Why the Cornyn meeting matters
This commentary is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect those of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin
July 30th, 2010
No one does homophobia like a Texas Republican. This year’s party platform is so ragingly anti-gay that it looks like it could have been drafted by any of the colorful people who make a living off of scaring folks about The Homosexual Agenda.
So, then, why is Texas Senator John Cornyn speaking at a fundraiser for the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay group? And, more importantly, what does this say about the current and future state of gay politics within the Republican Party?
For many conservative Republicans, Log Cabin is seen as an enemy to the Party. They are not “real” Republicans but rather (in the words of American Family Association’s Robert Knight) a Trojan Horse:
“It’s important to understand that the Log Cabin Republicans aren’t really a Republican group; they’re a group of homosexual activists who are inside the Republican Party, trying to neutralize the party on the issue of homosexual activism,” he explains. “It’s sort of a voluntary disarmament that they’re advising the Republicans to undertake.”
And for some Republicans, an organization of gay Republicans is no more valid than a club of Republican murders or Republican pedophiles. They would no more acknowledge Log Cabin’s existence than they would of the Republican Socialists Club – it’s an impossible contradiction in terms.
Conservative Republicans – or more accurately, purist Republicans – have long pretended that LCR didn’t exist. And when they did mention the group, it was as an illustration of Who We Are Not Like or in mockery. The term RINO (“Republican In Name Only”) is often applied as a slur against fiscally conservative people who didn’t follow the party’s social agenda.
And this is why it is important that Log Cabin receive official recognition from ranking officials within the Party and by Party structure. As the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Cornyn’s presence provides authentication, it says “you are real Republicans.” It says that Robert Knight is wrong, the disagreements between Cornyn and Log Cabin are defining.
And that is a very important acknowledgment. And it adds to a process that is changing the dynamic. Instead of being outsiders, vile scum whose opinions do not even matter (who cares what a rapist has to say?), gay Republicans are becoming family with whom they do not agree. Instead of being dismissed out of hand, your voice can be heard even if it does not immediately persuade change.
And, even more importantly, it sends a message to moderate members of the party that being friendly with gay activists is not political suicide. It says that you can consider pro-gay perspectives and still be considered “a good Republican”. (And I think that we have been seeing this for a while without giving it proper attention).
What will this do on a personal level? Will this shift Cornyn’s opinions or votes? Probably not. But it may change his future language.
Will this result in a change in policy? Probably not. But it may make it less easy for the American Family Association to make wild claims about “what gays are like”. And it may make it more acceptable for rogues to “just disagree” with the party position and support our community on some issues.
Our community says over and over and over that coming out is the most important thing to bring about social advancement. Nothing changes minds more than exposure to a real living gay person whom you like.
And that is also true in politics. Nothing – absolutely nothing – will change Republican Party positions on gay issues more quickly or more effectively than being exposed to gay people. And that is why this is such a tremendously important step.