Generational change in the new GOP?

Guest Commentary

President Obama created a stir last month when he reiterated that while he doesn’t support gay marriage, he still struggles with the issue. He said his views are “constantly evolving.”

In the Republican Party, the fracture over issues concerning homosexual individuals revealed itself more clearly in the vote for repeal of the 17-year-old “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that prevented gays from serving openly in the military.

Of the eight Republican senators who voted for repeal, five are among the youngest in the upper chamber — and they’re not all moderates. They are rather right-wing and the type of Republican that the gay press and their activist class reflexively demonized as ultra-homophobic nut-jobs.

Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, John Ensign of Mormon Nevada and Richard Burr of Dixie North Carolina — yes, that’s Jesse Helm’s North Carolina — maintain relatively conservative voting records. They are 53, 52 and 55, respectively.

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Their colleagues Mark Kirk and Scott Brown have been lumped into the more moderate wing of the party, but they, too, are some of the youngest GOP senators. Both are 51.

Yet, as far as “gay issues” go, the GOP might be more generational in their views.

Nearly all young service members supported the repeal of DADT because it simply doesn’t matter to them what anyone’s sexual orientation is — as long as you can live within the military Code of Conduct — and many happen to know and are friends with gay people.

In terms of the recent Senate vote, as we know most U.S. senators are old and many of the Republicans are from a generation that are clinging to old-school thoughts of a time long ago. However, Republicans under the age of 60 tend to be more inclusive, even if they are rightfully labeled “conservative” in their voting records on other non-gay issues.

In fact, looking beyond the rigidly left-wing gay world, many people, including centrist and GOP Gays, would argue that conservatives and Republicans in general aren’t any different than anyone else in America.

Republicans, over the past number of years, have seen more and more gay people feeling free to come out and to live their lives openly and honestly, within the very ranks of Republican culture, such as traditional families, churches, Fortune 500 companies, Republican think-tanks and other Republican Party activities.

For that reason the younger generations of Republicans are becoming increasingly familiar with issues affecting homosexual Americans. Older generations, generally don’t have that same experience of having as many contemporaries who are openly gay.

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Yet, the solidly right-wing Republican North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr rationalized inspirationally, his decision to support the repeal of “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” in generational terms:

“Given the generational transition that has taken place in our nation, I feel that this policy is outdated and repeal is inevitable,” he said.

Post-vote, there is more evidence that gay issues may continue to show fractures and changes within the GOP: several prominent conservative groups have announced that they will boycott the largest annual gathering of conservatives in the country, the Conservative Political Action Committee Convention, in Washington this February, due to Gay Republicans hosting their own hospitality reception suite and a membership sign-up booth for Gays leaning decidedly to the Right.

It will be inspiring and exciting to see if some of the potential GOP presidential contenders who will speak at this famous right-wing conclave, might express more inclusion toward gays in their activist Army. After all, several of the big names being thrown about as the next Republican President are under they age of 60. And that includes right-wing divas Sarah Palin, and Michelle Bachmann, the Queens of the Tea Party movement; and also irreverent, but fiscally conservative, Republicans like the Governors Mitch Daniels (Ind.), Chris Christie (N.J.) and Tim Pawlenty (Minn.).

You heard it here first. : :

— Tsien is the former public affairs director for the Washington, D.C., chapter of Log Cabin Republicans.

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