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Can you be a good gay and conservative?

The increasingly popular answer is ‘yes’



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 [email protected]

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  1. Brian

    May 20, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    The second point you raise regarding DADT doesn’t argue in favor of gay conservatism, since conservatives are indeed even more reluctant to repeal the act. If anything, your argument seems to suggest that we need to move further to the left to find people who will take action on this. Yes, Democrats have left the LGBT community behind this cycle, but your piece gives no reasoning (except “They didn’t get kick us out of their conference”) to suggest that Republicans would be any better on LGBT issues.

  2. Wayne Murray

    May 21, 2010 at 2:34 am

    “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.” How true and right on this statement is.


  3. Josh

    May 21, 2010 at 9:15 am

    Yeah but the Republicans are far worse. So if she is upset enough with the Democrats not to be one, why isn’t she upset enough with the Republicans not to be one?

    Most Republican Senators and Representatives oppose gay rights in ALL areas and equated gays with pedophiles during the Hate Crimes debate.

    I watched the House and Senate debate the hate crimes bill and most of the Republicans directly equated gays with pedophiles. It literally made me sick to my stomach.

    Would a Republican President have signed the hate crimes bill or issued a directive banning hospitals from discriminating against gay couples in respect to hospital visitation rights?

    • Jason

      May 22, 2010 at 12:59 pm

      First off, it’s not only the Republicans who are comparing us to pedophiles. You need only read the Obama administration’s legal defense of DOMA, published during Gay Pride Month last year, to find that out. (Indeed, Obama’s team is STILL defending DOMA to this day:

      Secondly, nowhere in this article does she mention Republicans, yet you immediately jump to the conclusion that not giving away money to Democrats equals funding Republicans. This pretty much proves her point that illogical Democratic partisanship is entrenched deeply in the gay community.

      It’s possible NOT to give money to ANYONE, you know.

  4. Frederick

    May 21, 2010 at 10:13 am

    “The idea that a woman could be gay and hold right of center political beliefs is anathema to much of the gay community.”……..No, it’s delusional and self destructive.
    “……the conservative movement itself is changing and becoming dramatically more inclusive.”…..Delusional
    “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.”……Self destructive… you support the party (Republicans) that are fighting enactment of ENDA and the repeal of DADT and DOMA

    It is Conservatives/Republicans that are fighting any advancement of Pro-Gay legislation, NOT the democrats.

    • Jason

      May 22, 2010 at 1:02 pm

      “It is Conservatives/Republicans that are fighting any advancement of Pro-Gay legislation, NOT the democrats.” – Um, sorry, but you’re the one being delusional, and unlike you, I have proof.

      Obama’s team, who once compared us to pedophilia and incest, is STILL defending DOMA to this day:

      If you think Democrats are our noble friends, you’re living a delusion. Remember: It’s possible to NOT give money to ANYONE.

  5. Taylor

    May 21, 2010 at 10:15 am

    “…I believe strongly that there are many conservative policy initiatives that could improve the everyday lives of gays and lesbians.”

    Huh? Name one.

    We’re not getting any help from the conservatives on the repeal of DADT, or passing ENDA, or ending DOMA. So please…please tell me…what are these initiatives of which you speak?

    The Democrats may not be moving as quickly and decisively as we wish. But, there is movement from them. Unlike the conservative Republicans who have their feet firmly planted in the 19th century.

    NO THANKS…you can hold on to your delusions that the Republican party is the party that’s gong to embrace the needs of gay and lesbian men and women. But, before they get a single penny from me…or a single vote. They’re going to have step up to the plate and actually show their commitment in some pro-gay legislation. Stopping by a booth at CPAC and saying hello isn’t the same thing. So please, don’t equate it as such.

  6. jake

    May 21, 2010 at 11:18 am

    This is all kinds of ridiculous. Let’s not forget that GoProud wasn’t even allowed to speak at a right-wing convention for which they raised money and co-sponsored.

    • Rob

      May 24, 2010 at 5:38 am

      They were not prevented from speaking, they didn’t seek to do so. I think it was either Bruce Carrol or Jimmy LaSalvia (SP?) who participated in a blogging discussion panel.

  7. Robert

    May 21, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    “…the conservative movement itself is changing and becoming dramatically more inclusive.”

    Is this the movement represented by the nomination of a man who believes that private companies should be allowed to discriminate on whatever grounds they like? That doesn’t sound like a group that would pass ENDA.

    This is an extremely poor editorial. Ms. Lee provides no reasons for what she believes, nor any reasons anybody should support the GOP, except that the current administration hasn’t done enough. Let me ask you this: what did the Bush administration do for us in eight years? Where are the Republicans in office advocating for us?

    If Ms. Lee believes that having a limited government is more important than advancing the cause of BLGT rights, I can accept that, but don’t you dare try to convince me that conservatives are better than liberals on advancing the cause of equality.

