Staff Columnist

Gays taking over GOP? That's news to this pro-LGBT Republican

Theories about LGBT takeover of conservative movement are purely imaginary

People attend the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday, February 22, 2018 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center  in National Harbor, Md. Hosted by the American Conservative Union, CPAC is an annual gathering of right wing politicians, commentators and their supporters. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)
People attend the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday, February 22, 2018 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md. Hosted by the American Conservative Union, CPAC is an annual gathering of right wing politicians, commentators and their supporters. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

What if LGBT activists took over the Republican Party and nobody noticed?

That’s what some right-wing commentators claim happened at last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference, one of the political right’s biggest annual events. They say the party is turning away anti-gay activists and embracing the gay agenda.

That would be a surprise to those tracking Republicans’ LGBT policies.

Leaders from the “pro-family” group MassResistance say their planned CPAC exhibit was cut from the event lineup in the days before the conference. They planned to promote their book, “The Hazards of Homosexuality,” and other similar literature.

Officials from the American Conservative Union, which hosts CPAC, have not confirmed MassResistance’s claims, but far-right media outlets jumped on the story. Life Site News said the entire CPAC event has been “hijacked by LGBT activists,” while World News Daily said the incident shows “homosexual bullies” are taking over American politics.

MassResistance blamed the ordeal on the supposed LGBT takeover of the conservative movement.

“Similar to the direction of the GOP establishment, in recent years CPAC has become more libertarian-oriented and pro-LGBT — and hardly any pro-family groups have had exhibits or been sponsors,” the group’s organizers wrote in a website post shortly before the conference this month.

As a libertarian and a pro-LGBT Republican, this is one time I find myself wishing the social conservatives were correct. In reality, evidence here in Iowa shows a party warming somewhat to gay rights, but still struggling.

Iowa was the epicenter of the same-sex marriage debate in 2010, when voters here ousted three Iowa Supreme Court justices for their decision allowing same-sex unions.

Nearly a decade later, lawmakers are considering a bill to protect Iowans who decline to do business with people based on religious objections. That bill was approved by a Republican-majority Senate committee this month.

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Iowa Republicans also introduced legislation this year to allow schools and businesses to dictate bathroom use to transgender users. The bill never advanced, but did garner 12 Republican sponsors.

Also consider that Iowa Republican national committeeman Steve Scheffler and committeewoman Tamara Scott are national leaders against gay rights, through their side project, Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition. Each easily won re-election among convention delegates in 2016.

President Donald Trump made history in 2017 as the first president to enter office as a supporter of same-sex marriage, he was also the first sitting president to address the controversial Values Voter Summit. He has appointed at least one openly gay man to serve in a federal post, but also hired advisers with questionable histories surrounding civil rights.

The LGBT rights movement may be complicated in the age of Trump, but it is there is zero evidence gay and trans Americans have taken over the party. Sometimes I wish they would, since I hear they throw better parties.

l Comments: (319) 339-3156; adam.sullivan@thegazette.com

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