Make space for LGBT rights within the party

Grace Leake

Earlier this month, the State Republican Executive Committee denied Log Cabin Republicans, a Republican group representing LGBTQ conservatives, a booth at the Texas Republican state convention. That was a mistake.

Log Cabin Republicans fight for equality along with traditional Republican values such as small government, free markets and individual rights. They claim that, “opposing LGBT equality is inconsistent with the GOP’s core principles of smaller government and personal freedom.” It’s ridiculous that this group should be excluded based on a single policy point that makes up so little of their platform. 

The Executive Committee disagreed. Log Cabin Republicans were the only group denied a booth at the party’s state convention.

This denial is striking in light of the overall similarity between Log Cabin values and the values of the Republican party. Michael Baker, the state Log Cabin chairman, explained in an interview that if his group had been given a voice at the convention, they could have explained that they support 90 percent of the party platform, with the exception of issues addressing LGBTQ rights. And yet the Executive Committee denied this group, who shares so many of their opinions, a voice. 

As the Republican party struggles to remember its identity, it’s especially important for it to include new voices to better gauge the party’s future direction. In the epoch of Trumpian populism, the values that used to define the Republican party — limited government, free markets and individual rights — are challenged by a leader who advocates for big spending and subsidies, who demonizes minority groups for political gain. The Republican party is destabilized, and it needs more diverse input as it finds its balance. 

Now is the time for Republicans to remember these fundamental values and find support among all who endorse them, looking beyond the identity and sexuality of those supporters. 

Mark Csoros, a business and Plan II freshman, pointed out that other fringe groups such as libertarians have been able to find a place in the Republican party based on these shared principles. 

“I know that libertarians have managed to carve out a space in the larger Republican party, even though their support for things like legalization of marijuana runs contrary to what we consider traditional Republicanism,” Csoros said. “So I hope they (Log Cabin Republicans) find more acceptance.”

Some will argue that the Republican party has opposed LGBTQ issues in the past, that it has survived and prospered without changing its stance. However, this traditional opposition to LGBTQ rights is quickly and dramatically changing as people learn more about LGBTQ issues. Now, 74 percent of voters under thirty believe same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, up from 50 percent in 2014, according to The Tribune. Older voters are also changing their minds. In the last three years, the percent of voters over 45 has shifted almost 20 percent — now 50 percent of voters 45-64 approve of same-sex marriage and 42 percent of those 65 or older agree. While Republican constituents might once have opposed LGBTQ rights, that opposition is diminishing, and the party should not take that shift lightly.

Rather, as its constituents change their opinions, the party needs to re-orient itself around its values, around limited government, free markets and individual freedom, rather than its members’ identities. Log Cabin Republicans embody all these values, and the Republican party must to listen to their voice. They must reevaluate their priorities.

Otherwise, they die.

Grace Leake is a Plan II and business freshman from Austin. Follow her on Twitter @grace_leake.