Like many of you, I watched in shock and disbelief as Donald J. Trump became the official President Elect of the United States of America. Just hours before Republicans and Mr. Trump won the state of Florida, I was in the Orange County Republican Executive Committee War Room on pins and needles about the outcome of this election. Phones rang off the hook as poll watchers and attorneys called in to report what was going on from precinct to precinct– then, it just stopped. For about an hour, when I thought call volume should be at its highest, we were hearing nothing from our ground game. Lines were short in heavy Republican precincts, tabulators had been going down all day, and we were seeing an upward tick in turnout in precincts with large student demographics; the silence was deafening.
I gain perspective from experience. That experience made me realize how much I really cared about the Presidential Election. With eyes on the prize for Marco Rubio’s re-election, and genuine concern for my friends on the local level who were fighting for their seats, the interest I had in the Presidential was nothing more than speculative conversation and wishing for someone better. Until last night, I would not have considered myself a Trump supporter. In fact, for full transparency, I had a strong distaste for Donald Trump as the nominee of the Republican Party. However, I voted for Trump as I voted for all of my Republican candidates, up and down the ticket.
Polls began to close and calls flooded in about closing proceedings. Poll watchers asked me, “Do you want to hear the results for Senate and President?” I said, “sure.” As they read the numbers, Trump was up. For the first time, I felt pride to have voted for Donald Trump. I thought, “What if we actually turned this state red”. As one of the “establishment” naysayers, I grabbed a “Make Florida Red Again” hat, and another that read, “TRUMP” in bold letters on the back. I snapped a couple of selfies and took to social media. At that point, even on the eve of what could have been a devastating loss, I was reminded of how proud I am to be a Gay Republican. At that point in time, I wanted to unify behind our candidate.
With no cable, I relied on social media for my updates– until I remembered YouTube Live Stream. In typical General Election fashion, Facebook was lighting up. As Donald Trump won Florida, I started to see friends from the LGBTQ+ community digitally vocalizing exactly how they felt. As you can imagine, more gay Republicans hung in the shadows as Anti-Trump MVPs stormed the social media front-lines. I can’t say that I am surprised, but I can say that the rhetoric was particularly misguided and extreme. As I woke up this morning, the Anti-Trump posts had grown ten-fold. At this point, I would be doing a disservice to my party and my LGBTQ+ community if I do not speak out.
To my LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters, regardless of party affiliation, this is not the end of the world. Really, this is just the beginning. For the first time, we have a President Elect that fully acknowledges and accepts the LGBTQ+ community, as well as local Republican legislators that have pledged to stand up for our rights. I have come to the realization that respect, will to understand, and support does not come from being in 100% agreement, or loudly proclaiming the desire for gay marriage to be legal. Like my vote for Trump, sometimes it comes with a quiet vote, the utilization of political capital, or the promise to not stand against us. For some of you this is not enough, but to come out better than we started, we need to address a few things that I have seen:
“If You Voted for Trump, You Need to Apologize to Your LGBTQ+ Friends”:
Voter suppression and division was rampant in this election. With organizations like the Human Rights Campaign and Equality Florida actively campaigning for Hillary Clinton, and media outlets like The Advocate attacking LGBTQ+ conservatives, it is no wonder why I had friends who were legitimately scared of being ostracized from their community. Why? Because they exercised their right to cast votes for the individuals whom they believe would best represent them and were bold enough to talk about it. This is a democratic republic and every law abiding citizen is entitled to their individual vote, without intimidation or fear.
If you want to talk about Donald Trump’s positions as hateful, extreme, and fear inducing, look no farther than our own community to start casting stones. Ask Peter Thiel how he felt about being blatantly attacked through the media. His “gayness” was questioned for not accepting Hillary Clinton as his prospective leader. Danger lies in suppression, but it also lies in candidates being hand-picked for you. Between special interests, the Democratic Party nomination process, and the media, you really had no choice in your candidate and I am extremely saddened by that. However, I am more saddened that you all have gotten to the place of accepting it.
Do not mistake Trump supporters or gay Republicans for being misinformed or unaware. Not only is that insulting, but we truly had to look within ourselves to vote Republican. Voting seems to be more emotional in our community. Acceptance, our future, and ultimately happiness is seemingly at stake every time we step into the voting booth. You should be curious as to why your peers voted for Trump. You will find that they took their vote very seriously, thoroughly researched and sought guidance on “why” to vote for him, versus “why not”. We have stepped outside the realm of being single issue voters and that should be applauded, not suppressed.
