Overall, I came away from the experience with mixed feelings. I was encouraged that many people I spoke with shared my concerns about the direction our party has taken over the past several years. They would like to see the GOP return to core conservative principles, especially around the proper role of government. Most people that I talked to want the government to just leave them alone. I couldn't agree more! There seems to be a real libertarian streak in my district, which was evident by all of the the Ron Paul supporters in attendance.
I don't support Ron Paul for three reasons: 1) his views on monetary policy 2) his isolationist foreign policy, including his position on withdrawing troops from Iraq and 3) his call for limited government goes a bit too far for my comfort level. That said, I think his supporters (and there are many) bring needed energy and debate to our party. I also sense that most of his supporters are tolerant of gays and lesbians, and that they'd like to see some of the divisive language removed from our state party platform.
I mentioned that I exited the SD16 GOP convention with mixed feelings. My biggest concern is that the folks who run the local party are completely out of touch with the citizens of Dallas County. In '06 the GOP got SWEPT out of office in Dallas County - we lost all 47 contested races to the Democrats! In response, every GOP candidate in Dallas county now goes around TALKING about how we need to grow the base and become more of a "big tent" party. I'm all in favor of that - but talk is cheap.
The sad reality is that the SD16 committees, esp. the SD16 Resolutions Committee, are still controlled by right wingers who have their collective heads buried in the sand. They seem oblivious to the sentiment within the party and throughout the city. These party "leaders" are making it very difficult for many moderates to vote Republican. They are also alienating many fiscal and national defense conservatives. This is based on a widespread feeling throughout Dallas that the Republican party has become too harsh and mean-spirited. As a result, I fear that we will face the same fate this year as in '06. Which brings me back to the SD16 Resolutions committee. First some background:
In '06 the state party adopted a platform that went out of its way to offend gays and lesbians. The platform contains multiple negative references to homosexuality. For example:
- "Homosexuality: ...sodomy tears at the fabric of society, 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 a majority of Texans."
- "We are opposed to any granting of special legal entitlements, recognition, or privileges including but not limited to marriage between persons of the same sex, custody of children by homosexuals, homosexual partner insurance or retirement benefits."
- "...no homosexual or any individual convicted of child abuse or molestation should have the right to custody or adoption of a minor child" (notice how gays & lesbians are lumped together with child abusers).
- "...the disqualification of homosexuals from military service."
This platform language is deeply offensive to gays and lesbians and our families. Murderers and rapists fare better in the Texas GOP platform than we do. It seems like special effort was made to single us out for condemnation and discrimination. It sends a very loud message that we are not welcome in the party.
As easy as it would be be, many of us refuse to leave the party. We are conservatives and we know that deep down the Republican party is where we belong. We will not back down to the "religious" zealots who are trying their best to drive us away. Further, we choose to stay in the GOP despite the ridicule and abuse we take from the gay community at large, which votes heavily Democrat.
Gay Republicans and our straight allies have tried in recent years to reclaim our party. This year, an effort was made to have the divisive language on homosexuality removed from the state party platform. The first step in this process is to pass resolutions at precinct conventions on the evening of the primary. This was accomplished in many precincts across Dallas.
The next step in the process is for the Resolutions Committees in each Senate District to review and vote on all of the resolutions that came out of the precincts. The SD16 Resolutions committee did this last week.
Today I attended the SD16 Resolutions committee meeting held simultaneously (in another room) as the convention. The committee met to issue their final report to be presented to convention delegates. It was in that meeting that I was informed that the committee voted to reject our resolution. When I pressed the committee for details I was told that the vote was unanimous. This meant that our resolution would not be presented to convention delegates for a vote.
This was a bitter disappointment. I don't know whether convention delegates would have passed our resolution or not. Unfortunately we will never know. I sense that the committee knows we would have either won, or gotten more support than they would have been comfortable with.
The fact that the committee vote was unanimous is revealing. It shows that we still have a long way to go before we are truly a big tent party. Anytime there is a unanimous committee vote against a resolution that has broad support among party members, it demonstrates that the committees are monopolized by one group of people.
So what next? That will be the topic for another discussion. What I will say for now is that I, and my fellow gay Republicans, WILL NOT back down nor will we run away. We will redouble our efforts and this temporary setback will only strengthen our resolve. Polls shows that younger voters are OVERWHELMINGLY on our side. Therefore we know that the question is not whether we will ultimately prevail but rather only a matter of when. Many of us are heading to the state convention in Houston as delegates or alternates and will continue to make our case for fairness.