Despite recent success, the Republican Party is still having a major identity crisis. Tea Party activists want the Party to focus on limiting government and reducing debt, while socially conservative groups are grasping for the power they enjoyed in the Bush Administration. With the Republicans taking over the House and a slew of GOP leaders about to start the two-year boxing match for the Republican presidential nomination, this is a crucial time in defining the future of the Republican Party.
It should now be a priority of the LGBT equality movement to encourage a Republican exodus from social issues. We need to create an environment where Republicans feel more comfortable voting for equality and representing their LGBT constituents. We need to celebrate and thank the Republicans who cross the aisle for equality and we need to continue fervent opposition to Republicans who have built their careers on anti-gay bigotry.
A more socially moderate GOP will also force the Democrats to stop taking the LGBT voting bloc for granted. It will make full marriage equality a requisite position for any serious Democratic candidate.
So, instead of moping around for the next few years, while we face a hostile House of Representatives, it is imperative that the LGBT movement starts pushing this GOP evolution.
The first step is to stop treating gay Republican groups like the Log Cabin Republicans and GOProud like punchlines and to start realizing their importance in this movement. Log Cabin played an instrumental role in forcing the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. If the last minute repeal wouldn’t have gone through, repeal would have likely been achieved through Log Cabin’s successful DADT lawsuit. GOProud is right at the front lines of the Republican exodus from social issues. They have again successfully secured attendance at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which has forced boycotts from fringe anti-gay groups like the Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America. This means that at the biggest gathering of the GOP’s most conservative leaders, an LGBT group will be represented while the anti-gay groups will be at home.
Another component of this GOP evolution is to reward good Republican behavior. Every Republican who voted to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is currently under attack by the fringe anti-gay groups. It is vital that LGBT groups be equally as vocal in thanking these Republican Senators in order to make them comfortable voting for equality again in the future.
Perhaps the most important element of encouraging Republicans to leave anti-gay viewpoints behind is taking time to remind them that LGBT rights are not ideologically divergent from conservative principles. History books will remember Republican Ted Olson as one of the most important players in the journey toward LGBT equality, because in the brilliant destruction of Prop 8 that he and David Boies executed, he eloquently articulated exactly why equality is a conservative value.
There is a long way to go – the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage interviewed all of the candidates to chair the Republican Party and all vehemently stated their opposition to marriage equality. If we start to focus energy on urging the GOP to leave their anti-gay ways, the Republican shift toward equality will begin.
Photo credit: Alicia Rae