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Tories to GOP: Don’t Close the Door on Gays

Jim Burroway

February 17th, 2010

Nick Herbert, Britain’s openly-gay shadow Environment Secretary and member of Britain’s Conservative Party, urged American conservatives to embrace LGBT people or risk years in the political wilderness.

Speaking at a debate at the Cato Institute in Washington on gay marriage, MP Herbert said:

“I am not here to preach or to interfere in your affairs,” he said. “I am here neither to tea party nor to go clubbing. But I can tell you what happens to a party when it closes the door to sections of our society and is reduced to its core vote. It’s no fun being in opposition for thirteen years.”

Herbert spoke of the damage that prior anti-gay Conservative governments have inflicted on the party’s reputation and the lengths that party leader David Cameron has gone through to try to heal the breach:

And our party leader, David Cameron, has publicly apologised for Section 28, legislation introduced by a previous Conservative government which effectively prohibited the teaching of the validity of gay relationships in schools, a law which was deeply unpopular not just amongst gay people, but with those who saw it as a divisive and unpleasant sign of state intolerance.

We needed to say sorry for a stance that was wrong. The truth is that there are millions of people who we drove away but who share our values and want to join us.”

I have no doubt that there are millions of conservatively-minded people here in America which are being driven away from the GOP over its embrace of anti-gay politics as a wedge issue. Maybe someday the GOP will realize the mistake they are making. But with all the noise generated by the teabaggers — er, tea partiers — I doubt it will come anytime soon. Two years do not a wilderness make.

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Eddie89
February 17th, 2010 | LINK

This message from the Torries will fall on deaf GOP ears. An elephant may have big ears, but this party has stuffed them full of select biblical passages and it will embrace hate before equality.

This is because of the GOP’s embrace of the extreme, religious zealots that simply want gay people to go away or worse.

For example, the “Kill Gays” bill in Uganda, which was primarily instigated by USA based religious zealots.

Money talks and as long as the money keeps flowing into GOP coffers from religious zealots pockets, nothing will change!

The Christian Taliban’s HQ is in the USA.

Edwin
February 17th, 2010 | LINK

The little man may not have the money for those people. But we do have the vote and they need to stop and think about that. The money will stop when people get tired of listening to the lies of the churches. no parishners no money.

AJD
February 17th, 2010 | LINK

It’s one thing to be gay and conservative, but I fail to understand how any self-respecting gay person could associate him/herself with the GOP these days. Aside from a few members who support us, the Republicans have effectively become the new Dixiecrats. Back in ’04, somebody coined a term for them: Rednecklicans.

The anti-gay aspect of the party is a part of its broader anti-intellectualism and catering to the Christian right, hence the support for many of its members for creationism in 10th grade biology class, rigid adherence to tax cuts as an economic strategy, etc.

Burr
February 17th, 2010 | LINK

Maggie was also at that debate, BTW.

andrew
February 17th, 2010 | LINK

The GOP now is reaping the whirlwind caused by the divisions between the social and fiscal conservatives that have been brewing for the past generation. I left the GOP because the social conservatives were busily stomping on civil liberties, applying litmus tests, and using gays as an election wedge. Yet, I’m often unhappy with how the Dems handle many issues, and who they spend the most time trying to please.

I really think things will start to shake out more over the next several years. Once the tea-bag fad has worn out, and people are working again (and therefore less reactionary), we’ll see a new generation of conservatives — most likely far more of the fiscal group than of the religious / social sort. Fiscal conservatism is far more defensible than outright socially-based bigotry (except when the two merrily go hand-in-hand, such as in race politics).

In the meatime, it will be very intersting to see if Dems can continue to wend their way down a middle that will likely require the jettisoning of union interests, the embracing of gun rights, and a moderate minimizing approach to abortion issues.

Just a hypothesis.

Sparky
February 18th, 2010 | LINK

I’m British and I’ve followed the the “lengths” the Tories have gone to to heal the rift between them and us. Some of which I’ve covered here http://sparkindarkness.livejournal.com/304569.html

They make pretty gestures

They make nice speeches

And they vote 100% anti gay. Every single time. Section 28 (multiple times), equalising the age of consent, gay unions, anti-discrimination laws, hate crime laws, equality laws, gay adoption – every single time there is any issue that would help us, protect us or secure us the Tories are there to fight tooth and nail against it.

They make their gay MPs do the circuit and stay visible as token rainbow-washing, they attend a few gay events – but the laws and the policies are just as homophobic as American Republicans. They haven’t changed and Cameron himself has a grossly homophobic vote record.

His message to the Republicans is one of PR – for his party as much as theirs. Don’t be fooled by it – pretty words don’t hide homophobic action

Eddie89
February 18th, 2010 | LINK

Like the newly elected Republican governor of the State of Virginia. Before the election he spoke highly of gays and gay civil rights, after the election, he removed sexual orientation as a protected class from job discrimination.

So, if you are a gay state employee in the State of Virginia, you can now be legally dismissed from your job simply because you are gay.

