last week, the Victory Fund was proud to announce the endorsement of two openly gay congressional candidates: Dan Innis, running in New Hampshire, and Richard Tisei, running in Massachusetts. These two candidates were key players in their states’ push for marriage equality. They also happen to be Republicans. We understand the frustration that many individuals in our community are having with Victory’s endorsements of Republicans, particularly in races against strong Democratic allies. Victory’s endorsements do not take place without considerable amounts of forethought and planning.
This debate brings our community to a critical juncture. Without openly LGBT members of Congress from both parties, how will we continue to move full speed ahead toward the equality we deserve? The answer does not lie in concentrating on short-term partisan gains, but by continuing to endorse openly LGBT viable candidates across the political spectrum who have a demonstrated leadership record in support of LGBT equality.
We believe it is important to acknowledge our appreciation for the significant contributions of our allies and what they have been able to accomplish at all levels of government, but it is Victory’s firm belief that to sustainably move the needle forward we must help create change in both cloakrooms. As we have seen with marriage equality in state legislatures, out LGBT legislators have to be at the table to help their colleagues understand how these votes affect them as people. Put another way, does anyone think Arizona Republicans would have had such an easy time passing anti-LGBT discrimination if an LGBT colleague sat alongside them in those caucus meetings?
If elected, Dan Innis and Richard Tisei will have the ability to speak to their colleagues about why DOMA needs to be fully repealed. As married men with same-sex spouses, they deserve to have the same privileges as their peers. They will be credible voices, spoken from personal experiences as openly gay Americans — about the need for progress on laws, such as ENDA to protect LGBT workers. We know this because their commitment to equality is not new; they both have considerable track records on LGBT issues.
Many in the LGBT community rightfully call on the Republican Party to drop its outdated opposition to LGBT rights. But to do so will require change to the GOP from the inside as well as the outside, and at all levels of government. That is why Victory supports the election of openly LGBT candidates, both Democrats and Republicans as well as independents, who have demonstrated leadership in advancing freedom and equal rights for all LGBT Americans. The election of openly LGBT candidates in recent years has helped bring that goal within reach — but we cannot expect to achieve all we deserve without having out LGBT Republicans at all levels of public office, especially in Congress.