Are gay conservatives an oxymoron -- or just plain morons? 

Only if you consider philosophical consistency a contradiction -- or believe putting the big picture above narrower personal issues is moronic.

Gay conservatives' aversion to government runs deeper than just keeping government out of our bedrooms. We also want politicians' sticky fingers kept away from our pocketbooks. We don't confuse a quest for personal freedom with a drive for lock-step political correctness. We don't see ourselves as perpetual victims in need of rescue from self-serving politicians or activist judges. We are willing to go beyond litmus tests to judge elected officials on a wide variety of issues, not just gay rights.

Unfortunately, the modern gay rights movement -- born amid the socialist madness of the 1960s -- has little tolerance for such heretical departures from the liberal line. For people who have thrown off society's most deeply held conventions, the degree of political conformity is striking. Dissidents are usually hit with the epithet "self-loathing" or diagnosed with "internalized homophobia." Some unkind wags might even call them morons or oxymorons.

Yet, exit polls from the 2000 election show nearly a third of self-identified gay voters cast their ballots for George W. Bush. This was despite the best efforts of the Human Rights Campaign (which, as a wholly owned Democratic subsidiary, ought to be renamed the Human Left Campaign) to deliver the gay vote to Al Gore. The news surprised and troubled the gay political elite, which is still stuck in the mud of Woodstock and wildly out of touch with today's center-right America.

True, liberal Democrats are less hostile to gay rights than conservative Republicans. But it is politically immature and shortsighted to vote on that circumstance alone, rather than considering the broader panoply of issues. A bill outlawing employment discrimination against gay people might have a better chance with Al Gore in the White House, but the vision of him sitting in the Oval Office on 9-11 ought to send deep shivers down all of our spines.

And when the leftist gay political elite -- in the name of "progressive politics" -- associates with reparationists and abortionists and people who believe chihuahuas ought to have civil rights, it allows anti-gay activists to paint the movement as a wacky liberal special interest group. This is neither true nor politically helpful.

There are two broad philosophical arguments to make in support of gay equality. The first, a libertarian model, holds that all people, including gay people, ought to have maximum personal freedom with minimum government intrusion on a level playing field. When facing obstacles, personal ingenuity is the first resort; personal responsibility, the watchword.

The second is a victimization argument, borrowed whole cloth from the contemporary black Civil Rights Movement. Because gay people are perpetual victims facing violence and discrimination and the hostility of straight society, this model holds that activist courts and elected officials must forcefully intervene and dictate and regulate. Government is the first resort; personal responsibility, an afterthought.

The first argument is conservative. It's also better political strategy. And there's nothing oxymoronic or moronic about it.

Richard Shumate is a columnist for Creative Loafing.



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