Friday, October 13, 2006

Wanted: National Coming Out Day For Gay Conservatives

So now, in the wake of the Foley scandal, there are moves afoot to out gay Republicans staffers and lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Frankly, I've found all "outing" by a bunch of self-righteous gays on the left to be repugnant. Time and time again, these outings don't do anything to further gay rights. No one should be dragged out of the closet.

That said, I think it's high time for gay Republicans working on the Hill to come out. As Andrew Sullivan has noted, many Republican lawmakers know they have gay staffers and don't care, so why stay in the closet?

Well, one reason is that many lawmakers and staffers are afraid of the Relgious Right. Lawmakers especially are worried that groups like the Family Research Council will come after them in the primaries. But the staffers and lawmakers need to realize the far right isn't as powerful as we all like to think. Case in point? Jim Kolbe. As Scott Olin Schmidt, aka Boi from Troy notes the retiring Arizona congressman has been out and proud since 1996 and he was never driven out by the religious nuts. Schmidt says just as much:

For their own political interests - and that of equal rights, in general - it makes sense for gay Congressmen, mayors, Senators, state and local lawmakers who are in the closet to come out now. Being gay should no longer be a deep secret every Republican has to keep. One man has been sending suggestive messages over the internet to teenagers - Mark Foley. So, right now, to Republicans, being gay is de minimus compared to being a gay who cruises teenagers.

Any Republican coming out now would see barriers - perceived or real - to higher office fall by the wayside. Such an announcement would be also be critical for the cause of gay civil rights. It would remind America that being gay does not mean being a pedophile and maybe remind people that, in fact, 98% of pedophiles are heterosexuals.

Many will fear that supporting tolerance of gays and lesbians will endanger the votes of the Religious Right - but evidence is to the contrary. After all, where would they go? To support the Party of Hillary Clinton and Barney Frank?

Indeed. Why do we give these people so much power? They are only powerful because we fear them, and in reality, they really can't hurt us- at least not politically.

Schmidt adds that his Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, hasn't suffered in the opinion polls because his support of gay rights.

So, why are gay and gay-friendly Republicans bowing down to people who frankly don't share Republican views of limited government in such an area as love? These people aren't true conservatives, so why should we care what they think? To quote "Mr. Conservative" himself,

The conservative movement, to which I subscribe, has as one of its basic tenets the belief that government should stay out of people's private lives. Government governs best when it governs least - and stays out of the impossible task of legislating morality.

I don't think conservatism or the GOP are inherently anti-gay. However, many of us are cowards for not standing up for justice when it is demanded that we do so. If more Republicans came out, if more Senators and Representatives stood up for their gay staffers, hell if more Republican parents publicly supported their gay children, the gay rights movement would progress light years from where it is now and the religious right would be sent packing.

Outgoing Executive Director of Log Cabin Republicans, Patrick Guerrerio, wrote an impassioned essay last year calling for gay conservatives to step out into the sunshine. He concludes:

For many conservatives, coming out will come with real and profound sacrifice. Thankfully, we can find role models in and inspiration from a new generation of Log Cabin members who are coming out in some of America's most conservative places, joining new Log Cabin chapters in places such as Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa, Kentucky, New Mexico, and the Carolinas. They are coming out to family members who sometimes turn them away from the Thanksgiving dinner table if they insist on bringing their partners, in towns where they're the only openly gay person, in traditional churches where they've heard intolerance from the pulpit, in high schools without gay/straight student alliances, and in workplaces where there are no protections that prevent them for being fired for simply being gay. They are the real heroes of today's LGBT movement and they need and deserve to be given a helping hand in the days ahead.

That helping hand needs to come from gay conservatives. We hold the key to changing the hearts and minds of fellow Republicans, conservative Democrats, and people of faith. In the not too distant future, the history books will record who had the courage to come out of the closet and lead us to victory when it mattered most. Only with the help of gay conservatives can our movement achieve victory over the radical right. Only with the help of gay conservatives can we prevent the radical right from hijacking the Republican Party. Only with the help of gay conservatives can we defeat the voices of fear and intolerance that are feverishly working to deny any and all civil recognition for gay families. The history books will note not only those who had the courage to stand up, but sadly also, those who remain silent. The time is now.


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