Unless you’ve been living under a rock that isn’t in Northeast Ohio, you’ve probably heard about the Republican National Convention happening in Cleveland this week. As the saying goes, the elephant is in the room, and it’s flooding Cleveland with hilarious billboards, gun control debates, and an official GOP platform that staunchly opposes LGBT rights.
The convention even reaches as far as Kent; a charter bus driver confirmed Friday that the guests checking into #Kent State’s Centennial C dorm were Secret Service agents. The highways into Cleveland are lined with RNC tip line messages, encouraging drivers who “see something” to call. Protestors and non-profit organizations are mobilizing around the event, including LGBT advocacy group, Equality Ohio.
Today, Equality Ohio is hosting a public discussion about #LGBT rights, moderated by marriage equality’s victorious plaintiff and Ohio native, Jim Obergefell. However, perhaps the most intriguing guest is the first and only openly gay Republican Platform Committee member, Rachel Hoff.
As the GOP Platform Committee finalized its official platform, which outlines the party’s main beliefs, Rachel Hoff unsuccessfully voiced her dissent to some of the party’s anti-LGBT stances. Now approved, the platform opposes marriage equality, supports using “religious freedom” to discriminate against LGBT people, restricts transgender people from using public facilities, and promotes the widely discredited and dangerous gay conversion therapy. Though Republicans have held these views for years, and Hoff’s disagreement didn’t keep them off the official platform, it’s worth talking about Hoff and other LGBT Republicans. How do they reconcile affiliating with a party that opposes their rights?
In a recent interview with Time Magazine, Hoff explains how she came to align herself with the Republican Party. After a high school government class debate, her teacher remarked that she might be a Republican. So, she read online about what defines each party. Her search results said Republicans value “limited government” and “individual freedom,” principles Hoff considered important.
Hoff came out as gay in 2004, her senior year of college. She watched as Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage, and she realized that most Republicans opposed it. Though Hoff explains she used to feel torn between the gay community and her political party, she no longer needs to reconcile this apparent contradiction.
“I get this question a lot, like how can you be gay and Republican? Those are both parts of who I am, so I don’t have to reconcile them.” She said.
Regardless of her self-acceptance, Hoff was visibly disappointed with the Republican Platform Committee’s decisions. During last Monday’s proceedings, Hoff passionately attempted to persuade other delegates to merely acknowledge the fact that Republicans’ opinions differ on same-sex marriage. Choking back tears, she watched as an unofficial count showed about 73 percent of the committee voted against the proposal.
The next day, Hoff proposed acknowledging the murders of LGBT people in Orlando and the Middle East. This proposal was also rejected.
While Hoff was the first openly gay Republican Platform Committee delegate, she’s not the only notable LGBT Republican. Recently, #Caitlyn Jenner has made headlines, announcing that she’s “proud to be a Republican and a transgender woman.”
On the other hand, political operative and former Republican David Brock eventually found he could no longer reconcile his party affiliation with his sexuality. Brock worked as a muckraking right-wing reporter before coming out as gay, switching parties, and writing a memoir about his experience.
Demonstrating that gay Republicans aren’t limited to party insiders and wealthy celebrities, the #Log Cabin Republicans have been declaring their sexuality and Republican affiliation since 1977. The group was founded in California to oppose a bill which prohibited gay teachers from teaching in public schools. Their mission statement explains, “opposing gay and lesbian equality is inconsistent with the GOP’s core principles of smaller government and personal freedom.”
Though an early 2000s Internet search may have claimed the Republican Party stands for individual freedom and limited government, their 2016 platform still expands government’s role to suppress LGBT people’s freedom to marry who we love and to relieve ourselves where it’s safe. While Hoff deserves praise for taking a stand, she herself admits, “When our platform comes out next week, it’s going to be a big letter to all Americans, including LGBT Americans, about why they should vote for us. And right now I don’t think they have much reason to do so.”