Why should gay people be Republicans? Because gay people are … people. Gay Americans are Americans. And most Americans aren't single-issue voters. They are, on the whole, more center-right than center-left, more fiscally conservative than wealth-distributive, and happier to spend their money as they see fit than to have the government do it for them by mandate.
There are three common principles shared by the Republican Party of 2014: small-government philosophy, individual-empowering policy, and the lionization of Ronald Reagan. Log Cabin Republicans was formed in California in 1977 specifically to support Reagan, who at the time spoke out boldly against Proposition 6, otherwise known as the Briggs Initiative—a referendum, not unlike 2008's Proposition 8, in which voters in California were asked to make it illegal for openly gay individuals to be teachers in the state's public schools.
Reagan's stance against Prop 6 was a tremendous political risk: This was a man who had been governor of California, who was eyeing another run for the presidency of the United States, and who made this declaration in 1977. Before Reagan's opposition to Briggs, the initiative was set to pass 2-to-1; following Reagan's push against it, the initiative failed by the same ratio.
Seven years later, during a question-and-answer session with female Republican elected officials, Reagan said: "And let me say, there is no place in the Republican Party for those who would exhibit prejudice against anyone. There's no place in our party for the kind of bigotry and ugly rhetoric that we've been hearing outside our party recently. We have no room for hate here, and we have no place for the haters."
In support of Reagan's courage, and in a nod to the GOP's roots in equality—emancipation, suffrage, the Civil Rights Act, and more—a group of gay Republicans in California chose to organize under the name Log Cabin Republicans as an homage to the birthplace of the first Republican on the right side of history: Abraham Lincoln.
In the decades since Reagan made the statement that there was "no place for the haters" in his party, the GOP has increasingly moved toward equality when it comes to gay rights. Log Cabin Republicans' lobbying across the country has led to more than 250 GOP legislators casting votes in favor of marriage equality; five currently sitting Republican members of Congress who support the freedom to marry; nearly one-quarter of the Senate GOP caucus voting in support of employment protections for LGBT individuals—and that's just for starters.
This year, we have two out members of Log Cabin Republicans running for Congress—Carl DeMaio in California and Richard Tisei in Massachusetts—both of whom have not only our support but also the support of GOP leadership, including the National Republican Congressional Committee and the GOP House leadership. They understand that moving toward equality is the path to victory.
If Republicans honor the legacies of Reagan and Lincoln, remember our party's history, and refuse to fall prey to either the culture wars (propagated by leftists determined to focus on anything but the economy) or social conservatives on the fringe right, the party platform's core principles should naturally attract those voters—gay and straight—who reject the big-government philosophy espoused by "progressives" hell-bent on micro-regulation of the lives of all Americans, and who reject the culture of perpetual victimhood propagated by leftists whose electoral road map relies upon dividing a united America into a patchwork of special interests whose only hope for prosperity is government.
That's our Log Cabin: It's the house that Lincoln built. It's the house that Reagan founded. And it will forever be the home for equality-minded conservatives—gay and straight—who stand on the right side of history.
The author is executive director of Log Cabin Republicans.
The Evolving Politics of Gay Rights
This article appears in the January 25, 2014 edition of National Journal Magazine as The Gipper’s GOP.