Two ineluctable facts stand out when scrutinizing politicians’ actions on gay issues over the past 30 years: (1) Republicans are not anti-gay and (2) Democrats are not pro-gay. By 2009, there are few differences between Republican and Democratic politicians on gay issues, except that Democrats are more likely to jerk gay voters around and Republicans are more likely to quietly favor pro-liberty stances. There may have been a difference between the two parties once, but that hasn’t been the case for a long time.
In 1978, California governor Ronald Reagan opposed the Briggs Initiative, which would have barred gays from teaching in public schools. In an op-ed penned as he was beginning his presidential campaign, Reagan wrote, “Prevailing scientific opinion is that an individual’s sexuality is determined at a very early age and that a child’s teachers do not really influence this.” This, in the late 70s, while Jimmy Carter was publicly refusing to meet with gay groups. The initiative was overwhelmingly defeated, mostly due to Reagan’s efforts, and this momentum was instrumental in forming the Log Cabin Republicans.
Reagan was the first president to invite two openly gay men—interior decorator Ted Graber and his partner—to spend the night at the White House. Washington Post reporter Robert Kaiser called Reagan a “closet tolerant.” If Reagan was closeted, it was because no one asked him his views, not because he was hiding anything.
The number of gays discharged from the military dropped every year under Reagan. In contrast, the number of gays discharged increased every full year under Bill Clinton except one, doubling from 617 in 1994 to 1,231 in 2000. The number of gays discharged decreased again every full year under George W. Bush except one, halved from 1,273 in 2001 to 612 in 2006. Gay rights groups report the number of gays discharged over decades, but they never break it down by administration, because the numbers make Democrats look bad and Republicans look good.
More recently, Obama claimed he would repeal the ban on gays in the military—and has spent precisely zero time working to fulfill this promise. He refused to issue an executive order staying the investigation of gays until the law is changed, and is content destroying through inaction the military careers of servicemen like Arabic translator Dan Choi.
Our Gay Marriage Opponent-in-Chief kicked off his inauguration with an invocation by Rick Warren, robust financial sponsor of the anti-gay marriage Proposition 8. Happy days are here again!
Independent Gay Forum reports that around the 100-day mark of Obama’s presidency, WhiteHouse.gov removed discussion of almost all gay issues from its Civil Rights page including mention of repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, cut its number of “promises” to gays from eight to three, and slashed discussion of gay issues from half a page to a few sentences. After bloggers objected, some material returned but not the promise to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act or a quote about gay civil rights. “Change we can believe in” apparently means “we can be confident that campaign promises to gays will get scrubbed from Obama’s website on a regular basis.”
In Washington D.C., former Democratic mayor Marion Barry recently woke up from a nap to realize he had accidentally voted with a unanimous City Council to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, and subsequently asked the council for a do-over so he could take back his vote.
Meanwhile, gay-friendly candidates and policies are making inroads even in the religious wing of the Republican Party. In the 2008 presidential primaries, televangelist Pat Robertson endorsed Rudy Guiliani, the most pro-gay major Republican candidate, a man who shacked up with a gay male couple after his divorce and promised them if New York ever legalized gay marriage he would preside over their ceremony.
Focus on the Family, James Dobson’s group, recently expressed their openness to a gay Obama Supreme Court nominee: “The issue is not their sexual orientation. It’s whether they are a good judge or not.” Sexual orientation “should never come up. It’s not even pertinent to the equation.”
If, in 2009, gays want to support the Democratic Party because they happen to agree with every one of their non-gay-related positions, fine. It’s a bit suspicious that so many gays tout the full Democratic Party line, from global warming to Guantanamo Bay. But if they’re voting for Democrats because of their superior stance on gay issues, they’re not getting much out of the bargain.
How about these “pro-gay” positions? Republicans are more aggressive than Democrats in the war against Islamic extremists, who are extraordinarily harsh in their condemnation and punishment of gays.
Republicans are tougher on law enforcement than Democrats—a boon for gays, who are more likely to suffer bias crimes. Republicans are more likely to support gun rights, as in the recent D.C. gun law Supreme Court case, which included as plaintiff a gay man who wanted to protect himself against anti-gay violence.
Republicans favor lower taxes than Democrats, and gays have more disposable income than heterosexuals.
Why is the Republican Party the real pro-gay party? The fact that Republican politicians aren’t anti-gay and Democratic politicians aren’t pro-gay helps. The fact that Republican positions make more sense than Democratic positions on some gay issues (e.g., opposing “hate crimes” laws for preferred minority groups-of-the-moment) also helps. But the main reason is that the Republican Party is more inclined to protect individual liberties, inarguably in economic realms, and even in some social realms (e.g., smoking and nutrition-related). They’re more likely to support tough law enforcement that allows liberties to be protected. And they’re more likely to support national defense, which allows us to maintain a country that protects liberties in the first place.