This story was original published here in Instinct Magazine Online on Monday, 07 November 2011..
Gay Republican?! The thought exasperates even the more moderate of liberal thinkers. It’s like a screen door to a submarine or an ejector button on a helicopter! Or is it? Our political experts have cracked open a few history books and mapped the political landscape and we think something’s amiss. Perchance we’re playing the devil’s advocate, but we’ve got a sore spot for the plight of the underdog. So come out, come out, where ever you are, Mr. Gay Republican. Hear us out, because we think there’s more to your story.
Gay Republicans are the ugly ducklings of the LGBT community. They are chastised and driven back into their political closets, grappling against a loud and liberal base that sling accusations of self-loathing and challenge their identity. As the Republican Party has traditionally spent a great deal of its energy oppressing the LGBT community, perhaps this anti-gay Republican abuse is deserved. On the surface, it would seem that they’re chomping at the bit to vote away their own rights and equality. But beneath the surface, the idea of identifying as a gay Republican may just be a little more complicated than that…
Since the dawn of time (or more accurately since the creation of the “Grand Old Party” in 1854) Republicans and Democrats have been butting heads like a pair of bighorn sheep vying for a female in the throes of heat. The positions and the parties have each met with their fair share of transformation and these days it seems the divide is in particularly hot water. In the blue corner are the eat-the-rich, abortion-cheering, gay-marriage, “freethinking” liberals. In the red corner are the gun control, corporate kingdom, tax cutting, religious conservatives. And somewhere in between this squabbling duo is our poor, disfigured country, dangling like a beaten piñata.
But the world is changing and hope, perhaps, lies in a new era of global identity encouraged by young people who are forging a new political landscape. In the United States, the millennial generation will be the first ever to inherit a nation in decline and consequently are out of jobs, without health insurance, buried in debt and sick of partisan politics. As the world advances toward social acceptance (see gay marriage and black President) the Republican Party, in particular, is going through a major identity crisis, which leads the way for the proud emergence of the Gay Republican.
If you can, travel back in time to the foggy shores of 2009 when the Republicans fragmented to the tune of the Tea Party movement. The editor-in-chief of Gallup Polls, Frank Newport, called the Tea Party movement a rebranding of the traditional Republican policies. While many Tea Party leaders will argue their dissatisfaction with the Republican Party, they vote red in enormous majority. Another dissatisfied splinter started in 1971 and called themselves the Libertarian Party. The Libertarians have similar sentiments to the Tea Party concerning small government, but while the Tea Party asks for the Feds to stay out of their bank accounts and gun closets, the Libertarian will throw in bedroom, abortion clinic, pot farms and gay sex clubs.
Fast-forward to 2011 and in walks possibly the first openly gay candidate for President of the United States—long time Republican Fred Karger. While he’s a long shot for the oval office, Karger’s existence forces the Republican Party to acknowledge their position on gay rights and other social issues like abortion and marijuana legalization—if he can muscle his way into one of the national debates, that is. Karger considers himself an “Independent Republican.” He tells Instinct that being a gay Republican is “difficult at times, but the Republican Party that I grew up with was very different and I am determined to moderate it.”
Historically speaking, the Republican Party wasn’t always the socially conservative nightmare that it is at present. Even its formation was largely to oppose black slavery, which was unanimously supported by the Democratic Party. Abraham Lincoln was, after all, a Republican. Karger says that his hero, President Theodore Roosevelt, was the last progressive Republican President—and he served about 100 years ago. It wasn’t until the mid-1960s that the Republican Party, thanks to its support by the growing evangelical Protestant movement in the south, started to become a social conservative powerhouse.
Karger’s not the only gay Republican in the limelight. Ken Mehlman, a senior member of the Republican Party who managed George W. Bush’s re-election campaign, came out publicly in August 2010, accordingly changing his position on gay marriage. The Log Cabin Republicans (LCR), who endorsed the McCain-Palin ticket back in 2008, is an organization of gay Republicans who report on their website that they “believe in low taxes, limited government, strong defense, free markets, personal responsibility and individual liberty.” A similar splinter LCR organization formed in more recent years known as GOProud focuses specifically on federal issues, supporting the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act, but takes no position on statewide marriage issues. Neither the LCR nor GOProud take a position on abortion rights. (Chickens)
Suddenly the term “Republican” is sounding very vague as, perhaps, is the party itself. How the GOP deals with this divide between fiscal and social issues will make or break the future of the Republican Party. And it seems that more and more Republicans are starting to lean more socially liberal.
Perhaps recognizing their oncoming defeat on the issue of marriage equality, Republican politicians signing on to gay marriage is becoming a trend. Just this year, New York State passed a marriage equality bill with a Republican-controlled senate. The charge to overturn California’s odious Proposition 8 is currently being led by the powerful Republican attorney, and former United States Solicitor General under George W. Bush, Ted Olson.
So come voting day, imagine the predicament: How can you justify voting for a candidate for any political office who is willing to ship your equality down the river for the price of lower taxes? It’s sporting to be a multi-issue voter, but along which lines do you vote? If a gay voter chooses to not make marriage equality their primary voting decision point, does that make them any less gay? After all, many gay Republicans voted for Barack Obama. And many voted for John McCain. The identity and position is far more intricate than assuming that gay Republicans are merely self-hating and brimming with internalized homophobia. They are a byproduct of a changing political panorama.
In our constant struggle to be accepted in this world, gay Republicans should be given the same tolerance we would seek from others. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Understanding is a two-way street.” In a world struggling to unearth a future of global social tolerance, perchance a conversation with a gay Republican, the famed black sheep of the LGBT community, is just the ticket. Despite our name as Democrat, Republican, Socialist, gay, transgender, bisexual, black, brown or white, we are more than our labels would suggest.
So go on, with your bad self, Mr. Gay Republican. Break free of your political closet, and stand proud as the brazen fiscal conservative you are. Let the haters go on hating. We got your back.