A political party’s platform is a strange document. It purports to represent the consensus and ideals of a massive organization, but in reality, it tends to represent only party “purists” and rarely determines policy. So then why would Log Cabin Republicans and other advocacy groups, including the Family Research Council, devote serious time and energy to attempting to influence a document that few people ever even read?
Image: Log Cabin Republicans staff
Because words matter. Symbols matter. And decisions are made by the people who show up.
With social conservatives like FRC’s Tony Perkins and Phyllis Schlafly of the Eagle Forum firmly entrenched and empowered by their status as delegates, we knew we were facing an uphill battle. But the mission of Log Cabin Republicans is to build a stronger, more inclusive GOP, and the only way that change can happen is from within, with conservatives speaking to conservatives about our shared values of freedom and family.
We weren’t alone. Perhaps encouraged by the visible presence of not one, but two pro-equality organizations (Log Cabin was proud to be joined by the Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry) and the open display of David Lampo’s outstanding book, “A Fundamental Freedom: Why Republicans, Conservatives, and Libertarians Should Support Gay Rights,” after years of taking place behind closed doors, the social issue debate within the GOP is finally coming out of the closet.
Despite the popular narrative that the Republican Party is on a rightward trajectory, moderate and pro-equality Republicans, particularly women, are showing up and speaking out.
22 year old Jackie Curtiss from Alabama refused to sit quietly, despite being the youngest delegate in the room by a decade. She stood up for comprehensive, reality-based sex education in America’s classrooms and for the availability of the morning-after pill in America’s hospitals and pharmacies.
Barbara Ann Fenton, a delegate from Rhode Island, spoke out as a Catholic on behalf of a clear separation of church and state, where religion alone governs marriage and government issues civil unions for all, regardless of sexual orientation.
Barbara’s motion was seconded by Themis Klarides, a state representative from Connecticut, who has seen first-hand that recognizing and dignifying same-sex relationships does no harm to the fabric of society, and much good for real families. "This speaks to the heart of what Republicans believe in -- less government interference in our lives," Klarides said. "We want our party to focus on growth and the economy and allowing us to thrive as a people, not on telling people what they should do in our private lives."
Cynthia Kennedy of Nevada, a middle-aged straight woman, felt compelled to speak up in a hostile subcommittee on behalf of the children with gay parents, who are not as legally protected as they could be. Even after losing in her subcommittee, Kennedy would not give up. Before the entire Committee on Resolutions and in front of C-SPAN’s cameras, she read from a document distributed by Log Cabin Republicans and the Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry:
As President Ronald Reagan said, it is the role of government to "work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our back." We feel strongly that excluding committed same-sex couples from marriage does not mesh with those principles. To quote former Vice President Dick Cheney, "freedom means freedom for everyone."
If the 2012 platform is particularly anti-gay – and with three separate sections under the heading of “marriage,” that case could be made – it is because social conservatives know that the end is near. There is a generational shift happening within the Republican Party, and a sharp regional divide as conservatives in the “live and let live” cultures of the northeast and mountain west push back against rhetoric that undermines their election efforts. Tony Perkins can see the future coming, and the result is a platform that desperately tries to carve his dying philosophy into stone while he still can. It won’t work.
If Barbara doesn’t speak up to make that motion, Themis can’t offer her second. If Themis doesn’t speak out to second it, there is no voice vote in the Committee on Resolutions. Without that vote, there is no proof that there’s a debate happening within the Republican Party. Without that debate, there is no chance for change. We may not have won this round, but by being in the room, we sent a message that will only get louder as it echoes.
We show up because, as Republicans, we belong here. And we’re not going to stop showing up, or speaking out. We’re here, we’re conservative, and everybody had better get used to it.
*Is it time for you to show up? Check out www.logcabin.org/RNC for a schedule of events hosted by Log Cabin Republicans and our allies at the 2012 Republican National Convention.
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