“I Feel Like I Felt After Pulse, This is Traumatizing”:
Shame on you. To equate a rather uneventful Presidential Election night to a tragedy so significant that it is one of the most horrific attacks in our nation’s history, is beyond insensitive, dramatic, and desolate. I don’t care about political correctness–Even I am offended by that notion. 49 innocent victims lost their lives at the hands of a terrorist, the kind of person Republicans are concerned about infiltrating our country or uprising from within, much like he did. If it’s really that bad, last night’s results should thrill you because we will finally have an administration that calls evil out for what it is and will be seeking to destroy it.
“Get Married Now or Kiss Your Rights, Goodbye”:
Do we, as a community, truly have a grasp on how the legislative system works? Have we been fed the whole story? There is an overwhelming concern about having our rights challenged or taken away under a Trump/Pence Administration. I may be able to help you alleviate that concern. Mr. Trump has been painted as an anti-lgbt candidate, when there is no substantial evidence to prove that case. Stated specifically in regards to Obergefell v. Hodges, Trump has been clear that he disagrees with the Supreme Court’s ruling because he believes that the decision should have been made at the state level. As a Republican I would want him to take that stance. Despite your agreeance or disagreeance with the institutionalized moral or religious opposition to same-sex marriage, this ruling could set precedent for further rulings against states rights, per the 10th amendment of the US Constitution. I am not a lawyer, but through my own research, this is what I believe to be true.
If you’ll recall, in the state of Florida a majority of voters voted for an amendment defining marriage between one man and one woman in 2008. That banned same-sex marriage, but was ruled unconstitutional in 2014 on the basis of the 14th amendment. Marriage licenses began to be distributed on January 1, 2015, months before the US Supreme Court ruled that banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. That being said, it is now state law to constitutionally recognize same sex-marriage, not reliant upon the decision of the US Supreme Court.
So what does this mean? There is currently one seat open on the Supreme Court and that seat is essentially promised to a conservative nominee. There is a very likely chance that the nominee will be appointed, considering a Republican majority in the Senate will confirm the nomination. This is not necessarily bad news depending which side of the isle you are on; I am personally thrilled. I also understand that the proponents of “traditional marriage” will have to go through leaps and bounds to restore a same-sex marriage ban.
The Supreme Court won’t just “revisit” a case for political initiatives. Procedurally, in order to overturn the current ruling, the Court will have to rule against itself in a separate case that is brought before the court, where this decision must be revisited. The ruling can also be overturned Federally in two different ways; only one has ever been used. Two-thirds of the US House and US Senate must approve a constitutional amendment proposal and send it to the states for a vote. Then, three-fourths of the states must affirm the proposed Amendment. A Constitutional Convention may also be called by two-thirds of the legislatures of the states. That Convention can propose as many amendments as it deems necessary and must be approved by three-fourths of the states.
As you can see, there are hoops to jump through to make it extremely difficult to overturn this ruling at the Federal level, which carries to the states. Remember, currently we have state rulings that deem same-sex marriage constitutional in the state of Florida. Although there are 5 ways to amend the constitution in Florida, all of them have to be approved by voters with 60 percent of the vote. Although this has not played in our favor in the past, I assure you that with culture shift and more of the legislature on our side, we will not fail and our rights will prevail.
Which brings me to by last point….
“Caitlyn Jenner, Put Up or Shut Up”:
I actually liked this post when I saw it on Facebook because this is exactly the kind of mindset we need to have to create positive change. As a Transgender Republican, Caitlyn Jenner, and those with her status, should be encouraged to speak a little louder. I have learned that you do not get anything accomplished in the legislature, or any political system, by making too many enemies. This is a prime opportunity to get to know your elected officials and represent our community in a true activist fashion. Don’t fight them, work with them. As I have stated time and time again, the support is out there, we just need to channel positive energy to build momentum. Reach out your elected officials, Republicans and Democrats. Put a face to the issue and continue to humanize the issues for them. They can’t fight battles on behalf of their constituents if their constituents won’t fight with them. Find a local activist like me to help make the introduction. Instead of criticizing people like Caitlyn Jenner, prop them up. You will never agree 100% of the time, but that 10% could be all you need.
In closing, I am encouraging our LGBTQ+ community to not live in fear. I am encouraging you to take your negativity and redirect it into things that really matter, that we can all benefit from. It is my hope that you will stop demonizing each other and start having the hard conversations of “why” and “how” with your opposition. We all want the same things: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but as Abe Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”