National Commentary

Wayne Besen: Goodbye Gay Conservatives, Don’t Let The Door Hit You

In response to mounting criticism of gay conservatives, Dale Carpenter, a prominent gay writer, is threatening to bolt the movement.

In a recent column, he spoke of his “rising anger” with how gay advocates treat his ideological brethren. Of course, we know this is a bluff because Carpenter and other gay conservatives have nowhere else to go. They are dependent on the very liberalism they condescendingly deride and rejected by the very political party they claim to be a part of.

What is notable about Carpenter’s tirade, is how it is at odds with his often intelligent columns. He regularly offers sharp legal critiques and prescient political analysis. However, when discussing gay conservatism, Carpenter uncharacteristically becomes irrational, falling into an undeserved victimhood that is a hallmark of gay Republicans.

For example, Carpenter is upset because Jonathan Crutchley, the co-founder of the gay cruising site Man Hunt, was skewered after giving a contribution to John McCain. Carpenter surmises that there is a witch hunt because of Crutchley’s political affiliation. This is not true. If he were just another gay business owner, no one would care whom he contributed to. However, it is preposterous for a man whose commodity is sodomy to give money to a candidate who wants to appoint Supreme Court Justices who would be in favor of outlawing gays from having consensual sexual relations. It is this type of cognitive dissonance that earns gay conservatives such deserved contempt.

Republicans in Congress have blocked gay rights progress for nearly three decades. It was President George W. Bush who stumped for a Federal Marriage Amendment. It was Sen. Majority Leader Trent Lott who once compared gay people to kleptomaniacs and alcoholics. I could fill 10 columns with despicable acts and words lobbed at the GLBT community by members of the Republican Party. While the Democrats are not perfect (see Sam Nunn), anyone who compares the two parties is smoking something that has higher street, than political value.

The modern Republican Party was molded by President Nixon’s “southern strategy” and built by Ronald Reagan, a president who ignored the AIDS crisis. It has been home to horrendous bigots, such as Sen. Jesse Helms, Rep. Bob Dornan, commentator Pat Buchanan and Vice President Dan Quayle – who pushed the term “family values,” which notably did not include GLBT families.

In 1998, Republican Pat Robertson ran for president. Robertson lost, but he amassed a huge mailing list, which was transformed into the Christian Coalition. Under the leadership of Ralph Reed, this organization married the Republican Party and this list is today referred to as “The Base.”

As long as this crowd is on speed-dial to the White House, gay conservatives are a politically powerless sideshow. This group should be boisterously rooting for a collapse of the GOP, so the party can be rebuilt from scratch as an inclusive entity.

The core problem with Carpenter’s arguments, is that he invokes a mythical conservatism that is fighting a liberal straw man. The small government party that wants to keep out of peoples’ bedrooms is dead. It has been replaced by a brand of Republicanism represented by Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and Bush. Not only are these politicians anti-gay busybodies, but they aren’t even fiscally conservative. In 2009, America is projected to run a half-trillion dollar deficit, plummeting from the seven hundred billion surplus under Bill Clinton.

The issue I have with gay conservatives is that they consistently subjugate GLBT concerns. This is revealed when Carpenter says that “we disagree” with the movements “most visible activists…about how much weight should be given to purely gay issues in a time of economic and military turmoil.”

I wasn’t aware that Congress had to choose between the economy and protecting GLBT people from job discrimination. I had no idea that passing a hate crime law might hinder our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Apparently, Carpenter and other conservatives think they should get to the back of the line and wait for their rights to be doled out at a time of peace and prosperity (when Democrats are in the White House, I presume).

The truth is, I agree more with Dan Quayle than gay conservatives like Dale Carpenter. Family Values actually do matter and I will not apologize for placing the protection of my family above tax cuts for the very wealthy. Carpenter does not like it when gay conservatives are called self-loathing, but what else can one call people who don’t prioritize legal protection for themselves and the ones they love?

If Carpenter and other gay conservatives leave the movement, nothing will really change. Gay progressives will still be doing the lion’s share of the work, while conservatives will enjoy the privileges of their newfound freedom, while complaining about those who are largely responsible for their liberty.