View From the Hill

Gay conservatives took center stage in Washington this week with the launch of GOProud, a Log Cabin convention, and marriage-equality endorsements from almost-first daughter Meghan McCain and former McCain strategist Steve Schmidt.

BY Kerry Eleveld

April 16 2009 11:00 PM ET

Now is the time -- when
Republicans have suffered bruising and, in fact, demoralizing
losses in the last two election cycles; when GOP ideas seem
stale, outmoded, and unmoving to all but a slim minority of
conservative stalwarts -- now is the time to embark on an
inclusive discussion within the Republican Party. Which is why
I wish our movement had nothing short of a strongly united,
well-funded, energized group of gay Republicans who were cued
up to take a central role in this transformative time.

Instead, the Log Cabin
Republicans lost their executive director, Patrick Sammon, in
January, and a new conservative gay group has been founded by
two men who were passed over to replace him, Chris Barron and
Jimmy LaSalvia.

Although the liberal
left has numerous organizations engaging the fight for full
equality, splitting up GOP gays was been tried once before, in
2000, when Charles Francis founded the now-defunct Republican
Unity Coalition. Figuring Francis might have some insights, I
e-mailed him to see if he thought the climate was any better
nine years later. He didn't mince words. "On the national
stage, at this point in the life of the GOP," he wrote,
"there is not room for two groups; in fact, it is an open
question as to whether there is a role for any gay group in the
Republican Party, unless they totally de-gay themselves, and
then what is the point?"

We better hope there's
room for at least one gay Republican group because we are
heading into a period where legislatures will supplant courts
as the main battlegrounds for our rights and the movement will
be increasingly dependent on GOP lawmakers to push pro-LGBT
legislation over the goal line. Sure, liberals love to lampoon
the gay GOP, but without six Vermont Republicans in the house
who voted to override Gov. Jim Douglas's veto, the "Freedom
and Unity" state would still be civil-union territory. Or
consider New York, where Governor Paterson just announced his
marriage-equality bill. With the senate's slim 32-30 Democratic
majority and four Dems pledging to vote against the bill, we
will certainly need a handful of Republican senators to stand
up for marriage equality.

But even with the
advent of this new conservative gay group, the state
legislatures will be the sole domain of Log Cabin. GOProud will
focus on federal issues, Chris Barron said at their Wednesday
press conference. Their
10-point legislative agenda

did not, however, include hate crimes, employment
nondiscrimination, or relationship recognition. Barron -- who
was a political director for Log Cabin and worked on hate
crimes and ENDA legislation -- called those "laudable
goals" but, added his counterpart Jimmy LaSalvia, "there
are two dozen groups downtown already working on ENDA and hate
crimes."

Tags: Politics

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