Gay Republicans Claim They’re Being Heard in Tampa
Now that the 2012 Republican National Convention is underway in Tampa, Fla., gay conservatives are establishing themselves at the convention in hopes to talk with other likeminded gay conservatives from around the country about the party's stance on gay marriage and economical issues.
Officials from the Log Cabin Republicans, the principal gay GOP national organization, held a welcoming party on Sunday where attendees discussed presidential Republican candidate Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor has said that he opposes same-sex marriage and supports the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would outlaw gay marriage throughout the country.
Several gay conservatives seem to back Romney not because of his stance on social issues; many actually say they disagree with his views on the LGBT community and have criticized the Republican Party's platform on marriage equality as well. But because of his business background and the politician's conservative fiscal policies, they have decided to support him nonetheless.
The president of the Log Cabin Republicans of Tampa Bay, Jim Pease, said that he supports Romney because of his business experience.
"In my opinion, we're headed toward a cliff with the accelerator on the floor. We need to slam on the brakes, do something, make a right-hand turn because we're headed toward a cliff the way it is," he told the Washington Blade. When he was asked if Romney's anti-gay views bothered him, Pease said, "If we go over the cliff economically, gay rights is going to be the least of our problems."
The co-chair of Log Cabin Republicans of Miami, Mimi Planas, also said she plans to vote for Romney because of the current state the economy and believes that Romney can handle the economy better than President Barack Obama.
"I'm gay and get that whole thing, but I also have other things in my life," Planas said. "There are one-issue voters that only care about that. I'm not one of those people. There are many issues that we got to look at. We got to look at national defense, we got to look at the economy, the spending, so many different things. Yes, that's one issue and we'd like that to be different, and one day it will be."
Gay conservatives from around the country flocked the RNC in Tampa to show their support for the Republican Party. Rich Weissman, a 58-year-old gay Republican activist from Portland, Ore., said he came to the RNC to support gay marriage within the GOP.
"I feel that the times are such today that people like me who are conservative, who believe in Republican values when it comes to things like the economy, when it comes to things like health care, jobs and those issues -- but who are gay -- need to speak up and become part of the party and change the way in which the party looks at critical, critical LGBT issues, and that's why I'm here," Weissman said.
The Republican Party's platform is perfectly clear on the subject of marriage equality: It's against it. The platform states that the GOP wants marriage to be defined as a union between one man and one woman and also criticizes the Obama administration for not defending the Defense of Marriage Act. The party backs a Federal Marriage Amendment. EDGE reported that Tony Perkins, the president of the anti-gay Family Research Council, wrote the GOP's marriage plank.
Pease said the platform "sucks" but said that politicians end up following their own polices.
Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabins, told the British newspaper the Guardian that he was offended by the GOP's anti-gay platform but still has faith in his party and endorses Romney.
"As abysmal as the platform language was, we were able to participate," he said. "The negative language that was in there is not only divisive for certain issues, but it is not helpful in the wider context."
Bob Dallas, a Republican delegate from Georgia, came to the Log Cabin party to show his support. "Even a person who is married will not agree with their spouse 100 percent of the time," he told the Guardian.
Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona stands out as the only out-gay Republican member of Congress. Now retired, he's the de facto dean of the gay faction in the party. He also gave a "qualified endorsement" of Romney. He echoed Pease and Planas' statements about the former governor of Massachusetts' background in business overcoming his anti-gay stances.
Kolbe, who served in the U.S. House from 1985 to 2007, told the Blade that Romney is "much more likely to turn the country in the right direction on fiscal matters." He wishes Romney would evolve his views on LGBT rights.
"I think he's much more likely to turn the country in the right direction on fiscal matters," Kolbe said. "To me, that is the existential issue that we face today, and for that reason, I support Mitt Romney."
Some Republican politicians are acknowledging that the country has shifted on marriage equality. Republican U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock of Illinoise, for one, believes that America "is changing its positions" on social issues like gay rights.
Jerry Sanders, the Republican mayor of San Diego, will be starring in an ad that is running on Tampa TV stations during the convention that promotes marriage equality. The commercial, called "Family and Freedom," is sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign and Freedom to Marry. The spot airs from Monday through Thursday. It will cost $30,000 for the organizations to run the ad, CNN reported.
In the commercial, Sanders calls for conservatives around the country to support same-sex marriage. "In 2007, I announced my support for marriage quality for two reasons: family and freedom," Sanders says in the ad. "Marriage strengthens families and we need more of that in this country, not less."
In 2007, Sanders abruptly reversed his public opposition to same-sex marriage when he tearfully said he could not tell his lesbian daughter that her relationship with her partner was not valid. He went on to win re-election handily.