Sunday, February 13, 2011

Gays, the conservative movement and the Republican Party

Last week, right-wing African-American columnist Star Parker mentioned that she didn't attend the recent Conservative Political Action Conference because of the presence of a number of gay and pro-gay groups, specifically GOProud. "I learned conservatism in church," she said, and for that reason she felt that they didn't belong at the conference, let alone in the movement.

My response: Where has she been? The truth is that gays have been part of the conservative movement -- or, at the very least, have supported "conservative" principles -- as long as it has existed. And she probably even attends church with a few of them, though "in the closet."

In the mid-1990s then right-wing journalist David Brock, who wrote several stories bashing Bill Clinton in such publications as the American Spectator and the Washington Times, "came out" a few years before being kicked out of the movement but not really because he was gay. Later on, I think in 2002, conservative columnist James Pinkerton, writing in Newsday, wrote glowingly about the "Republican Unity Coalition," a conservative gay/straight alliance and the founder of which, Charles Francis, was friendly with George W. Bush and was the former lover of Mark Bingham, one of the heroes of Flight 93 -- and also a staunch supporter of Ronald Reagan. (The group is now inactive.)

The reality is that many, many people that happen to be gay actually, in their hearts, support the conservative agenda of "lower taxes, strong defense and less government," their sexual orientation the only deviation. Sorry, Ms. Parker, but that doesn't make them "liberal," as you allege.

And herein lies the problem with trying to bring the "culture war" to electoral partisan politics. I mentioned earlier that Ms. Parker said that she learned conservatism in church; trouble is, however, that conservatism is an ideology independent of religious faith. That means in practice that it had to have been introduced into the church (which it was, in the late 1970s) for political purposes, which has had the result of diluting the strong message of the gospel because it ended up not calling everyone to account for sin.

And this is what it's led to. Ms. Parker and other religious persons and organizations may be offended by the presence of gays at secular conservative gatherings; however, those fighting the "homosexual agenda" have to understand that, because even secular conservative groups belong to the "world system," the GOP simply can't win elections by declaring homosexual conduct morally wrong or, depending on your perspective, "bashing gays." According to Brock's 2002 book "Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative," many gay Republicans voted for Bill Clinton 10 years earlier because the culture warriors, most notably Pat Buchanan, took over the Republican National Convention.

It's becoming clear at least to me that the anti-gay forces in the conservative movement, let alone the Republican Party, are very much a minority. They thus have two choices: Shut up or leave -- because the gays just aren't going away.

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