Gays and the GOP

The party and most of its leaders eschew extremism

Editorial, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
August 16, 1999 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Blogger Tumblr

The Republican Party appears to be recognizing – however belatedly – that the votes of gays and lesbians are worthy of cultivation. All but the most conservative among the party's presidential contenders – Gary Bauer, Alan Keyes and Pat Buchanan – have said they would willingly appoint well-qualified gays and lesbians to Cabinet and White House posts and ambassadorships.

"If someone can do a job and a job that he's qualified for, that person ought to be allowed to do his job," said Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the front runner for the 2000 presidential nomination.

Elizabeth Dole has indicated that she would welcome a donation from the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay and lesbian political group whose contribution was returned by her husband Bob Dole during the1996 campaign.

Another presidential hopeful, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, has appointed U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona, the only openly gay Republican in the House, to his steering committee.

Neglect has historically been the best that homosexuals could expect from the GOP. In some states, they were not welcomed in caucus meetings or state conventions. And they were sometimes vilified on the campaign trail and used as "red meat" to draw the votes of social conservatives.

But now, with the Christian Coalition showing signs of weakening, and the calls from some religious right figures for believers to abandon politics, Republicans are sensing that they can worry less about the religious right. It could also be that some savvy strategist has gotten the message through to party higher-ups that gays and lesbians are not a monolithic group whose votes can be taken for granted by the Democrats.

Candidates of both parties will have to fight for those votes and take stands on issues that matter to them. Those issues are not limited to same-sex marriage or domestic partners benefits. For example, as more homosexuals become parents, it cannot be assumed that "family values" issues like safe schools and adequate child care are of interest only to heterosexual voters.

It will be interesting to see how grand the Grand Old Party proves to be in appealing to one of the country's least understood, but increasingly influential, constituencies.