Opinion: Without Republican support, much of the recent progress on LGBTQ rights would have been impossible

A majority opinion written in 2015 by a Reagan-appointed Supreme Court justice legalized same-sex marriage in the United States, notes the president of the Log Cabin Republicans.
(Jacquelyn Martin / AP)

The March 31 opinion piece, “LGBT conservatives have political clout. It’s time they stop using it to enable GOP bigotry,” was equal parts histrionic and uninformed. Author Nico Lang breathlessly declared: “Advocating for inclusion and compassion from Republican leaders is a noble goal. But it clearly isn’t working.”

Give me a break.

In his zeal to promote a liberal worldview of LGBTQ rights, Lang overlooks an inconvenient truth that Democrats rarely admit: The victories we have achieved as a community would not have been possible without Republican support.

Liberals such as Lang are fond of talking a big game when it comes to Democratic support for the LGBTQ community, but the last time Democrats held concurrent majorities in the U.S. Senate, the House of Representatives and the presidency, LGBTQ rights advanced very little, and what victories we did achieve happened only because of GOP involvement.


In 2010, the military’s discriminatory “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was repealed with the votes of 22 Republicans — in a lame duck Democratic Congress compelled to act only because of a lawsuit initiated by Log Cabin Republicans.

If LGBTQ equality is going to become a reality outside the blue Northeast and the West Coast, we need to meet Republicans where they are.

In 2011, Republicans provided the key margin of victory that legalized marriage equality in New York state. That vote was also held in a Republican-controlled Senate. When the same vote came up two years before at a time when Democrats held both chambers of the Legislature and the governorship, it failed.

In 2013, the U.S. Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Longtime GOP allies of equality Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Mark Kirk (Illinois) were joined by seven of their peers, Sens. Orin Hatch (Utah), Jeff Flake (Arizona), Pat Toomey (Pennsylvania), Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire), Dean Heller (Nevada), Rob Portman (Ohio) and John McCain (Arizona), to stand up against LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace. The bill would never even have come to the floor had it not been for their support.

And in 2015 — the same year a Supreme Court justice appointed by President Reagan wrote a decision making marriage equality the law of the land in all 50 states — the conservative state of Utah passed a landmark LGBTQ non-discrimination bill. Lang declares that the legislation was “carried over the finish line” by liberal LGBTQ activists. It wasn’t. Collaboration in good faith among Republicans in the state Assembly and Senate, Utah’s Republican governor, Gary Herbert, leaders from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the state’s dominant faith) and liberal LGBTQ activists are what led to historic protections for LGBTQ Utahans in legislation that could serve as a model for red-state America.


I don’t pretend that the GOP is perfect, but the Democratic Party isn’t either. Time and again, GOP support has been required to advance LGBTQ equality — and it will be necessary to achieve further progress, whether Lang wants to admit it or not.

Right now Republicans have majority control of 32 state legislatures. In 25 of those states, Republicans control both legislative-chamber majorities and the governorships. Nationally, Republicans control both houses of Congress and the White House. If LGBTQ equality is going to become a reality outside the blue Northeast and the West Coast, we need to meet Republicans where they are and seek to strike balance; otherwise we are doomed as a nation to litigate an endless culture war with no viable means of resolution.

In his piece, Lang offers a dangerous bit of advice: “The only way to change the Republican Party is to leave it.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Quite the contrary: If you put all your faith into a single political party, your destiny is to be ignored by one and taken for granted by the other — a concept Lang would do well to understand.

Gregory T. Angelo is the president of Log Cabin Republicans, a national organization representing LGBTQ conservatives and straight allies.

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