    • Jason

      May 22, 2010 at 1:14 pm

      “Is this the movement represented by the nomination of a man who believes that private companies should be allowed to discriminate on whatever grounds they like?” – Would you like it if you, if you were a gay business owner, were forced by the government to employ a bunch of anti-gay Republican fear-mongers?

      The difference is in a belief in the right to free speech (and everything else that comes with it) and the knowledge that the world changed from 1964 to 2010.

  8. Alex

    May 21, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    You can be. It’s easy to be a good gay and be a political conservative. It’s also not that hard to be a good gay and be a social conservative, if you listen to Ted Olson and how gay marriage is a conservative value.

    It is not so easy to be a good gay and be in the GOP who above their political and social conservatism (social they shouldn’t even be) put their religious beliefs into their politics in order to discriminate against gays.

    As far as this article is written, it ignores a lot of reality and won’t convince anyone. Sorba shows that CPAC isn’t on the side of the gays. Republicans are the ones fighting against repeal of DADT, and saying we need to wait (which could prevent it’s passage). They are also the ones against ENDA and the Student Non-Discrimination Act.

    If you are criticizing Democrats for their failure to push equality forward fast enough, and for taking the gay community for granted, you have to criticize Republicans for actively combating equality and for denigrating the gay community.

    You can be a good gay and be a conservative, but you can’t logically think that because people are nice to you at a booth, that CPAC as a whole is for equality. But keep fighting your fight in your own party and outside!

    • Alex

      May 21, 2010 at 12:06 pm

      Oh, and thank you Washington Blade, for this great commentary! I look forward to more from GOProud.

    • Rob

      May 24, 2010 at 5:45 am

      Actually, it’s Obama’s DoJ defending DADT in court. Further, Sorba isn’t the spokesman for CPAC.

  9. Rik

    May 21, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    The gay community supports diversity as long as you hold the exact same views as liberal democrats. Dissent will not be tolerated.

    • Taylor

      May 21, 2010 at 1:40 pm

      This editorial isn’t about diversity, it’s about policy. She made an attempt to say that Gay Liberal Democrats should desert their party in favor of Conservative Republicans, because the Democrats haven’t been able to get DADT repealed, while totally ignoring the fact that the reason that it hasn’t been repealed is that there has been no support for a repeal coming from Conservative Republicans.

      I’m sorry, but if she were a member of a Junior High Debate squad, her argument would be eviscerated by the opposing team. She doesn’t point to a single policy issue that Conservative Republicans have put forth that benefits Gays and Lesbians.

      If you’re going to make an argument for supporting the GOP and it’s conservative candidates…then make the argument based on policy issues, not the fact that you were welcomed at a CPAC convention.

  10. E.J.

    May 21, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    Thank you for writing this article. Of course gays can be conservative. I know plenty like my partner. I used to see things as left and right. But until I met him I found some middle ground. I’m a veteran from before “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and ‘they’ said I couldn’t be in the military….and I said oh yes I can. Don’t ever let the masses gay or straight define you. Gay is just word that defines who we love….not your political preference. Seems too many gays don’t realize they should think for themselves and their life experience and not follow blindly. But I suppose that’s a human trait everyone has.
    It’s brave to put yourself out there in areas that you might not be excepted…most people are not that brave. It’s easy to stay on the side with the most support…but you’re choosing to go into battle and help change what many in our community see as the enemy….and their not.

    You are a true soldier for our cause….to change our world for the better.
    While sometimes battling those you’re working to make things better for.

  11. Doctor Whom

    May 21, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    Lest anyone write me off as a standard-issue queer liberal, I was active in College Republicans and in law school quickly developed a reputation as one of the class right-wingers. Yet this article does nothing to warm me toward queer conservatives.

    First, the author glibly conflates libertarianism with conservatism. Yet those ideologies are 180 degrees off from each other on may key issues, including many issues near and dear to my queer heart. Therefore, someone who self-identifies as a queer libertarian/conservative needs to fish or cut bait.

    She then says, “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.” Insofar as that is true, then to me it says that CPAC does not represent rank-and-file conservatives. Certainly, those conservatives in office and the voters who support them would be surprised to hear that same-sex marriage is not an issue of concern to them. Also, I grew up in a socially conservative area, and at least in my experience, the difference between coming out as a non-leftist to LGBT people and coming out as gay to conservatives is the difference between eye-rolling and a savage beating.

    Finally, many LGBT people’s justified frustration with the Obama administration does not make the case for conservatism. Instead, it merely highlights Leonard Peikoff’s point that an election can be between someone terribly bad and someone apocalyptically bad.

  12. Jayne

    May 21, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    Thank you for taking time to write a most thoughtful, informative article. In reading the posted comments, I am surprised to know that it is the gay community that is voicing so much intolerance. I appreciate the tag in which you say that “it is easier to come out as gay to conservatives than it is to come out as conservative to gays.”
    Looking forward to your next column.

