As the presidential primary races heat up, Republicans are vying to see who can be the most antigay -- which makes LGBT-friendly former New York Gov. George Pataki stand out from a field with such homophobes as Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, and the not-yet-declared Bobby Jindal, and in which even "moderate" Jeb Bush is appealing to the religious right. And popular former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who sought the nomination in 2008, now says the party would never consider him because he supports LGBT rights. But there are pro-LGBT Republicans out there besides Pataki and Giuliani. Here are a few we wouldn't mind seeing enter the presidential race.
How about a woman from Alaska? No, no, not that one. We mean U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who in 2013 voted for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (which, unfortunately, still has yet to become law). That same year she endorsed marriage equality, writing in an op-ed, "Why should the federal government be telling adults who love one another that they cannot get married, simply because they happen to be gay?" She also supported the LGBT-inclusive Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell."
Being a U.S. senator from Illinois has been one man's path to the presidency. The state's current junior senator, Mark Kirk, isn't quite as LGBT-supportive as Barack Obama, but he's way better than most Republicans. Kirk was only the second sitting Republican senator to endorse marriage equality, after Rob Portman. He also supported ENDA, which was the subject of the first speech he gave on the Senate floor after recovering from a stroke. But Kirk's reputation was recently tarnished by his remark about bachelor Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham being "a bro with no ho," which smacked of racism, sexism, and gay-baiting.
The senator from Ohio scored only a 45 on the Human Rights Campaign's most recent Congressional Scorecard, lower than even some of his fellow Republicans (although much better than most), but he deserves consideration as the supportive father of a gay son and the first sitting Republican senator to endorse marriage equality. He's said he won't enter the 2016 race, but if he were to reconsider, he'd be a welcome pro-equality voice in the field.
The senator from Maine has long been one of the biggest LGBT allies in Congress from either party. She was a lead Republican cosponsor of ENDA and played a key role in bringing down "don't ask, don't tell." Last year she came out in support of marriage equality, in the thick of a reelection race against a pro-equality Democrat.
Ros-Lehtinen, the mother of a transgender son, is a rarity among Republicans in Congress -- she scored a 100 on the HRC's scorecard in the last session, and she has consistently scored high. Representing a Florida district in the U.S. House, she has long been a proponent of LGBT-inclusive hate-crimes law, antidiscrimination legislation, open military service, marriage equality, and more. She was the first Republican member of the LGBT Equality Caucus and supported repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act even before it was (mostly) struck down by the Supreme Court. She is still a cosponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the remainder of DOMA.
The U.S. representative from upstate New York joins Ros-Lehtinen in having a perfect 100 score from the HRC for the most recent session of Congress -- they are the only two Republicans in the House with that distinction. Like her, he has supported repeal of DOMA and signed on to friend of the court briefs urging the Supreme Court to rule for marriage equality.
Dent, who represents a district in eastern Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley, came out for marriage equality last year after a federal judge struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage. He predicted that 20 years from now, people will wonder "what all the fuss was about." Dent also has cosponsored ENDA, supported LGBT-inclusive immigration reform, and backed the repeal of DADT.
Mayors and Private Citizens
Faulconer, the mayor of San Diego, has evolved from an opponent of marriage equality to a supporter. While a member of the City Council, he voted against a pro-equality resolution in 2007, then switched to a supportive position in 2008 after discussions with gay and lesbian constituents. He was elected mayor last year and became a cochair of Mayors for the Freedom to Marry, the only current Republican cochair. A previous San Diego Republican mayor, Jerry Sanders, was a founding cochair of the group. Sanders, whose support was motivated in part by being the father of a lesbian daughter, is now in the private sector as president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.
As CEO of Indiana-based business-review website Angie's List, Oesterle led the opposition to the state's so-called religious freedom law, which critics said would enable discrimination against LGBT people. He said the "fix" to the law, ostensibly assuring it could not be used to discriminate, was insufficient because Indiana still has no statewide law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Angie's List canceled plans to expand in Indiana and Oesterle stepped down as CEO to devote himself to repairing the state's image, an effort that he said could include running for public office.
Christine Todd Whitman
Whitman, a former New Jersey governor, is a strong marriage equality supporter, making her a better choice than the state's current governor, Chris Christie, who vetoed marriage equality bills and for some time fought in court against equal marriage rights before finally withdrawing the state's appeal of a pro-equality ruling in 2013. Whitman has also supported LGBT rights in other areas; for instance, she long ago condemned the Boy Scouts of America's ban on gay members. After leaving the governor's office in 2001, she headed the Environmental Protection Agency for two years, and she now does political consulting on environmental and energy matters through her Whitman Strategy Group. She also works with the Republican Leadership Council, which is dedicated to making the party more inclusive.
As a U.S. senator from Maine, Snowe was a reliable LGBT ally, supporting DADT repeal, ENDA, and the Matthew Shepard Act. She voted for DOMA in 1996, but in 2013, after leaving office, she said she had become a supporter of marriage equality. In 2012, when she announced she would not seek reelection, she decried the polarization of Congress, and she now runs Olympia's List, which aids candidates who work to build consensus.
The LGBT Possibilities
How about a Republican who's not only gay-friendly but actually gay? In 1994, while serving as a U.S. representative from Wisconsin, Gunderson acknowledged that he is gay. Two years later, he gave an impassioned speech against DOMA and became the only Republican in Congress to vote against it. (Jim Kolbe, a then-closeted gay Republican congressman, voted for the law.) Gunderson is currently president of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, a trade group representing for-profit educational institutions.
Another gay Republican, political consultant Karger entered the presidential race in 2012 but was shut out of debates by the party establishment. Still, he was the first openly gay presidential candidate to have his name appear on the ballot in several states, and he used his campaign to speak out for marriage equality and against employment discrimination. When he ended his candidacy, he declined to endorse Mitt Romney, who had won the nomination, due to Romney's antigay views. Karger continues to work as a political adviser and writer, and he was the subject of the 2014 documentary Fred.
Possibly the highest-profile transgender person in the U.S., Jenner is also a conservative Republican. While observers doubt how welcome she'll be in the party, some Republicans, such as presidential hopeful Lindsey Graham, have voiced acceptance. Could Jenner parlay her fame into a run for the White House? It can't be harder than competing in the Olympics!