Senator Simpson was always a political hero of mine as a kid. I admired his bluntness and his smart wit. But it is only as a gay adult that I have truly appreciated Simpson’s compassion and true (“small c”) conservativeness.
As a lifelong Republican who served in the Army in Germany, I believe it is critical that we review — and overturn — the ban on gay service in the military. I voted for “don’t ask, don’t tell.” But much has changed since 1993.
My thinking shifted when I read that the military was firing translators because they are gay. According to the Government Accountability Office, more than 300 language experts have been fired under “don’t ask, don’t tell,” including more than 50 who are fluent in Arabic. This when even Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently acknowledged the nation’s “foreign language deficit” and how much our government needs Farsi and Arabic speakers. Is there a “straight” way to translate Arabic? Is there a “gay” Farsi? My God, we’d better start talking sense before it is too late. We need every able-bodied, smart patriot to help us win this war.
Since 1993, I have had the rich satisfaction of knowing and working with many openly gay and lesbian Americans, and I have come to realize that “gay” is an artificial category when it comes to measuring a man or woman’s on-the-job performance or commitment to shared goals. It says little about the person. Our differences and prejudices pale next to our historic challenge.
In a relevant side note, my personal crusade against the Hypocritical Rights Campaign began the night of the HRC’s alleged Capitol Hill “vigil” following the murder of Matthew Shepard in Sen. Simpson’s home state of Wyoming. Simpson was booed by the gay-dominated crowd when he was introduced to speak at the “vigil”. (I put “vigil” in quotes because it immediately turned into an HRC-sponsored pep rally for Democrat Congressional Candidates on the steps of the US Capitol).
I was disgusted that people would treat Sen. Simpson with such disrespect when he spoke from the heart about the murder of Shepard in his backyard. Simpson was a rare Republican lawmaker speaking out on behalf of the gay community — and the gay community treated him like crap. So much for reaching out and broadening our coalition of supporters, right?
Finally, that evening crystallized my disdain with the HRC when… in the middle of the solemn “vigil”… someone was passing out pamphlets for a fundraiser at a DC bar immediately following the
DCCC rally Shepard vigil. It was a night of complete disgust for me that cemented my place as a fighting gay conservative.
PS — THANK YOU, SENATOR SIMPSON!