I think the current Democratic Party presidential race is proving that our democratic process does work. It is working wonderfully. Voters have been given opportunities to give their voice and to make decisions. The real key is that multiple points of view are being heard. Isn’t is a goal of a democracy to give a voice to as many people as possible? Shouldn’t we be embracing this thrilling, albeit complicated, process?
It is encouraging to see so many people becoming passionate about the political process. Those of us in the GLBT community must take the political excitement and attention and use it to look at ourselves and our issues. GLBT presence seems to be all over the media, but we know most of it is superficial and does not go to the heart of what is important about our lives.
We face many struggles others may never have to consider, such as workplace discrimination and job security issues. We lack: marriage rights, partnership protections, the right to openly serve in the military, full healthcare rights, adoption rights and so many others. All of these issues are so important to each of us; we have all been affected greatly by each of them. It is therefore natural for us to jump at any candidate who makes even the most general statements in our direction. Candidates make appearances and speeches aimed at gays and lesbians because they know that, in urban areas like ours, we have the power to make a difference in the electorate. Often I think candidates understand this better than we do.
It is good to support candidates who want to help us, and any candidate who shows interest should be encouraged and educated on what our problems are truly about. Having said that, I am not a single-issue voter. I am very troubled when voters jump to a candidate because of a promise made in the heat of a strong desire to win an election. We must educate ourselves on the candidates as a whole. Often I find there is no perfect candidate on the ballot for GLBT issues. Especially not one who shares the same vision of government that I have.
I am a registered Republican not because of who is in the White House or who is in Congress. I am a Republican because I believe in the core values of the Republican Party. I believe in limited government, the need to be fiscally responsible, the right to privacy, a strong national defense. I believe in the individual’s right to liberty and to his or her guarantee of the protection the Constitution provides. It is true that many of the Republican leaders, both nationally and here in Pennsylvania, do not live up to these ideals, but those principles are the foundation of the Republican Party. For me, an ideal political candidate would share my values as an American as well as make sure my rights as a gay American were protected.
The gay political scene is in desperate need of diversity in ideals and political outlook. Since GLBT people come from every possible background, race, ethnic group, religious belief, socio-economic status, obviously not all gay people share the same political views. It seems every week I have a conversation with a community member who feels they have no choice in the political process: to be gay means to be a Democrat. To be a Philadelphian means to be a Democrat. By taking such a fatalistic view, we lose so much of the potential for real dialogue and change in our community. Just because many people in the Republican Party are against gay rights, and use their religion as an excuse, does not mean that the principles the Republican Party was founded on are not worth fighting for. If every gay and lesbian person left the Republican Party, nothing would be done to help create change. We will never get rid of conservatives, and they do have a right to hold their beliefs. We can work with them, by showing that we are a diverse, human community. We can show that we value the same things they do. We can, as individuals, also choose to disagree strongly with them. We can vote for their opponents, which often we must, but we should make sure we make it clear why we are rejecting them. We reject those who refuse to allow us the fullness of human dignity.
And we have need to send many messages: right now in Harrisburg they are considering an amendment to ban same-sex marriage by changing our state constitution. Many of us our choosing candidates for Congress, state representatives, and other state and local offices. The Republican Primary is especially important for GLBT voters because it is our chance to weed out the candidates who wish to do great harm to our community. And we should stand proud as a community, but as a community that is proud of its diversity and variety of opinions.