The Queer Issue
Over this last decade, gays have moved from being perceived as sitting on the left wing of the Democratic Party to joining the mainstream of Recently Pat Robertson warned George W. Bush that he better not wander too far to the center by working with gays. In the year 2000, showing tolerance toward gays is clearly becoming the mainstream position while intolerance is the extreme position. And the gay vote--which used to be taken for granted by Democrats and written off by Republicans--is now being competed for by both major parties. Democrats are quick to attack Bush on his position on gay rights, because they can no longer take the gay vote for granted; Republicans are waking up to the reality that intolerance toward gays loses elections.
As our community continues to advance in American politics, the major casualty is going to be the victim mentality of the gay Left, a.k.a. liberationists, liberals, "queers," Marxists, and progressives. Marxist ideol-ogy dominated early gay organizing, and still the association lingers. Harry Hay, who many consider the father of the modern gay movement, used his own experiences in the Communist Party as a model. But the gay Left sought to replace Marx's "Workers of the world unite" with "Victims of the world unite" as the queer call to arms. When I've attended the gay Left's annual get-together Creating Change, I've experienced shocks similar to the ones I've had at GOP events--only this time it was, "There's the Republican guy." When I say I support "free markets," I get hissed. At the last Creating Change event I attended, which had Nike as a corporate sponsor, attendees walked around in T-shirts with Nike's swoosh and a line through it.
As a gay Republican, I believe in free markets, less government, individual rights, and individual responsibilities, with an emphasis that individual rights include equal treatment for gays. The great majority of Americans share these views, including moderate Republicans, swing Democrats, and Independents. Bill Clinton has succeeded politically by leaving the Left behind. His successes have been on trade, balancing the budget, more cops on the beat, and removing people from the welfare rolls. Yet the gay Left and I share a dislike for Bill Clinton. For me it is that he's demeaned the Presidency, but for them it is his abandonment of the left wing of the Democratic Party. What the gay Left doesn't seem to realize is that the shift of American politics away from the left has been mirrored in the gay community. With the exception of Queer Studies programs, there are few queers who are still waiting for the revolution. And even the most ardent gay lefty wouldn't want to be called a Communist today.
Today, Elizabeth Birch, the head of Human Rights Campaign, is more animated talking about her kids than about legislation. She symbolizes the desire of many in our community to build families. Steve May, the gay Republican state representative in Arizona, excites our community when he talks in moral terms about his willingness to die for his country and his fight to remain in the Army Reserves. Jamey Nabozny, a young gay Republican, is a hero to many for fighting his high school for the poor way they treated him as a gay youth. Two gay couples--against the advice of most national groups--took leadership of the gay movement when they sued for the right to marry in Vermont.
Marriage, military, family, and school are the gay issues of our day. Gays are insisting on equal treatment in traditional institutions. And none of these represent the "social justice" revolution of the gay Left. A new, mainstream gay movement forces America to live up to her ideals of "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," so it's time to thank the gay Left for their courage, and archive their contributions. Because they're history.
Rich Tafel is the Executive Director of Log Cabin Republicans.