Despite progress, coming out as a Republican rivals coming out as gay — and it shouldn’t anymore

Jeff DavisOne of the hardest times in my life was when I came out.  I had lots of friends who loved me and accepted me, but how could I know if they would love and accept me when a major secret regarding who I am was exposed? Millions of men and women across the country had been ostracized and ignored for what I was about to tell my inner circle, but I came out anyway.

“Friends,”  I said, “I’m tired of hiding from you, and I’m tired of living a lie. I am a Republican.”

For LGBT Republicans like me, coming out of the Republican closet is often as difficult, if not more difficult, than coming out of the gay closet.

Perhaps the most irritating thing about being a gay Republican is the one question that we are often asked: “Why are you a gay Republican? If you care about equality for the LGBT community, then why aren’t you a Democrat?”

Gay and Democrat are not synonymous. There are millions of LGBT individuals who grew up in conservative households and still believe in conservative principles of limited government, personal responsibility and free enterprise.

The idea that only the Democrats care about equality or the LGBT community is a fallacy. As chairman of Log Cabin Republicans of Texas, the largest LGBT Republican organization in Texas, I have found incredible allies and friends in organizations like College Republicans, Young Republicans, Texas Federation of Republican Women and Republican Liberty Caucus. These organizations are bursting with members who support the LGBT community and want to see the full inclusion of that community within the party. Moreover, support of the LGBT community is growing among general Republican voters. According to a 2013 poll conducted by the Texas Politics Project, 60 percent of Republicans polled support same-sex marriage or civil unions.

Of course, all of this inspires a follow-up question: “If there’s so much support of the LGBT community, then what the heck happened at the recent Texas GOP convention?”

What happened is, leadership of the Texas GOP failed. They failed all of us, not just the LGBT community. Convention is meant to be a time in which Republican voters can voice their opinion on the party platform and change it to reflect their current opinions on various issues. Convention is meant to be a time for healthy and open debate.

There’s a reason why the addition of a plank supporting reparative therapy — an outdated and unethical practice in which “therapists” try to “cure” their “patients” of their same-sex attraction, sometimes by utilizing torture tactics or physical violence — is gaining more press than Greg Abbott’s acceptance of the gubernatorial nomination. The new plank is not supported by a majority of Republicans who were present at the convention and does not belong in the platform at all.

Then how was it added to the platform? Platform changes can be brought up days before the platform is voted on by the delegates present for convention. Though the platform isn’t finalized until the vote of the delegates on the final day of convention, amendments to the platform may be introduced to sub-committees nearly a week earlier. If that sub-committee of five people votes to approve an amendment (a vote of only three committee members being a majority), then the amendment continues to a temporary platform committee and then to a permanent platform committee of 31 members, one for each Senate District. It may be challenged there, and the committee may hear testimony from delegates who support or oppose the amendment.

It’s worth noting that on Thursday, June 5, the permanent platform committee heard testimony opposing the reparative therapy plank. While there was debate on the issue, the committee voted to keep the plank in the platform. The vote was not unanimous, but that body of 31 people is responsible for the language which is now making international headlines.

Among delegates, there was intense opposition to the reparative therapy plank. Strangers were contacting Log Cabin Republicans to offer their support in challenging the plank on Saturday when further amendments could be presented on the convention floor to the entire body of 8,000 delegates. With the help of a coalition of allies, we wrote an amendment to strike the entire homosexuality plank.

That amendment was never heard. During the six-hour debate of the party platform on June 7, only one amendment was debated. Another 200 amendments, including ours, were ignored.

The Texas GOP didn’t vote on reparative therapy. They voted on the entire platform without debating it, save for a brief debate on medicinal marijuana and an overlong debate on immigration. Hundreds of people who put pen to paper to change the platform were not heard.

By approving the platform after debate of only two of over 250 planks, the Republican Party of Texas failed the delegates. By not debating reparative therapy, the Republican Party of Texas adopted a plank which will haunt them until the next convention.

What happened last week illustrates several problems within the Texas GOP. The platform, which is meant to be a brief statement of basic Republican principles, should not be 35 pages long and should not include over 250 planks. The convention, which is meant to be a forum for open debate, should be exactly that. Delegates, who allegedly have the power to change the party platform, should actually have the power to do so.

I still believe in limited government, but it’s doubtful that a state party with a 250-plank platform does.

Jeff Davis is chairman of Log Cabin Republicans of Texas, based in Austin.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 13, 2014.