*-This story originally appeared on GayRVA.com.
Do you remember where you were on June 26, 2015? I was hunched over my computer, refreshing the live feed on SCOTUSblog every few seconds and waiting for the Supreme Court to announce its ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. When Justice Kennedy finally declared that LGBTQ families were entitled to “equal dignity in the eyes of the law,” I instinctively sprinted to the Supreme Court where a large crowd had already gathered, celebrating and waving rainbow flags. Among this crowd were Americans of all backgrounds – young and old, gay and straight, and, yes, Democrats and Republicans.
What made this moment particularly special for me, as a young gay Republican, was the realization that LGBTQ equality was no longer a fringe issue confined to the political left; Americans of all political persuasions had come together to make marriage equality possible. A former Republican Solicitor General, Ted Olson, successfully argued United States v. Windsor two years prior, and now a Republican appointee, Justice Anthony Kennedy, had written the majority opinion making the matter settled law. It is easy to write off their contributions as not being representative of Republicans as a whole. But, within a modern Republican Party where support for gay marriage has tripled, Ted Olson and Justice Kennedy are much more representative than the opposition would have you believe.
With the midterm elections on the horizon, I am reminded of the fight for marriage equality (and the contributions of Republicans like Justice Kennedy and Ted Olson) because Democrats seem intent on using fear tactics to monopolize the LGBTQ and youth vote, casting anyone with an “R” next to their name as being opposed to LGBTQ rights. You do not have to look far outside Richmond to see this strategy in action; in Virginia’s 2nd district, a prominent Democrat group supporting challenger Elaine Luria said that incumbent Scott Taylor had “troubling views on the rights of LGBTQ Americans” even though, as a freshman representative, his first piece of sponsored legislation would have banned discrimination against LGBTQ Americans in housing.
Casting all Republicans as being against the LGBTQ community is dangerous for a variety of reasons. First, it ignores the fact that our community is not a monolith; LGBTQ Americans come from every race, region, socioeconomic status, and political persuasion.
To say that the Republican Party is inherently anti-LGBTQ is to insinuate that LGBTQ Americans must think and vote the same way. The movement for LGBTQ equality has long argued LGBTQ individuals should have the freedom to live their lives as they see fit; this must include the freedom to think and vote as individuals, not as a collective. The LGBTQ community is beautiful and dynamic largely because of its diversity. However, we cannot be truly diverse while enforcing political group-think.
In addition, to have a louder voice in the political sphere, we must give a fair shake to politicians from both parties who express a willingness to listen. More and more it seems that the Democrat Party takes the LGBTQ vote for granted, expecting our support on election day but not representing our interests during the other 364 days of the year. Why should Democrats represent our interests if we refuse to take an honest look at the alternatives? Why should other Republicans come to the table if we refuse to acknowledge those who are already trying to engage?
Beyond these political considerations, Republicans have a lot to offer the LGBTQ community. I first joined the Republican Party not because of any one policy position but because of the party’s fundamental principles – individual liberty, personal responsibility, adherence to constitutional principles, respect for free markets, and a belief in free speech. On its face, the core principle upon which our community has framed its struggle for equal rights (i.e. that the government should not interfere with the personal relationships of consenting adults) fits more neatly with the Republican Party’s respect for individual liberty than the Democrats’ embrace of an expansive federal bureaucracy.
Furthermore, just like other Americans, LGBTQ individuals are taxpayers, small-business owners, veterans, and family members, who are affected by issues that are not “LGBTQ-specific.” On the economy, Republican policies, such as reducing taxes and unshackling businesses from excessive regulation, have resulted in strong growth. Both the overall unemployment rate and the youth unemployment rate are at their lowest level in almost 50 years, and more Americans of all ages, gender identities, and sexual orientations have been able to find work and keep a larger portion of their earnings.
Republicans advocate supporting law enforcement and providing additional resources for national security, policies that are clearly beneficial for a community that is disproportionately the target of domestic hate crimes and international terrorism. Finally, with regards to immigration, I do not always agree with Republican politicians’ rhetoric, but I appreciate that the Party is trying to have a conversation about the issue.
Despite having a bachelor’s degree from Princeton and pursuing a law degree from Georgetown, my boyfriend has an uncertain future in our country due to the convoluted nature of our immigration system. Many Republicans have advocated for merit-based immigration reform that would give prospective immigrants more certainty and attract talent from around the world.
There is significant overlap between the interests of LGBTQ voters and the interests of young voters in this election. Young voters tend to be staunch allies of the LGBTQ community and vote accordingly. As a young voter myself, I can attest that we generally value our independence and are willing to question the status quo. For these reasons, the Republican Party is an obvious choice. Just as young voters value independence in their personal affairs, they should demand the same independence and freedom from their government, supporting a party that promises to reduce the state’s influence in our everyday lives.
Furthermore, on university campuses, within the media, and among popular culture, the vast majority of authority figures hold left-of-center beliefs, and there has been a regrettable trend of censoring conservative viewpoints. Historically, young voters have never shied away from pushing back on political orthodoxy within such institutions. For example, the free speech movement was birthed at Berkeley (a fact that seems somewhat ironic in the present context). Young voters should reclaim that mantle and support a party that will defend the free speech rights of all Americans.
There are many important issues at stake in this midterm election, and your vote is too important to be dictated by fear-tactics or political stereotypes. The struggle for LGBTQ equality has never been owned by one party, and there is no reason why your vote should be either.
Note: Op-Eds are contributions from guest writers and do not reflect the editorial opinion of RVA Mag or GayRVA.