  13. Bill Monroe

    May 22, 2010 at 7:05 am

    Jessica, as a former county Chair for Youth for Goldwater during the ’64 election, and one who has long considered himself a Goldwater conservative until I was driven to the Democratic Party by the far Right radicals who now dominate the GOP, I cannot help but ask you, if you really do, as you say consider yourself to be a Goldwater conservative, what the hell are you doing?

  14. Jw

    May 22, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    Thank you for your insightful article. I like that you were brave enough to come out as a conservative and feel that your voice needs to be heard.

  15. Jack Blair

    May 22, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    The defining attribute of the gay Left (and the Left in general) is ignorance.

    My “conversion” came some years ago, thanks to an encounter with the works of Dr. FA Hayek. The encounter led to a lifetime love affair with learning about economics, the Rule of Law, and basic American constitutional principles, among other things.

    It also helped that I listened to [*GASP!*] Rush Limbaugh. My roomate circa 1993 was a die hard Jesse Jackson Democrat, but he always had Limbaugh’s show on the radio.

    I was HORRIFIED when I heard Limbaugh make fun of Liberals. In my not-quite-conscious 26 year-old brain, it seemed to me an absolute scandal that a person could so brazenly mock people who claimed to care about the environment, equality, children, fairness, and were trying to make a better world for all of us.

    This is where I had my moment of clarity: For the first time in my life, I was able to question the motives of those claim to be filled with such noble virtues. “Wolves in sheeps’ clothing” came to mind – I was thus freed from my ignorant Liberal stupor.

    “Gay” is neither here nor there.

    Jack Blair – InfoQuarter

  16. MelMaguire

    May 23, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    I’d like just one of the haters here to explain to me why the Republicans’ refusal to repeal DOMA is somehow worse than the Democrats WRITING IT AND SIGNING IT INTO LAW.

    It was the Democrats who wrote laws such as DOMA and DADT. I feel absolutely no compulsion whatsoever to show any fealty to the Democrats or any liberal ideal when, in reality, they’re just as bad as you say conservatives are.

    I just love all the tolerance going on here. Superb!

  17. Katie

    May 24, 2010 at 12:02 am

    I’m going to echo MelMaguire and say “I’d like just one of the haters here to explain to me why the Republicans’ refusal to repeal DOMA is somehow worse than the Democrats WRITING IT AND SIGNING IT INTO LAW.”

    Awesome, perhaps the best way it could be said. Not to mention that the Log Cabin GOPs are the only LGBT org with an active lawsuit against DADT…where are the liberal organizations? Oh yeah, whining about conservatives, not actually doing anything. (Though, isn’t that how libs usually are? Whining about a problem, hoping someone else will solve it rather than taking personal responsibility to change their situation? haha)

  18. Chris

    May 24, 2010 at 5:48 am

    This whole piece is foolywang for the fire!

  19. Rob

    May 24, 2010 at 5:55 am

    I find it amusing that so many GayLeftBorg types are so certain that Republicans hate gays and oppose gay rights (whatever that is), but never seem capable of naming any. Be it here or on GayPatriot or elsewhere. I should think it would be easy and would come with all the talking points pap regurgitated everywhere.

    Nor does there seem to be any interest in any reasoning behind such opposition. One could be opposed to special rights for certain victim groups, but instead they’re castigated as evil racist, sexist, bigot homophobes.

    Nevermind, of course, the homophobes their elected president hangs with. Nevermind, of course, their elected president is defending DADT in court. Nevermind, of course, their elected president doesn’t worship their golden calf of gay marriage.

    If Obama didn’t have that protective “D” after his name, the GayLeftBorg would be wiping the blogs with him.

  20. Robert McJunkin

    May 24, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    It’s not a matter of gay: liberal or straight: conservative. It’s selecting items from a palate of issues. I find that most of the gay issues tend to be in the liberal column, because of the conservatives’ propensity not to respect individual rights and values. However, there are many other conservative issues that I agree with. If I were in charge of things, instead of a system where you elect one representative and expect that person to decide all things for you according to your own belief, my system would present the electorate with a list of individual issues and let voters decide each issue, and then let a representative cast a vote based on the voters’ individual pollings. This should reduce the voters’ anger at their elected representatives.

  21. Justin

    May 25, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    I am so glad Washington blade is back. But I am so disappointed to see such a low quality and brainless article.

    None of the points are valid. You are only making people wonder over and over again what GOP has done for the gay community if Democrats aren’t doing enough. The answer is…NONE. If you don’t want to pay tax and you want to have guns, then go ahead. Don’t affiliate yourself with a group that is racist and hates gay people.

    Washington blade, I know you can do better. I know you can find smarter people to share their insightful ideas.

  22. Whatever

    May 25, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    Why does it matter who’s liberal and who’s conservative? The bigger question is who defines the two states of political existence? Being gay simply defines who you screw and maybe even love. If you chose to identify with the political party that would exterminate you if they could…so what? Ignorance is rampant in this country. Zig Heil!

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