Signs of Sanity?

For thirty-five years, I was a Republican because Republicans were the “live and let live” party. Back then, the GOP was the party of limited government, the party that believed government should do those things that government really had to do, like provide police and fire protection, pave streets, and collect garbage. I left the GOP (along with many others) after it was hijacked by moral scolds, and an emphasis on limited government and fiscal prudence gave way to an obsession with imposing religion and making life miserable for gays and lesbians. 


Is the tide beginning to turn?


Nationally , signals are decidedly mixed. On one hand, there’s the spectacle of GOP senators frantically distancing themselves from (“I’m not gay”) Larry Craig, while showing a bit more “Christian charity” to (call me a Madam) David Vitter. On the other hand, none of the Republican frontrunners for the Presidental nomination are rabidly anti-gay, although both Guiliani and Romney are engaged in a rather unseemly effort to rewrite their past moderation on gay issues.  


On the local level, however, there is an unmistakable—and welcome—change in the air. It began with Carl Brizzi, who expanded his office’s nondiscrimination policy to include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and extended to Governor Daniels, who has pointedly avoided anti-gay rhetoric. Local councilor Scott Keller has championed equal rights for gays and lesbians.


At a recent fundraising dinner for Lambda Legal, a gay civil rights group, Republicans were well represented; among the 500 plus guests, I saw the GOP’s county chairman, its candidate for Mayor, a couple of ward chairs, and a number of others who have not previously attended.  


And when Indiana Equality sent a questionnaire to all candidates in the upcoming election for Indianapolis’ City-County Council, the responses from a number of Republican candidates were a pleasant surprise.


One Republican respondent wrote “The role of government is not to promote  distinctions; rather, to recognize the challenges facing each community and adopt a course of action that ensures that the civil liberties and personal freedoms of each are protected….understanding works to eliminate prejudice dirven by fear and ignornance.  When you eliminate prejudice, you eliminate a threat and the community is safer.”


Another said “I respect everyone’s right to live without prejudice or discrimination, whatever their race, beliefs, or sexual orientation.  I live my life that way and my wife and I raise our children that way.”


And in a response that hearkened back to the “old” GOP, one candidate wrote “[My district] is a diverse mix of people — straight/gay, rich/poor, black/white and every shade in between – but we all have one thing in common.  All of us are finding it more difficult to provide for our families.  And I mean family in the broadest sense of the word – however you choose to define it.  I have no private or political agenda to further – I just want local government to get back to the basics.”


I couldn’t agree more.