Where Are the Gay Republicans?

4.23.2008

By Charles Kaiser

A note from the editor of Out: Charles Kaiser's article in the May issue, Washington's Gay War, generated far more than the average grab bag of angry letters from readers. Some were no doubt prompted by a call to action posted on the Log Cabin Republicans' website, which pronounced the piece "a hit job." The substance and thoughtfulness of many of these responses, though, seemed to warrant a response from the author, which follows. 'Aaron Hicklin

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This was not an article about gay Republicans. This was an article about gay political wars in Washington, which included (horrors!) some history of those wars. I did interview some gay Republicans who I didn't quote; and I did quote others whose comments had originally appeared elsewhere.

It's interesting that none of these correspondents challenges any of the facts in my piece -- facts which understandably make any sensible gay Republican uncomfortable. Facts like these: closeted gay Republican Congressmen and Senators have a very long history of voting against the interests of gay people -- whether the subject is gay marriage, gays in the military, or something as basic as the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, a law that would make it illegal to fire someone just because he or she is gay. And many talented gay Republicans -- inside and outside of the closet -- agree with David Duncan, that there's nothing wrong with working for someone with homophobic positions, if gay bashing is the price you have to pay to keep a Republican Congressman in office.

On the other hand, I was careful to point out that the only people who tried to restrain Mark Foley were two gay Republican staffers on the Hill.

It is true that my article has a point of view: the closet is a terrible place to live, and it breeds very bad behavior, especially among public officials of all political persuasions.

Then there's the record of the Republican party scapegoating gay people, a twenty-eight-year-old tradition which began when 'Christians for Reagan' blanketed the South with TV ads in the fall of 1980 which warned, 'The gays in San Francisco elected a mayor; now they're going to elect a president [Jimmy Carter].'

Much more recently we watched the Republican attempt to pass an anti-gay marriage amendment to the Federal constitution (blocked by Democrats in Congress), followed by the anti-gay marriage initiatives placed on eleven state ballots at Karl Rove's behest in 2004.

The Republicans who have controlled the White House for the last seven years do bear a large measure of responsibility for the climate described by the AIDS counselor at the end of my piece: 'And if you think about the political and social climate we've been in and we're still in, what message is that sending to gay men? 'No, you can't get married as gay couples.' 'No, you can't be openly gay in the military.' 'No, you don't have equal rights.'' And that climate does produce 'a lack of self-esteem' and 'a kind of self-loathing,' particularly among the youngest members of the LGBT community.

I salute the Log Cabin Republicans for their efforts to change their party from within, and I'm sorry I didn't include more of them in my piece. But it's hard to see that they've made much of a difference, when every Democratic presidential candidate in 2008 favored an end to don't ask, don't tell, and every Republican was in favor of continuing it; every Democratic candidate participated in a discussion of gay issues on Logo, while every Republican boycotted it; and McCain, Thompson, Huckabee and Romney all opposed passage of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, while every major Democratic candidate supported it.

McCain's willingness to employ openly gay people in senior positions in his Senate office only makes his opposition to ENDA more baffling. But that's the way life is in Republican offices on Capitol Hill.

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