In Defense of Charles Djou
As the election results from Hawaii’s special election became final, I was thrilled to see that voters had selected pro-gay Republican Charles Djou to represent them in Congress. I know Congressman Djou, and I know his leadership is needed on Capitol Hill. Chris Barron, GOProud’s board chairman, and I had the opportunity to meet with Congressman Djou in March. It was quickly clear to both of us that Djou’s support for commonsense conservative proposals to improve the lives of all Americans, but particularly gay and lesbian Americans, would make him a the type of candidate our organization could support. As a result of that meeting and his answers to our candidate survey, GOProud enthusiastically endorsed his candidacy.
Imagine my surprise the day after the election when I clicked on Advocate.com to see the headline “Hawaii Elects Antigay Congressman.” Were they serious? Were they talking about the same man I know?
Unfortunately, there are far too many politicians who deserve the label “antigay,” and far too many of them claim residence within the Republican Party. Indeed, some politicians in this country make a living demonizing gay people and our families.
Those who poison the political process by demonizing gay people do a serious disservice to those they represent and to the institutions they have been elected to serve in.
However, attaching the label “antigay” to every single politician or person who is not 100% aligned with the political agenda of the gay left is not only unfair but wildly counterproductive.
Like President Obama, Djou is not there yet on the question of marriage equality. His positions, however, on both traditional “gay rights” issues (as defined by the gay left) and issues of importance to gay conservatives certainly make it clear that he is not deserving of the tag “antigay.”
Even by the gay left’s own measuring stick, Congressman Djou can’t be labeled antigay. Charles Djou supports the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" to allow gay service members to serve openly; indeed, the freshly minted congressman cast one of his first votes for the "don't ask, don't tell" compromise legislation that will begin the process of reversing this discriminatory policy. Congressman Djou also supports providing domestic-partner benefits to federal employees, supports domestic-partner tax equity, supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and opposes efforts to amend the U.S. Constitution with a discriminatory anti-gay-marriage provision.
As if those policy positions aren’t pro-gay enough, he supports a litany of policies advocated by gay conservatives that will improve the daily lives of all Americans, but especially gay and lesbian Americans. Djou opposes the efforts of Democrats to make the discriminatory death tax permanent. He supports Social Security reforms that would provide for private, inheritable accounts allowing gay partners to designate each other as beneficiary. He supports free-market-based health care reforms that would empower individuals to choose the best health plan for their family and improve access to domestic-partner benefits, rather than supporting Democratic efforts to expand discriminatory government-run health care. He also supports our Second Amendment rights to lawfully defend ourselves from becoming victims of violent hate crimes.
That’s a pro-gay record. Why on earth would The Advocate call him “antigay”?
Congressman Djou, like many politicians, including most Democrats in Congress and the president, does not support civil marriage equality. So what is standard for the label “antigay”? What could possibly be the reason many liberal bloggers tagged Djou as “antigay”? One word — Republican.
For far too many on the gay left, including those in the gay press who claim impartiality, merely being associated with the Republican Party makes you an antigay bigot. The truth is never as simple as the partisans on the fringes would have you believe. Not all Democrats are good on gay issues, not are Republicans are bad, and — shock — not all policies that will improve the lives of gay Americans and our families come with the stamp of approval from the Human Rights Campaign, the Democratic National Committee, or The Advocate.
I hope readers of this news outlet will do the research themselves — look at the candidate’s positions, look at how those positions will affect their lives, and then decide for themselves; and I hope that all gay and lesbian Americans, regardless of their partisan political affiliations, will join us in thanking Congressman Djou for his support for us and our families.