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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Why Gay Republicans Need To Come Out

By Andrew Belonsky -

GOP leaders are currently embroiled in a back room war over whether or not Michael Steele should be replaced as party chairman. While a few people are standing behind Steele, most want to see him ousted, and a number of hopefuls have emerged.
Rather than taking the Republican party in a new direction, however, these contenders want to toe the anti-gay line that's worked so well in the past. If gay Republicans want to save their party, they'd better speak up.
"[Same-sex marriage] devalues the relationship that is shared by my wife and I and a number of committed married couples," said former RNC political director and current chair contender Gentry Collins.
Another hopeful, Saul Anuzis, insisted, “Marriage is an institution that has been around for 3,000 years. It's part of our faith. It's part of our culture. It's important to have a mother and a father … People care that you're a family person.”
One of the many female candidates, Ann Wagner, echoed Anuzis' sentiment: "I think that's where the American people are. They believe in traditional marriage ... It's important that we hold true to those tenants and values that I think are a pillar of our Republican party and our platform.”
But that pillar's no longer bearing the load it did in the past.
More and more young Republicans are embracing equality -- about 60% of GOP adherents under 30 say gays and lesbians should be able to wed.
Despite this trend the GOP and their allies continue to trumpet a discriminatory ideology, one that now blends traditional social conservatism with timely fiscal concerns, an idea Steele himself helped start earlier this year.
"Now all of a sudden I've got someone who wasn't a spouse before, that I had no responsibility for, who is now getting claimed as a spouse that I now have financial responsibility for," Steele said of how the GOP could frame gay marriage. "So how do I pay for that? Who pays for that? You just cost me money."
As the RNC looks for its new leader, GOP leaders Mike Huckabee, Rep. Michele Bachmann and soon-to-be House Speaker John Boehner are throwing their support behind long-time Republican allies the Family Research Council, the American Family Association, and the National Organization for Marriage, which the Southern Poverty Law Center qualified as a "hate group" for their consistent attacks on LGBT equality.
"We, the undersigned, stand in solidarity... pro-family organizations that are working to protect and promote natural marriage and family," they write in the mass letter. "We support the vigorous but responsible exercise of the First Amendment rights of free speech and religious liberty that are the birthright of all Americans."
Rather than embracing the future, these men and women are grasping at the past, trying to sustain a political plot that's no longer tenable.
There are signs that these traditional groups could be edged out, however. Gay Republican groups like GOProud and individuals like former RNC Chair Ken Mehlman or Fred Karger, a gay presidential contender, are making themselves more visible on the party's scene.
Karger regularly explains that his candidacy's as much about winning as it is raising his party's awareness of LGBT issues: "If I do nothing else, to kind of make this issue, to put a face on this issue as opposed to what happened in previous elections like 2004 where the gay community was getting used as a political tool to strengthen the president’s reelection."
GOProud has also worked to elevate its profile, and today released a statement about the RNC election. Said chairman Chris Barron in a statement, "For conservatives, and anyone else who cares about the future of the Republican Party, this vote should be an easy one – anyone but Michael Steele."
While certainly Barron and his peers have a responsibility to make their voices heard among the din of anti-gay Republicans, their stance against Steele comes as rather impotent when viewed against the other Chair contenders' comments.
If gay Republicans are truly committed to their political party, then they owe it to the GOP to steer it toward a more inclusive future, because there's little chance the Republicans can thrive by maintaining the same old ideas. Republicans who either remain quiet in the closet or on the sidelines do so at the peril of not only their party's survival, but its moral center, as well.
As Mehlman, who came out earlier this year, said, "If you think about some pretty important issues that we all believe in, whether it's freedom, whether it's, frankly, the value of community... the freedom to marry, the right to marry, it's consistent with the Republican philosophy to be supportive of two adults who love each other -- whether they be gay or straight -- having the right to get married."
No, Mehlman's not perfect, but at least he's speaking out against his party's entrenched exclusion. And that alone is a step in the right direction.


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