In the wake of the Republicans' 2012 disaster at the polls, the civil war between the GOP’s various factions is in full swing. And the sex obsession of social conservatives, their opposition to conservative gays even being part of the movement, has disgusted and alienated a generation of new voters. If this brand of conservative ends up dominating the GOP and the movement, both will find themselves in the dustbin of history.
Witness the Conservative Political Action Conference controversy. First held in 1973, CPAC now attracts 10,000 individuals. Different levels of sponsorship allow groups to have exhibit hall display tables, handouts in conference goodie bags, and program speaking slots.
It’s always been a big-tent event that allows various groups to discuss their views and differences: free trade or nationalistic protectionism; marijuana decriminalization or enhanced drug war; circumspect or imperialist foreign policy.
The Fabrizio-McLaughlin survey taken at CPAC-2009 asked participants which of three choices “comes closest to your core beliefs and ideology.” Of 1,757 respondents, a whopping 74 percent chose “to promote individual freedom by reducing the size and scope of government and its intrusion into the lives of its citizens.” Only 15 percent answered “to promote traditional values by protecting marriage and protecting the unborn,” with 10 percent giving a strong foreign policy priority. Libertarian-oriented conservatives seemed in the ascendency.
But in 2010 and 2011, the participation of the gay Republican group GOProud caused the conservative Heritage Foundation, the Family Research Council, and prominent social conservatives to boycott the event.
In 2012, with a change in leadership at the American Conservative Union, which organizes CPAC, GOProud was banned and in 2013 it was again told to stay away. For many social conservatives, association with conservative gays is a deal-breaker.
But now dozens of high-profile Republicans have signed a legal brief for a case before the Supreme Court seeking to overturn California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriages. And Republicans who haven’t signed the brief but who support such unions include former Vice President Dick Chaney, a conservative favorite, and former first lady Laura Bush.
The battle lines are drawn.
So it’s time to speak frankly to social conservative friends concerning their position on gays.
First folks, allowing gays to form the specific partnership contract called “marriage” in no way limits your freedom to marry or not. You don’t like gay marriage? Then don’t marry a gay! I’m a married hetero with two beautiful toddler daughters and gay unions are no threat to my family.
Second, there’s no evidence that gay unions have adverse social effects for heterosexuals. They don't undermine families, spread sexually-transmitted diseases, or encourage the out-of-wedlock births and broken homes that lead to other social pathologies. Even though same-sex unions were banned everywhere until very recently, half of heterosexual marriages now end in divorce.
Third, stop obsessing about the legal piece of paper inscribed with the letters M-A-R-R-I-A-G-E. If you weren’t told, you wouldn’t even know if a gay couple living together in a loving, exclusive relationship had such a piece of paper stashed away in their sock drawer.
Fourth, you’re on the losing side of history. Most young people have no problem with gays or gay marriage. In a decade or so gay marriage in this country will be the rule and the country will be better for it.
Fifth, you’re seen by many people as pig-headed bigots. Don’t give us the “hate the sin, love the sinner” rot. I won’t claim to know your hearts, but how are we to take the fact that many of you won’t attend an event also attended by gay Republicans who probably agree with you on free markets and limited government? You’re alienating potential allies who want nothing to do with a party or movement dominated the likes of you.
Sixth, all the money and effort you put into ostracizing gays and limiting their liberty is money and effort not spent fighting against the expansion of government control over every aspect of our lives. Leftists and socialists love you. You’re wasting your time and looking foolish while they accumulate power.
Seventh, in the end your liberty to live by your values and religion will be attenuated by powerful leftists and socialists. Wait till they go after home schooling!
You social conservatives claim to understand how individuals harm themselves when they allow their whims and urges to rule them unchecked. You seem driven by an irrational obsession concerning gays and other peoples’ sex lives. Resist that master passion! Focus on limiting government in our lives or all of our lives will soon be limited by government.
CPAC 2009: A Focus on Freedom by Ed Hudgins
Edward Hudgins is research director at the Heartland Institute and former director of advocacy and senior scholar at The Atlas Society.