Peter BoykinPhoto: Facebook
One of the lingering mysteries in politics is why the existence of LGBTQ Republicans. The party is addressing the religious right, which is working to roll back LGBTQ rights.
The Trump administration has made the attack on LGBTQ progress a hallmark of its policies. Trump himself seemed personally apathetic to the community, but he was happy to name people with long histories of hate and follow their lead to get votes. He even joked that Vice President Mike Pence wanted to hang gay people.
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The party has also not changed its mind since Trump was defeated for re-election. Glenn Youngkin, governor-elect of Virginia, thinks marriage equality is wrong.
So, given these circumstances, why would an LGBTQ person want to vote Republican?
According to FiveThirtyEight, who recently looked into the phenomenon, the answers are multiple, often linked. One of the biggest is that gay and lesbian Republicans don’t feel their sexuality is that important. Like FiveThirtyEight In other words, “most LGB Republicans view their sexuality as distinct from – or secondary to – their political identity.”
A 2020 study from the Williams Institute confirms this. Just over half of the 54% of LGB Republicans said their sexual orientation was an “insignificant” part of their identity. They were also much less likely than LGB Democrats to say their gender identity was “a very important aspect” of themselves.
FiveThirtyEight spoke to a number of self-identified LGB (not T’s or Q’s) Republicans, who confirmed these findings.
“My sexual orientation as a gay man is only a tiny part of me and doesn’t really affect my political standing,” one of them told the site. “I think the Democratic Party tends to flatter various groups too much, and I think we should look at people more as individuals than part of a group.”
Indeed, many LGB Republicans do not believe that society as a whole is homophobic. Several cited the party’s relative silence now on marriage equality as a sign of how much has changed for the better. (They’re apparently unaware of two Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices who would like to overturn that right.)
This may be because LGB Republicans have more tenuous ties to the community as a whole. Only 45% of LGB Republicans in the Williams Institute survey felt they had a connection to the community, compared to 70% of LGB Democrats.
The Republicans’ attraction to business and economics also has a ripple effect. But as the party moves away from any platform to simply become a place for Donald Trump and his grievances, it becomes more difficult to justify his support on political grounds. Indeed, Trump has rejected many of the basic tenets that have driven Republicans for decades.
Finally, many LGB Republicans who FiveThirtyEight interviewees said they felt personally welcomed as gay or lesbian in Republican circles, while they often felt ostracized as Republicans in LGBTQ circles.
The number of LGB Republicans is quite low, so they constitute a fraction of a fraction of the electorate. Their impact on election results will be minimal, especially as the GOP appears determined to drive out many LGBTQ voters. But you should never forget that there is a long line of former gay republicans who are just fed up with partying. Jimmy LaSalvia, one of the founders of the Republican LGBTQ group GOProud, resigned from the GOP in 2014 because of his “tolerance for bigotry.”
Faced with the prospect of a Trump presidency, he backed Hillary Clinton in 2016.