Regular readers know that we’re bent a little to the left. Just because our politics veer in one direction, however, doesn’t mean we’re afraid to engage other ideological adherents.
We’ve given the Log Cabin Republicans some hell in the past, but we’re hardly against offering them some space. Thus, we asked Log Cabin president Patrick Sammon to contribute to The Totally Frightful Issue II.
Read what Mr. Sammon has to say about gay rights, queer conscious Republicans and why no one party can go it alone. The prospect of a one party government, actually, can be pretty frightful.
As president of Log Cabin Republicans, the nation’s largest organization of Republicans who support freedom and fairness for gays and lesbians, I’m not frightened easily.
As any gay Republican can attest, there is a sense of fearlessness that comes with dispelling myths and assumptions–namely, that being gay and Republican is somehow an oxymoron.
However, as I look to the future political landscape for the LGBT community, one thing scares me–just a little. It frightens me to think that some supporters of gay and lesbian equality will attempt to go down the failed path of pursuing a one-party strategy toward achieving equality.
History has shown, particularly in the last fifteen years, the fight for gay and lesbian equality will never be achieved without Republican votes. We will never reach the goals we desire if we dismiss and fail to engage Republicans and conservatives about the importance of fairness.
As a party, Democrats have certainly come farther on gay and lesbian issues than Republicans. Log Cabin has no illusions about this fact. It’s why we exist. But, like many in the community, I remember all-too-well the results of putting all our eggs in one basket. In the early 90s, President Bill Clinton seemed like the brightest hope for gays and lesbians to ever come along. He wasn’t afraid to talk about us, listen to us, and say the things many of us desperately wanted to hear from our president. Indeed, Democrats helped open some doors that had remained closed to gay and lesbian Americans. But, it was also the same Democratic president who signed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the “Defense of Marriage Act”–the two pieces of federal legislation those of us working for gay rights spend most of our time and resources trying to overturn.
As Melissa Etheridge put it during the much-touted HRC/Logo Democratic presidential forum in August, many gays felt like they had been “thrown under the bus.”
One way to make sure that doesn’t happen again is to demand more from our elected officials. The only way to do that is to be a truly bi-partisan movement that isn’t afraid or unwilling to work with Republicans.
History shows that when one political party receives the unwavering support of a particular segment of Americans, they tend to take that group’s support for granted. Why do they need to deliver for you? You’ll be there anyway.
Last month, a bi-partisan vote in the U.S. Senate advanced the hate crimes bill. Democrats, of course, delivered strong results for this important bill. But we must also remember that the bill would not have passed the Senate unless nine Republicans joined the Democrats in voting for it. Led by Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR), a vocal ally for gay and lesbian Americans, these nine Republicans provided the margin of victory that allowed hate crimes to pass.
Here are some other examples:
• Currently, a civil unions bill is advancing in Illinois. It recently gained approval in a House committee, thanks to the tie-breaking vote of Republican State Rep. Elizabeth Coulson. This bill will not become law unless there is sufficient Republican support.
• A similar situation faces us in New York where a bill providing marriage equality for same-sex couples is advancing. Again, the bill will not move through the Senate unless there are enough Republican votes. Regardless of whether Democrats or Republicans control the state senate in New York, we’re going to need Republican votes for marriage.
• In Wyoming, three Republicans voted against an anti-gay bill in a house committee. It lost by only one vote.
• In Massachusetts this spring, our movement achieved one of the greatest and most improbable victories ever in the fight for LGBT equality. A joint session of the state house and senate rejected a proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage by a vote of 45 to 151. Supporters of the amendment needed only 50 votes to get it on the 2008 ballot. Four House Republicans voted ‘no’ and three Senate Republicans voted ‘no.’ Without these seven votes, our side would’ve lost. Republicans helped provide the margin of victory, showing why a one-party only strategy is the wrong path for the equality movement. We can’t win gay rights victories without votes from both parties.
It is clear that across the country, both at the state level and federally, we must be willing to work with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. As we head into one of the most contentious elections in recent history, I hope our movement remembers that a Democrat-only strategy is a recipe for failure.
Patrick Sammon is President of Log Cabin Republicans, the nation’s largest organization of Republicans who support fairness, freedom, and equality for gay and lesbian Americans.