Conservatively Speaking

Even with GOProud's CPAC success, gay conservatives have a long way to go

I believe it’s important to acknowledge when we’re wrong about our assumptions or expectations, so I should point out that when GOProud initially announced its plans to sponsor this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) — a confab generally recognized as being a forum for some of the more extreme elements of the right-wing, a place where Ann Coulter could say ”faggot” from the stage to applause — I had my doubts about the wisdom of the effort.

But the proof is in the outcome, and by every measure I’ve seen, GOProud’s participation was a success, from positive mainstream media coverage to a rabidly anti-gay speaker being booed from the stage for denouncing the gay organization’s presence.

I know it’s popular among large segments of the LGBT community to deride gay Republicans for their membership in a party that has taken such an active role in blocking, curtailing and denying our rights as citizens. I’ve engaged in it myself from time to time. But one of the central arguments of gay and lesbian conservatives (and there are lesbian ones, too) is that the LGBT community needs to find support in both political parties if it hopes to achieve equality — an argument that’s gained currency as we’ve watched numerous Democrats twist and turn in their efforts to avoid actual engagement with LGBT issues.

When such issues as ”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal or the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which both enjoy large measures of popular support, are treated as radioactive by some of our purported political allies, we can see why having all the eggs in the Democratic basket continues to be a problem.

Of course, it’s one thing to talk about the need for bipartisanship on LGBT issues and another to actually see it. Gay conservatives have been working for years to bring inclusiveness to the Republican Party, from the long-standing Log Cabin Republicans to the still-new GOProud, but they still have a long, long row to hoe before they achieve that goal.

I’ll admit that some of my sympathy for their goals comes from one of my own little personal secrets: I have a bit of a conservative streak.

When I mentioned to a friend that I was thinking about putting that fact out in a column he said, horrified, ”Don’t tell people that!”

It’s not really that big of a secret, though — I’m no Republican, and generally consider myself a Democrat by default. But I grew up in a conservative part of the country, with a conservative family, and some of those things stick. For me, my personal conservatism comes out in my dislike of political paternalism — a vice of both parties, so it’s not something that overly influences my choice of allegiances.

I do believe, though, that the same personal streak is what makes DADT repeal such an important issue for me. I don’t subscribe to the overly sentimentalized, ultra-patriotic view of the military, but I do have a great respect for it and the people who serve in it. I have family and friends who have served. I’m no fan of war, but I believe in a reasonable military structure under ultimate civilian control.

Being a part of that as gay and lesbian citizens will be a great step forward in our full equality in society, even if it isn’t the waving of a magic wand that makes everything just so.

Equality is a process, whether we pursue it liberally or conservatively. And in the end, it’s the pursuit that matters.

E-mail Sean Bugg at sbugg@metroweekly.com.

Sean Bugg is Editor Emeritus for Metro Weekly.

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