Log Cabin Republicans: Conservative Like Me
Clifford F. Thies, chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus (Winchester, Va.)
When we were invited to attend a recent meeting of the Log Cabin Republican Club of Northern Virginia, where Congressman Tom Davis (R-Va.) would be speaking, my wife and I readily said yes. After spending a pleasant evening with more than 50 like-minded individuals, we went home glad to have met so many dedicated Republican activists, who were certain to help the party win elections this fall.
Until I saw a report in the Washington Post that the Family Research Council had criticized Congressman Davis for appearing before a "radical homosexual organization," I had categorized that evening as simply another normal gathering of Republicans concerned about taxes, transportation, education, and reversing the growth of government. I was puzzled: Who were these "radicals"? Certainly none of the people my wife and I met.
Some people have bad misconceptions about homosexuals in the Republican Party. They mistakenly think, for example, that Republicans who are homosexual want to advance a nebulous "homosexual agenda," meaning to force the homosexual "lifestyle" onto everyone else. This is nonsense. What gay and lesbian Republicans want is the same as what most other Republicans want: simply for the government to get out of their lives. The talk of those gathered at the meeting was the typical talk you would find among Republicans: cutting taxes, Social Security's impending collapse, improving education, the impeachment trial, and, of course, why we didn't do so well in the last election and how we will do better next time. If you didn't know already, you would not have been able to figure out that most of the people there were gay or lesbian. (Another thing about Republicans who are homosexual is that they believe, like most Republicans, that sex is a private matter and it's best to act with decorum and decency when in public.)
Republicans have a problem. Most of us believe that the purpose of government is to enable each of us to pursue happiness as we see fit, while leaving law-abiding citizens alone. Still, there are some who would have the Republican Party be like the Democratic Party, using the power of government to force their social views onto everybody. This is why many social conservatives fit uncomfortably within our party – because while they oppose the liberal social engineers of the Democratic Party, what they really desire is their own form of social engineering, not live-and-let-live.
Consider the issue of "domestic partnership." Social conservatives think the government should promote the traditional family and prohibit alternative domestic relationships. But, most Republicans merely wish the government did not discriminate – not in favor, not against – any form of domestic relationship. This is one of the reasons why we Republicans are trying to flatten the income tax, end the marriage penalty, and eliminate the regressive Social Security payroll tax, because we want to eliminate prejudices against the traditional family. The logic of this principle is so obvious that Log Cabin Republicans can see that our live-and-let-live principle also means that the government should not inhibit other domestic relationships that enable people to attain personal fulfillment and financial security.
Consider the issue of drug regulation. Log Cabin Republicans are understandably more willing to liberalize our nation's regulation of drugs. That way, sick people can have access to exotic remedies faster than it takes the bureaucratic layers of the Food and Drug Administration to determine "safety and efficacy." Whether the issue is a fast track for AIDS treatments or the overwhelmingly popular reform to permit the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, gay and lesbian Republicans, like libertarian Republicans, are on the cutting edge in terms of both economic thought and compassion.
The purpose of government is not to control and direct our lives, but to empower us to control our own lives by ourselves, based on our own preferences and values. It is easy to see why people who think this way, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, income class, or other personal characteristic gravitate to the Republican Party.
When he addressed the Log Cabin Republican Club, Congressman Davis said that our party should be open to all who share our party's political philosophy and who wish to work for its success. Our party is, after all, the party of Lincoln – and the party of Goldwater and Reagan, too. As newspaper columnist Clarence Page recently noted: "Reagan did not win because he joined only with those who bought all of his agenda, but because he pulled together a winning coalition of people who agreed with at least part of it." How true that is, and how sad that it is too widely ignored by those who should know better.
Clifford F. Thies is chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus, the organized movement of libertarians within the GOP. For more information, visit http://www.rlc.org/