The Log Cabin Republicans slogan is “inclusion wins.” From my office in Washington, DC to over forty chapters around the country to individual members having conversations with state, local and national lawmakers, every day Log Cabin Republicans make the case that the GOP is strongest when we embrace a big tent philosophy centered on the core principles that unite us as Republicans: limited government, individual liberty, personal responsibility, free markets and a strong national defense. But inclusion is a two-sided coin. As Log Cabin Republicans work to create a dialogue within the GOP on issues important to the LGBT community, it is vital that right-leaning members of our community engage with the Republican Party. Decisions are made by people who show up. We have earned a place in the GOP, but we can do better participating in the party.
There has never been a better time for our community to get involved with the Republican Party. As a matter of pure pragmatism, with Republicans holding a strong majority in the House of Representatives and 47 seats in the Senate, the only way to make progress on employment nondiscrimination, tax equity for domestic partners and other issues important to LGBT Americans is through Republican offices.
Thankfully, the GOP is more willing to engage our community. The vote to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” revealed what Log Cabin Republicans have long known – there are pro-equality Republicans in Congress, and many more who can be persuaded to support us. The December 2010 vote revealed support not just from long-time stalwarts like Senator Susan Collins (Maine) or Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Florida), but also conservative champions like Senator Richard Burr (North Carolina). As Senator Burr put it, a generational transition has taken place in our nation, and Republicans are recognizing this new reality. In addition to the eight senators and fifteen representatives who voted for repeal, several newly elected Republicans have expressed support for ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” including anti-tax crusader Senator Pat Toomey (Pennsylvania). Log Cabin Republicans endorsed twelve victorious candidates in 2010 who are committed to working for equality for all, and look forward to increasing that number in the 2012 election cycle.
Republicans enjoyed tremendous success in 2010 because we regained the favor of independent voters by appealing to issues that matter to all Americans. At the same time, gay and lesbian Americans stand to benefit from a political climate in which jobs and the economy are at the forefront, while social issues are essentially off the radar. 2010 exit polls reported 31 percent of self-identified gays and lesbians voted Republican showing that a GOP advocating for smaller government, low taxes and individual freedom is a party many LGBT citizens and their allies would support.
At the most basic level, getting involved is about voting, volunteering and running for office. Each election cycle there are Log Cabin Republicans who help represent the GOP as candidates from coast to coast. In 2010, the Utah Republican Party chose Salt Lake City chapter president Mel Nimer to carry the flag for a state senate special election, while the Massachusetts Republican Party fully supported Richard Tisei as the party candidate for lieutenant governor. The trend continues, with Log Cabin Republican members in California stepping up to the plate. Los Angeles chapter president, Scott Schmidt, is running for West Hollywood City Council, and Bob Valentine is a strong candidate for the 28th District state senate seat in a special election this February. Even if these candidates don’t win, the work they do as candidates in support of the party sends an important message. The connections made during campaigns, by candidates, volunteers and voters, play a role in policy decisions.
It is true that being a gay Republican isn’t always easy. However, the road to equality has never been easy, and politics is a full contact sport. If our community truly wants to be included in all facets of American life, if we really want a place at the table, then it is time to come out as who we are – and that means some of us coming out as proud Republicans.
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