As Anti-Gay Groups Fume, GOProud Provokes Questions of Conservative Credentials
A Conservative Tenet?
Staver and a number of other anti-gay leaders, including American Values head Gary Bauer, NOM’s Brian Brown, and American Principles Project leader Frank Cannon, sent a letter to David Keene, CPAC’s chairman, in which they set out their putative complaint with GOProud’s co-sponsorship, the National Review Online reported on Feb. 1.
"The issue is not that GOProud works on only four of the five traditional items on the conservative agenda," the letter read; "rather, it omits--because it actively opposes--one part of the core."
Added the letter, "It is no more acceptable as a participant at CPAC than a group that said it embraced the ’traditional conservative agenda’ but actively worked for higher taxes and greater governmental control of the economy."
The "core" value that the letter’s signatories accuse GOProud of standing against is that of "life and family," in the words of Princeton’s Robert P. George, who established the American Principles Project. Anti-gay groups--especially religiously-motivated ones--promote themselves as the sole genuine defenders of marriage, family, and children, and condemn gays in suitably with-us-or-against-us language, calling sexual minorities the agents of a "culture of death"--that is, a culture in which sexual congress fails to lead to procreation, and sexual promiscuity spreads disease.
The fact that gays and lesbians often enjoy stable, long term--and even monogamous--relationships, often have children of their own, and have long sought the same legal rights, protections, and obligations of legal marriage that heterosexuals take for granted is often not acknowledged by such anti-gay groups. One notable exception is when such groups make claims (based on studies involving heterosexual single parents) that children raised by two loving parents of the same gender do worse in life. (Studies that actually look at the question of how well children of gay and lesbian two-parent homes fare have revealed that they do just as well as children from stable two-parent heterosexual homes.)
The assumption that gay and lesbian families are somehow inferior to heterosexual families undergirds the assumption that gays cannot authentically support all of the "core values"--small government, fiscal accountability, a strong national defense, a leadership role in global affairs, and, yes, devotion to family--to which heterosexual conservatives cling.
The very existence of an organization such as GOProud--to say nothing of conservative individuals who are gay or lesbian, partnered, and heading up homes complete with thriving children--threatens such assumptions, and are often met with the charge that conservative gays are somehow "false" conservatives, and with disproportional outrage.
As the letter to Keene put it, "It is our conviction that the institution of marriage and the family qualify--historically, philosophically and empirically--as such core principles. An organization committed to the ultimate abandonment of the legal and social meaning of marriage by definition disqualifies itself from recognition as a partner in the conservative cause." This comment referred to GOProud--a group that simply said states should be allowed to decide the issue of marriage equality for themselves.
Meantime, there is still the hardly incidental matter that when the GOP was trounced in 2008 one theory was the Republican candidates had spent too much time talking about who should be denied legal family status, while all of America’s families were facing economic uncertainty, if not downright hardship. When conservatives bounced back to deliver a "shellacking," as President Obama called it, to Democrats, the Tea Party was a major component of that sweeping victory... but the Tea Party, by and large, was also focused on economic issues rather than social issues.
The impression--one that has been growing for years now--is that Americans are less concerned with social questions like which rights to deny and which to reward, and which segments of society should enjoy the full suite of freedoms that theoretically belong to each American at birth. Rather, America’s voters want and need to know what practical, real-world solutions their leaders will implement to address practical, real-world problems--not largely imaginary boogeymen such as an ever-looming "culture of death."
Moreover, there’s room to question just how much space lies between the media sizzle of the political right’s schisms and the gristle. As the National Review Online noted, big-name politicians with a realistic shot at the nomination in 2012--Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Tim Pawlenty among them--are hardly going to miss a chance to address the nation’s largest assemblage of their prospective constituents, whatever internecine food fights may be going on in the background. As for the fringe groups that have vowed not to attend, National Review Online reported, at least two--the Family Research Council and the Heritage Foundation--weren’t going to be in attendance anyway. But why spoil a good gay-bashing press release by admitting that a so-called "boycott" is for an event they planned to skip before the controversy got hot and the media started to make hay out of it?
That said, there is a kernel of truth to the claim that even fiscal conservatives are concerned about social issues, the National Review Online noted. "Polling of voters who identified with the Tea Party movement suggested they are conservative on these issues, too, not just on the economy.... Contrary to conventional wisdom, American politics has not evolved beyond social issues."
Moreover, the GOProud flap ought not to be dismissed as another example of the right’s ongoing internal tensions--ongoing for decades--between its more extreme religious elements and its mainstream. "In the final analysis, GOProud may be doing conservatism a real service," the National Review Online posited. "The organization is helping a movement and party discern how to deal in a principled and prudent way with fundamental, personal issues in the political realm--in the contentious public square of a fallen world."
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