A friend of mine once asked me how I could be gay and vote for Romney. “Isn’t that like choosing one part of your identity over the other?” he wondered.
True, I was disappointed by Romney’s stance on marriage equality during the 2012 election. I cringed a little when Sen. Marco Rubio announced he wouldn’t support the immigration bill he helped write if it included provisions for same-sex couples. And Rep. Tim Huelskamp’s proposed Constitutional amendment to reinstate the Defense of Marriage Act truly had me irked.
But being gay and conservative are two highly reconcilable things. Notwithstanding the positions of some politicians in the Republican Party, gay rights and a gay lifestyle fit will within a right-leaning philosophy. After all, when you think about it, it should be the big-government liberals trying to regulate the institution of marriage. Conservatives, on the other hand, see marriage as a backbone of our society. So why not extend that institution to more people?
Moreover, the conservative value of a strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, with a broad definition of free speech, is intrinsic to any social movement. The gay rights movement could not have had the successes it did without the miracle of the First Amendment. Our liberties allow us to speak our mind, even if others find what we say offensive. Doubtlessly the first mention of gay marriage elicited some emotional reactions from a more traditional nation, offended at the idea of a definition of marriage existing outside one man and one woman. But through continued dialogue, and assembly, and full exercise of First Amendment rights, we’ve seen a massive shift in public opinion, the repeal of anti-sodomy laws, and recognition of marriage equality in thirteen states.
All of this was possible because America listened to the ideas she at first found quite offensive. But respecting free speech also means listening to the people we call “bigots” – those who argue for traditional marriage and decry the evils of homosexuality. Many of us would like to shut them out completely. But as the gay rights movement has shown, if we ban speech because it’s offensive, our society cannot progress. We will be a nation stuck in the mud, forever ignorant of new, shocking, and potentially blasphemous ideas. We will become Russia.
Thanks to the power of a highly American, First Amendment-fueled social movement, in ten years gay rights will barely be a partisan issue. I couldn’t have been prouder when Republican senators Rob Portman and Lisa Murkowski announced their support for gay marriage. Many prominent conservatives, including several members of Congress and former Vice President Dick Cheney, have come out in favor of marriage equality. And gay politicians such as Richard Tisei and Rep. Jim Kolbe have made their way into the ranks of the Republican Party. In two or three election cycles, perhaps, I can vote for a candidate that supports both a limited government and my civil rights.
It’s National Coming Out Day, which means that today is a day to be proud. I’m proud of being gay. I’m proud of being conservative. I’m proud of my country, which has demonstrated that it can and will change as society becomes more enlightened. I’m proud of the dialogue we will have with Republicans and Democrats, gay people and straight people, as we consider how to move our country forward. And as long as we uphold the liberty that brought us here, we will continue to progress.