By Dennis Sanders
Yesterday, I went to a rally. A state Senator was introducing a bill that would allow same sex marriage in the state. Many organizations took part in sponsoring the legislation, including the one that I've been a part of for several years- Log Cabin Republicans, a national organization of gay and lesbian Republicans that are working for the inclusion of gays in the GOP and in the larger society.
Being a gay Republican is not an easy thing. People are constantly asking me how I could be openly gay and a Republican. Travis Johnson, the head of Progressive Republicans asked me to spend a blog post answering that question. So, I will.
I had had some inkling of being gay since I was about 12, but it was when I was in my early 20s that I really started dealing with my sexuality. At the same time, I was also dealing with my political philosophy. I grew up with two staunch Democrats, so I kind of followed their leads. After college, I flirted with socialism. But after a while, I started to believe that goverment didn't always have the best solutions, that the private sector sometimes can do things better than the public sector. I didn't think single-payer government sponsored health care was the best solution to the health care problem in America, though I did think government should have a role. I tended to like people like Jack Kemp, the former congressman and Vice Presidential candidte, who emphasized conservative solutions to helping the poor prospser. More and more, as I was becoming more confortable with my sexuality, I was become more and more comfortable with my budding conservatism.
However, I hesitated initially from joining the GOP because of its social views. But then, I started to get more familiar with Log Cabin Republicans and their fight for equality. It became obvious that I could be a good Republican and be a proud gay man as well.
So, how can I be gay and Republican? Simple: because I am a Republican that is also gay. I believe in many of the GOP principles, such as limited government, low taxes and a strong national defense. I also live as an out gay man who lives with his partner.
Of course, the answer is not that simple. If it was, I wouldn't be writing this. For some on the Left, the whole concept of a gay Republican is one of a sad and self-loathing person. This is what Gene Stone said in the Huffington Post in 2006:
Why would any gay man or woman belong to a party that has stated, over and over, as clearly as can be, without equivocation, that he or she is not welcome?
It's understandable why someone might not choose to be a Democrat. Those brought up in a family or culture where the traditional Republican party values were celebrated, such as smaller government and less taxes, might feel uncomfortable with the Democratic party...
... But why specifically chose a party that loathes you? The answer is hard to fathom. Still, it's hard to avoid the self-hatred issue. Nearly all gay men and women are raised in families where there is little-to-no support for their core identity. So while self-loathing may be an over-used phrase, it's hard for most gays not to at least pass through a stage of wondering how they got that way, and whether it's some form of punishment (particularly for religious gays)--and hating it, and themselves.
There you go: gay Republicans hate themselves. Stone asks why anyone would bother to be a party that doesn't like you? He tells gay Republicans, who he calls "morons", that their efforts to change the GOP is a silly guesture.
Mr. Stone has probably never met a gay Republican, or he is so convinced what a gay Republican is like that he isn't willing to see another viewpoint.
Gay Republicans stay in the GOP because they are Republicans and they will fight for a place at the table. It is our party too, and we will not remain silent. Gay Republicans aren't interested in being liked, we want to be free. It is liberty that is our song. We don't want government telling us who we can or can't marry and we will oppose those who call themselves "conservatives" who try to force goverment to do such a thing.
A common comparison is that of Fanny Lou Hamer and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. That group came to the 1964 Democratic convention demanding to be seated in place of the segregationist delegation from Mississippi. They were not liked by the ruling Democrats in Mississippi because they were a bunch of black folk and white allies who dared to challenge the system. What would have happened had they said that they weren't liked by the powers that be?
If you want to be liked, get a dog. If you want respect, fight for it.
And that is what I do. That is what many gay Republicans do everyday, fight for equality in their party. They work with those straight allies who are still in the party (and they still remain) who see all of us as God's children.
The work to change the GOP is not an easy one, but it is a good fight. What I have learned over time, is that by being a presence, forcing Republican lawmakers to see me and my partner as real human beings, is a powerful statement and it starts to change their minds from being anti-gay to more supportive of who we are. If I wasn't there, then they have no one that can tell them the story, my story.
So that is my story. I believe that one day, the GOP will be a party more open to gays and lesbians. It is my hope. After all, it's my party too.
~Dennis Sanders a black pastor living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He has worked on centrist Republican issues for years, including stints as President of the Minnesota chapter of Log Cabin Republicans (a gay/lesbian advocacy group) and Republicans for Environmental Protection. Dennis blogs at NeoMugwump and happily lives with his partner Daniel and serves two cats, Morris and Felix.