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For Gay Republicans, Politics is Not Just One Issue

Audio

Aired 4/19/09

Log Cabin Republicans meet in San Diego for their annual convention this weekend. Among the speakers: Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Sexual preference transcends political party. And gay Republicans are out to prove they're no oxymoron. KPBS reporter Andrew Phelps has the story.

What better way to kick off a convention in sunny San Diego than a pool party? A gay Republican pool party.

Kevin Norte of Hollywood is poolside in his trunks. He's a Log Cabin Republican.

Norte: For me, Log Cabin represents the basic, original, core values of the Republican Party, of individual freedom, combined with, like, low taxes, not excessive spending, like, a balanced budget, thank you!

Notice he said nothing about gay rights. Norte calls himself a moderate Republican who happens to be gay. For Norte, gay rights is really important. He wants legal recognition of his 30-year partnership. But it's not more important than, say, a strong national defense.

Norte's partner, Don, says he hears more stereotypes about Republicans than gays.

Don Norte: A lot of people think (it) is an oxymoron. How can you be gay and a Republican? And I say that a lot of our core values are the same as Republicans', and we're working to change the platform from within to allow acceptance.

Log Cabin Republicans are finding their footing in an election year where gay rights is so far unmentioned.

John Ruble of Pasadena says presidential candidates are not using it is as wedge issue this time. He says the homosexual hysteria has faded.

Ruble: I don't think there's any real glamour or shock in being gay anymore, and I think people that have a problem with that — it's more their issue than ours. I think there's a certain faction of the Republican party, and we'll call them the Right Wing, that are afraid of us.

But Ruble says most Republicans don't care what people do in the bedroom. He says the persistent prejudice comes from other gay people — gay Democrats.

Ruble: I'll tell you a little story. I was at a dinner party, a very nice dinner party the other night, and one of the guests there, when I mentioned that I was going to San Diego to — I said a convention — he said, Oh, well, what's that about? And I said, Well, it's politics, and he said, Oh, are you a gay Republican? I said, Well, yes I am, as a matter of fact. Well! That's an oxymoron! And I said, How dare you cast aspersions on my political intent when, overall, we're all working for the same thing.

Kevin Norte: The gay and lesbian community is more accepting of, lately, the leather community than it is the Republican community. West Hollywood will put Mr. Leather as their grand marshal of the parade, but would they ever put a Republican? The answer is Never! And that's a boundary that has to be broken down someday.

That boundary may be coming down. San Diego's Republican Mayor, Jerry Sanders, gave the welcome speech Thursday. He once opposed gay marriage and then famously changed his mind .

Sanders kept the speech non-gay but suggested everyone's welcome in the Grand Old Party.

Sanders: I understand Governor Schwarzenegger and Senator Bolton are coming in tomorrow, and I think that really tells you how important all of these issues are to all of us and how important the Republican party, how important Log Cabin Republicans are to the whole process.

Schwarzenegger is the other so-called "New Republican" coming to San Diego today. Like Sanders, he's a hit with this crowd. As for Democrats? John Ruble laughs.

Ruble: Aside from some lip service that I've heard from both Hillary and Obama thus far, I don't think they have any great plan for gay Americans to be any more a part of the mainstream than they are now.

So maybe it's the GOP's moment to become the Gay Old Party.

Andrew Phelps, KPBS News.

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