If you believe in equality under the law, it might surprise you when I say that a Mormon Republican is our best bet for president in 2012. Take a deep breath and keep reading.
Let me start by saying that Republican candidates want gay votes. They just don’t think they are going to get them. In Republican circles, it can be an uphill battle to get candidates to campaign in gay and minority areas. On the surface, it might seem that they don’t want your vote, but that’s simply untrue.
There was a time when the Republican Party was outwardly hostile toward gays. This isn’t 2004, and George W. Bush isn’t president. Countless examples exist of the Democratic Party’s history of discrimination and repression, but I’ll forego that lesson for now. Just know that today’s Republican Party would truly surprise you if you gave it a second look.
It’s often said that demographics are the future of partisan politics. Growing numbers of Latinos, blacks, and gays are supposed to wipe out the Republican majority forever. But what these pundits don’t count on is the core of the Republican coalition. They don’t know that today’s Republican Party is flooded with the ranks of two groups: young people with an intense Libertarian streak (and lots of gay friends with fabulous weddings to attend), and former Democrats who have been turned-off by their party’s Obama-Pelosi wing of big, intrusive government. You know these as the Tea Party.
In New Hampshire several weeks ago, GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney was asked, “When was the last time you stood up for gay rights?” The moderator repeated Romney’s own words, “I think the gay community needs more support from the Republican Party, and I would be a voice in the Republican Party to foster anti-discrimination efforts.”
Romney did not back down from his pledge. He said, “If people are looking for someone who will discriminate against gays, or will in any way try and suggest that people that have different sexual orientation in this country don’t have full rights, they won’t find that in me.” When was the last time he spoke out for gay rights? “Right now,” he proclaimed among Republican challengers in a Republican audience. That Republican audience’s reaction: thunderous applause.
Gays are not one-issue voters. Many of us own businesses: we don’t want them killed by over-regulation. Many of us have children: we don’t want to leave them with a mountain of debt. All of us pay taxes: we don’t want them drown our family budgets. Many of us still vote Democrat, because that’s what gays are supposed to do.
South Florida LGBT voters led the way in 2010, swinging a full third of our votes to Republicans. With Mitt Romney at the top of the GOP ticket, I’m confident that this November will pave the way for a brand new Republican coalition that stands for liberty for all. If LGBT voters are willing to look forward, that will be the legacy of today’s Republican Party. If you want to see real progress, take a chance on a Mormon Republican who has an open mind. Or, you can support a Democrat who takes your vote for granted.
This op-ed originally ran in the Florida Agenda.
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