The Gay Republican Conundrum

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EVEN AS the perimeters of GLBT freedom have widened in the 21st century, the once vibrant community of activist gay Republicans finds itself in a crisis threatening its future viability in American political life. The shift in control of Congress in the 2006 midterm elections has cost them whatever influence they may have had on Capitol Hill. Moreover, the increasing polarization of American politics along ideological and regional lines has marginalized socially liberal Republicans as the religious Right has tightened its grip on the GOP. In a time of political realignment, gay Republicans find themselves on the wrong side of trends in both the Republican Party and the GLBT community.

The emblem of sagging gay Republican fortunes is, of course, the reviled and friendless figure of Mark Foley, formerly a leading Republican congressman from South Florida. This supposed advocate for child protection fell from grace at a pace that would have made Icarus dizzy. Exposed weeks before the election after years of making lewd importunities to male congressional pages, Foley was forced to resign abruptly. As his lurid e-mails to high school students were read out on the nightly news, he found himself execrated by Democrats and Republicans, GLBT rights activists, and religious conservatives alike. His safely Republican seat in Congress fell to the Democrats in the November 7 elections, largely because his name remained on the ballot to dog the candidacy of the Republican selected to run in his place.

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