Washington University, which has hosted several presidential debates, may once again be on the national political stage because of a challenge issued Tuesday night by three nationally prominent Republicans who also are gay-rights activists.
They included Meghan McCain, daughter of 2008 GOP presidential nominee John McCain, and Gregory T. Angelo, national executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans – the GOP’s LGBT arm.
The two, plus GOP consultant Fred Karger, co-signed a pact called the St. Louis Resolution. It asks all potential Republican presidential contenders in 2016 to avoid bashing gays.
The audience in Washington University’s Graham Chapel listened to the trio discuss gay rights and the GOP’s place in the discussion.
Karger, who summarized the resolution, said copies will be sent to each of the 18 Republicans pondering a 2016 bid for president, as well as top Republican officials, including RNC chairman Reince Priebus.
“We hope to take this issue off the front burner, as some candidates like Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum are trying to do, to shame them into not discussing that, not bullying people and hurting people and destroying lives,” Karger said.
Angelo of the Log Cabin Republicans acknowledged that much of the most damaging anti-gay rhetoric has come from the GOP camp. But he emphasized that some Democrats – notably former President Bill Clinton – shared some of the blame.
It was Clinton, said Angelo, who had signed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, right before his re-election. That law, in effect, discouraged same-sex marriages and restricted the benefits for same-sex couples who had been married in states that allowed it. Parts were declared unconstitutional in 2013.
Since then, Clinton and the Democratic Party have embraced gay rights. And McCain said the GOP needs to consider doing the same.
All three activists emphasized that they are in sync with the Republican Party’s message of less government, lower taxes and a focus on national security -- just not the GOP’s stance on social issues.
The trio believes they have lots of company, and pointed to a recent poll that they said shows at least 60 percent of Republicans under 30 support gay rights, including same-sex marriage. Those young Republicans represent the future, they said.
“The Republican Party going forward cannot even give the image of being the party of anti-gay rhetoric, anti-LGBT rhetoric,” McCain said. “I truly believe unless that changes, this party has no chance of winning, and it might die.”