Beware of wolves in sheeps clothing, speaking words of equality, but performing actions of bigotry and discrimination.

AJD
February 18th, 2010 | LINK

I looked at some of the links on Sparky’s blog, and it appears he’s correct in many ways. I still think the Tories are ahead of the Republicans in some regards — their voting record doesn’t seem quite as consistently anti-gay — but they seem to have made a lot of nice speeches without really delivering on them. Maybe they’re somewhere in between the GOP and the Democrats.

But I don’t expect Nick Herbert’s speech to change anything here, and I can just imagine Maggie rolling her eyes and giving her usual “blah blah blah” look at the end of every sentence. With the Manhattan Declaration and now the Mount Vernon Statement, I think the Republicans will only become more homophobic in the years to come.

It’s easy for us to feel a bit of Schadenfreude and chuckle that the homophobic right is just getting desperate now that Obama is in office, but we shouldn’t underestimate them. They still command the votes of the megachurch set, which is a much more valuable constituency right now than college kids. The Democrats know this, which is why they always chicken out on gay rights and pander to the shallow idiots who vote with their Bibles.

Fred
February 18th, 2010 | LINK

I, too, am British, however I must disagree fairly strongly with Sparky’s description of the Tory Party.

I will start with where I agree with Sparky. Cameron’s main message to the Republican Party would be one of PR. Most of the change has been in image. Speeches are more ‘gay-friendly’, there have been a variety of gestures and the few gay Tory MP’s do the ‘circuit’ fairly frequently.

Their voting record is not great on gay-rights. However the pictures is, in my opinion, far from the black and white, implied by Sparky. I shall restrict my comments to votes in the House of Commons, the Lords being law unto themselves (apologies for the pun). Section 28 was repealed in Spring 2003, nearly 7 years ago as part of the Local Government Bill. In the final vote on an amendment deleting the clause that would repeal Section 28, i.e. a vote to keep section 28 although a majority of Tory MPs who voted to keep section 28 many more Tory MPs failed vote at all. (http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2003-03-10&number=109). Equal age of consent was achieved by the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill in the year 2000, in the final reading of that Bill most Tory MPs voted no but 12 voted aye (yes). In the final reading of the Civil Partnership Bill in 2004 a small majority of voting Tory MPs voted for the Bill (but only about half of all Tory MPs voted at all). (http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2004-11-09&number=315). I won’t go into the details of anti-discrimination, ‘hate-crimes’ and equality laws but I will point out that there were real issues of freedom of speech, religious freedom, excessive burdens on small employers etc. so they can’t be just considered ‘gay-rights bills’. Adoption by gay couples was enacted by the Adoption and Children Bill, the final vote on adoption by gay couples came in November 2002, the with the exception of a handful of dissenters the Torys voted against adoption by gay couples. (http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2002-11-04&number=345) . However, prior to the eventual act UK law allowed adoption by married (and therefore at the time heterosexual) couples or by single persons (no specific restriction in law was made regarding any heterosexual or homosexual relationships they may be in). The act allowed adoption by gay couples by striking the marriage requirement, this had the double effect of allowing unmarried heterosexual couples to adopt . I make no particular claim as to what degree the Tories were voting against adoption by gay couples compared to against adoption by unmarried heterosexual couples.

I hope I have demonstrated that the Tory’s voting record in opposition with regard to gay-rights is open to interpretation, many votes involved other key issues .e. religious freedom, of those that didn’t involve other such issues e.g. age of consent, they were taken several years ago, before Cameron was leader, (in the case of age of consent, before he was even elected to parliament) and as they say ‘a week is a long time in politics’. I, frankly, think the statement that the Tory Party (who voted for Civil Partnerships) are as homophobic as the Republican Party (who used State Constitution Amendment banning any recognition of gay relationships as ‘wedge issues’ in cold electoral strategy) is manifestly untrue and unfair.

Eddie89
February 18th, 2010 | LINK

AJD wrote:

…but they seem to have made a lot of nice speeches without really delivering on them.

Sounds like our “fierce” advocate, President Obama.

Rob in San diego
February 19th, 2010 | LINK

This British dude seems to forget that the current group of tea-baggers are trying to emulate the original tea-baggers from several hundred years ago who hated the British and were fighting them. In fact the tea-baggers from then only existed because of the British. They are not going to listen to him. I actually enjoy watching gay republicans try and change the mind of other republicans.

Fred in the UK
February 20th, 2010 | LINK

Rob in San Diego,

By ‘British dude’ I presume you are referring to Nick Herbert MP. I don’t doubt that the Tea Party won’t listen to him. I am sure that there would have been gay and other forward thinking Republicans listening to him, although whether they ever get enough influence within the party for it to matter is a different issue. I also don’t doubt that Mr Herbert really cares whether his words carry any weight on your side of the Atlantic, a trip to speak to the Cato Institute, Washington D.C. is all good news coverage back home for him personally and his party. All part of the gay-friendly PR exercise that both Sparky and myself referred.

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