Op-ed: Equality Will Come From the Right



 I have good news and bad news about conservatives and LGBT equality. The good news is that LGBT equality will come from the right. The bad news is that this will happen only if we learn how to talk to conservatives — both gay and straight — and listen to them in return.

You wouldn’t know it from the media, but there is considerable movement in favor of LGBT equality coming from conservatives. Remember, it was the Log Cabin Republicans who filed the suit that provided momentum for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Conservative attorney Ted Olson — who argued Bush v. Gore before the Supreme Court and won — is the one in federal court trying to overturn California’s Proposition 8 and strike down the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional. Republican votes secured the passage of marriage equality in New York this year.

Republican bigwigs past and present are on our side: Ken Mehlman, the former Republican National Committee chairman who came out as gay last year, is busy raising money for marriage equality, and former first lady Laura Bush publicly supports equal marriage rights as well. Former vice president Dick Cheney has said, “Freedom means freedom for everyone.” Republican political strategist Margaret Hoover, great-granddaughter of President Herbert Hoover, makes the case that the Republican Party should support gay equality in her new book, American Individualism.

GOProud is at the forefront of this drive, with leaders Jimmy LaSalvia and Christopher Barron staking a place for gays in the conservative movement by busting the myth that gay equals progressive. Straight GOProud supporters include former presidential adviser Mary Matalin and conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart, the latter a member of GOProud’s advisory council. Breitbart denounced groups that objected to GOProud’s cosponsorship of the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2011, and he provided one of the conference highlights by throwing a GOProud party headlined by bisexual singer Sophie B. Hawkins. It was the most coveted ticket at CPAC. This summer, when CPAC organizers announced that GOProud would not be allowed a cosponsorship or other official role at the 2012 conference, Breitbart and another influential conservative, Pajamas Media cofounder Roger Simon (who has a gay son), immediately announced they would not attend unless GOProud is welcome.

The bad news is that regardless of this vast support from the right, LGBTs on the left have only about a year to learn the language of conservatism and persuade the conservative movement that we have an unalienable right to equality. That’s because conservatives now control a majority of state legislatures and probably will also control the White House and Congress come 2013. Passing an anti–marriage equality amendment to the Constitution in Congress and getting it ratified by the states probably will be one of the first things conservatives will do, unless LGBT folks start supporting Breitbart, GOProud, and others on the right who are making real changes in our favor.