Russell Muños, Vice President of Equality Loudoun and member of the Log Cabin Republicans of Virginia, and Jonathan Weintraub, Equality Loudoun co-founder and board member, attended the recent Loudoun County Republican Committee (LCRC) ice cream social at the Lansdowne Potomac club. (In the interest of full disclosure, Jonathan is also a member of the Loudoun County Democratic Committee.)
It was a refreshingly pleasant event. Our visit followed a recent post about the efforts of the LCRC to change its image. The prominence in the committee of anti-gay ideologues and their agendas was part of what led to the founding of Equality Loudoun back in 2003, and as we said in the previous post, “we would be delighted by evidence that this has changed, and that our Republican members can fully participate in their chosen political party at the local level.”
The hosts for this event were Roger Zurn (Loudoun’s Treasurer) and Robert Wertz (Loudoun’s Commissioner of the Revenue). I spoke with both of them. To my knowledge, they are members of the moderate wing of the LCRC. When we arrived, we also met Glen Caroline, the new chairman of the committee. He was very friendly and welcoming, as were most of the people I spoke with. Oddly, he didn’t seem very aware that the committee has had a problem with the GLBT community.
There were people associated with the openly anti-gay, “social conservative” wing of the committee in attendance as well. Failed State Senate candidate Patricia Phillips, formerly the state director of Concerned Women for America, who was instrumental in creating the “controversy” over the student play Offsides, and actively gay-baited her primary opponent was there, as was Mark Sell, a close associate of professional gay-basher Eugene Delgaudio.
It must make these types uncomfortable to see people greet me and ask how David is, when they believe that our marriage is “an abomination.” Sell managed to tell me that a gay person would be welcome to “work for Republican candidates,” and that the committee doesn’t care about anyone’s personal life. I take this to mean that advocacy within the committee for the individual liberties of GLBT persons – or even being out – would be an unwelcome introduction of one’s “personal life.” The anti-gay activist wing fails to see the irony of this position. We’ll just leave it at that.
Others active in the committee were more attuned. In particular, LCRC Secretary Mary Gail Swenson pulled Russ and me aside and tried to recruit us both. She warned that although some members of the LCRC would object to a membership application from an openly gay citizen, she assured us that she would advocate for the applicant and would not tolerate discrimination. Her stand may give pause to the more rabid elements, who have been deposed from leadership positions, but are still present and vocal in their attacks on our community.
Russ had a casual conversation with a woman who he believes heckled Equality Loudoun at the 2007 Leesburg 4th of July parade. She wanted his input on how to bring young voters into the LCRC. He suggested that we “must learn to speak their language,” to which she replied “you mean we have to support Ludacris?” No, he tried to explain, it’s just that the things that matter to 20 year olds are different from the things that matter to older people. She seemed not to have any idea what this could mean, giving him a funny blank stare.
As I was leaving, I met Matthew, a representative from the Republican Party of Virginia. I explained that I was there representing Equality Loudoun, and that the LCRC has been hostile to the GLBT community in the past, severely limiting participation. I related to him the story of the 2003 LCRC meeting to which School Board candidates were invited to seek endorsement, and how that meeting was derailed by Patrick Henry College student Eve Marie Barner’s ridiculous resolution demanding the reversal of the Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v Texas. Matthew seemed interested to learn about these things, and said that he’d add the inclusiveness problem to the list of items he would discuss with Glen Caroline.
I was somewhat heartened. It appears that the mainstream is making an effort to take back the LCRC (which I have to admit, as a Democrat, is a bad development.) As a member of the GLBT community, it’s a great development. Life’s not always black and white. I hope that Glen’s leadership can put an end to the irrational anti-gay bias that has tarnished the LCRC, and the committee can concentrate on the issues that matter to everyone regardless of who they love and what their family looks like. When using our community as a wedge issue no longer works at the local level, it will no longer work at the national platform level either, and the direction taken by this local committee depends on who shows up and makes their voices heard. Good luck to the LCRC!