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Gays shake out the GOP zanies


"Gay Republican" isn't an oxymoron. But being one means that sometimes, you live in a baffling world.

Like when featured speakers at your event include anti-tax Club for Growth President Pat Toomey, yet your silent-auction items include a ThighMaster Gold signed by Suzanne Somers.

It's a world where card-carrying members of the Grand Old Party are targeted for discrimination by their own leaders in the military, in sports, in religion, in just about every aspect of society, just because they are gay and lesbian. And still they gather, to celebrate being Republican, by throwing a martini party on the baseball diamond at Coors Field.

Such were scenes from the Log Cabin Republicans national convention earlier this month,held not in the GOP stronghold of Colorado Springs, but in Denver. In many ways it was a trip back in time, to the days long before the party of George W. Bush, when being Republican stood for personal responsibility, limited government and staying out of people's bedrooms.

Barry Goldwater, the father of the modern conservative movement, was canonized during the showing of a recent HBO documentary by Goldwater's granddaughter, CC Goldwater.

In the documentary, titled Mr. Conservative: Goldwater on Goldwater, the former senator appears in retirement, talking about how he progressed from initially believing that gays and lesbians should not serve in the armed forces, to realizing that he was "barking up the wrong tree."

He is shown talking about religious conservatives' foray into public policy.

"The religious right scares the hell out of me," Goldwater says in the video. "They have no place in politics."

With that, the convention hall erupted in cheers. The comment was echoed during a rowdy, bawdy, expansive and, yes, poignant keynote speech delivered by retired U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson, the three-termer from Wyoming and close pal of Vice President Dick Cheney.

Simpson talked about Matthew Shepard, the gay University of Wyoming college student who in 1998 was brutally beaten and tied to a fence and left to die.

Simpson also spoke with frustration about members of his own party, whose focus on Terry Schiavo and gay marriage and opposition to stem-cell research, he says, all contributed to GOP losses last November. Those fringe issues, Simpson said, "don't settle well with regular Republican or Democratic voters."

For that matter, "What the hell is [criminalizing abortion] doing in our platform?" he asked.

Though Republicans lost the majority last November, the election was actually a good thing, Simpson said, as it resulted in "shaking some of the goofies and the zanies out of the trees."

And, he noted, gays and lesbians have come light-years in terms of being accepted, just in his lifetime. Call it a "creeping maturity," he said.

He spoke of his mother, who always said that hatred corrodes the containers it comes in. And "those people," Simpson said of the religious right, are filled with gas and body odor and heartburn.

"They smell bad," he said, ultimately drawing an extended standing ovation.

Yes, it's a "creeping maturity" indeed. Just before the gay Republicans convened, a Democrat-controlled Congress expanded the federal hate-crimes law to include crimes committed against gays and lesbians. This was done over the loud objections of most Republicans and a veto threat by the Republican president.

Disappointing? Of course.

Yet the question, "How can you be a gay Republican?" always results in good-natured laughter. "We're not Democrats," is the unwavering response.

"We've got to work within the party to change the party, and make it more inclusive," said Patrick Sammon, Log Cabin president.

How to do that? For starters, run for public offices beginning with water boards and school boards and city councils. As Jimmy LaSalvia, the group's national grassroots outreach director noted, "That's how the Christian Coalition did it."

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