June 1, 2014

Republicans waste time fighting gays

Two groups denied exhibit space at this week’s convention in Fort Worth.

Metroplex Republicans, a 30-year-old Republican club, was thrown out of this week’s Republican Party of Texas Convention exhibit hall in Fort Worth once it was discovered we were gay-friendly.

Here’s why we believe this happened:

“We affirm that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of our society and contributes to the breakdown of the family unit. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders and shared by the majority…”

You might expect this language in the dusty manifesto of a long-abandoned separatist movement or a heavily dramatized line from a 1950s docu-scare short film. Perhaps even in the literature of an organization that dislikes gays and lesbians along with Jews and African-Americans.

You shouldn’t expect this language in the platform of the Republican Party of Texas.

But there it is, plain as day. As a lifelong Republican activist, I am appalled that this language still exists in the document for which all Republicans are asked to rally and all GOP candidates are asked to affirm their belief.

Equally appalling is that not one but two Republican gay-friendly organizations were denied as exhibitors at the Fort Worth Convention Center. The reason given: Our beliefs do not conform to the party platform.

Even after pleading with the governing body of the RPT and promising not to display, distribute or promote any material contrary to the RPT platform and to discuss only issues of agreement, we were again turned away.

We finally asked under what circumstances a gay Republican exhibit would be approved.

We were ignored and invited to work at other exhibit booths with approved messages.

It was clear, “gay” was unwelcome.

A shrinking few will never accept gays or lesbians in society, but most Republican voters disagree with this type of language and shake their heads at the treatment of fellow Republicans.

Our message to our social conservative partners is this: It is time to throw in the towel on this issue. There are so many other issues where your passion is needed.

Even if you view gays as a “social” problem, you must see that it’s become bad politics. We risk losing a generation of young voters if we continue down this path.

There are many good reasons society is changing so quickly on this issue. Gay Republicans feel that one of those reasons is that we have openly engaged the party.

Even Republicans who disagree on this issue see us as valuable allies on others.

What they do not see is the stereotype. Stereotypes die quickly once attached to a real human face.

What has also changed is our ability to remain silent waiting for more Republican hearts and minds to change. Hearts and minds have changed everywhere, including the good people working for the Republican Party of Texas.

For example, a healthy majority of Republicans now accept gay military service. Where change lags is in isolated holdouts of the Texas party leadership.

The party will only change if Republicans speak out. If nothing else, ask these leaders to stop wasting precious political capital on what is all but a settled issue.

Too often we spend more energy excluding those who disagree on policy rather than including those who agree on our principles. No Republican of good will should be silenced, asked to hide or told they are “tearing at the fabric of our society.”

Rudy Oeftering is vice president of Metroplex Republicans and a Dallas County delegate to the 2014 Republican Party of Texas convention at the Fort Worth Convention Center Thursday through Saturday. rudyoeftering@gmail.com

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