In Praise of Gay Republicans

I am often questioned by gay and lesbian people about why I have remained in the church when the institution, historically, has preached against homosexuality. Many in the LGBT community have abandoned the church, reasoning that if God doesn’t like them, then the least they can do is return the favor and stop going by his house once a week.

My reply to them has always been this: you can only make change from within an institution. We have seen this played out over the years within many denominations that were once not welcoming to LGBT people in both the pews or the pulpit. The Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Presbyterians, the United Church of Christ, and to some extent the American Baptists, accept LGBT people in leadership and lay roles. There are even rumblings in the United Methodist Church of pending change in their policies that declare homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching,” while, according to Joanna Brooks: “an openly gay Mormon man named Mitch Mayne ha[s] been asked (or “called,” in Mormon parlance) to serve as a leader in an LDS congregation in San Francisco.”

All of these changes have been made because LGBT people were faithful to an institution that has historically despised and rejected them. Progress comes from making changes within, not protesting outside the doors.

I completely understand the mindset of those who would question my membership in a club where many of its members wish to eliminate me altogether. I feel exactly the same way about gay Republicans. I can’t fathom why a gay or lesbian person—even if they were conservative in their economic views—would lay claim to the Republican Party. The GOP has historically rejected the full inclusion of LGBT people and within the last few decades has become vehemently anti-gay, fielding a group of presidential hopefuls that have clear anti-gay views.

While I don’t quite get gay Republicans, I understand why they remain loyal to the GOP. They understand, as I do, that you cannot change a homophobic institution without working from the inside. Gay Republicans have already helped our community make great strides. It was the Log Cabin Republicans who filed a lawsuit against Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell back in 2004, challenging its constitutionality which led to last year’s federal judge ruling that DADT “violates the rights of gay military members to free speech, due process and open association.”

Just this past week, DADT was finally repealed, allowing gay and lesbian servicemembers to serve openly. The entire LGBT community worked for this repeal, but it was our brothers and sisters in the Log Cabin Republicans who got the legal ball rolling.

More recently, some Republicans have become more open about their support for gay and lesbian issues, including George W. Bush’s daughter Barbara Bush, who made a video earlier this year supporting marriage equality in New York. Sen. John McCain’s daughter Megan has also been a supporter.

Other Republicans, like Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, are also supporting LGBT people from within the party. Ros-Lehtinen has become the first Republican to co-sponsor a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. She has long been a supporter of the community, serving as vice-chair of the House LGBT Equality Caucus.

She recently spoke before the Log Cabin Republicans, telling them that marriage equality is a Republican issue.

“All of us know that LGBT equality is not about creating ‘special rights;’ It is about ensuring the individual rights we all share as we fight for equality and justice. As Republicans, we believe that our individual rights are not granted by our government. They are our birth-right.”

Fairly strong words of support from a Republican.

Log Cabin executive director R. Clarke Cooper praised Ros-Lehtinen as “a reliable ally and leader time and again on legislation to secure freedom and fairness for all Americans. Log Cabin Republicans are grateful that she has once again stepped forward as an inclusive leader by cosponsoring the Respect for Marriage Act.” It’s wonderful to see gay Republicans moving the ball forward for equality within the ranks of the Republican party.

The gay Republicans I don’t get, however, are those in GOProud—the gay GOP group founded by a group of men who believed the Log Cabin Republicans to be too liberal.

The GOProud members remind me of the fundamentalist evangelical LGBT Christians I have met. They are hard core orthodox Christians who often go so far as to live in celibacy instead of violate what they believe to be God’s outlawing of homosexuality. I have to respect that, even though I would not choose that for myself. I have, however, been accused by these far-right LGBT Christians of not being a Christian because of my many unorthodox understandings of God and theology. Interestingly, every single one of those critics has been a man, which makes me wonder whether there’s some misogyny at work as well.

My fundamentalist evangelical LGBT brothers and sisters submit willingly to the misogyny, as well as the homophobia, of Christianity – just as the GOProuders submit to the wild-eyed conservative views of the Tea Party.

“GOProud was an early and vocal supporter of the Tea Party, and many of our grassroots members come right out of the Tea Party movement. We are incredibly proud of the Tea Party movement…” said GOProud’s Christopher Barron.

Which is truly odd, since a University of Washington poll taken last year found that among Tea Partiers: “Only 36% think gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to adopt children, and just 17% are in favor of same-sex marriage.”

Despite that clear rejection by the Tea Party, a gander at GOProud’s website reveals many far right talking points including touting Social Security as “a Ponzi scheme” and rejecting “Obamacare.”

Both fundamentalist LGBT Christians and GOProuders seem to be a bit on the self-loathing side, not so much interested in working for change from within, but instead submitting themselves to the rules and traditions already in place that ultimately go against their best interest.

Those working for more inclusion in the GOP have a long row to hoe. That was underscored in the last GOP presidential debate when the audience booed a gay soldier who asked a question about DADT. But, at least those within the Log Cabin movement seem to truly understand that working for change from within takes more than just getting the establishment to like you by inviting anti-gay people like Ann Coulter to ridicule you to your face. Real reform means challenging the old ideas and moving unwieldy, lumbering institutions toward true equality and fairness. Those Republicans—LGBT Christians—working within an unfriendly environment to advance the full acceptance of LGBT people deserve our praise.