While growing up, I was raised in a very religious and conservative household. All I ever knew was about God, the Bible and how to live a good and Christian life. I constantly remember praying that God would take my "sinful" desires away so that I could like girls just like the "normal" boys would. Safe to say, those prayers were never answered. I lived much of my young life in denial, in the closet and filled with self-hatred.
In 2008, I rallied around and voted in favor of Florida's Amendment 2 -- an amendment to the Florida Constitution that defined marriage as the union between one man and one woman. I voted against my own interests and didn't think twice about it. I felt it was my duty to uphold what the Bible had taught me. It was my duty to make my parents proud and continue a legacy of "goodness" in an increasingly "immoral" world. I was vehemently against abortion, stem cell research, gun regulation, immigration reform, welfare programs and gay rights. I was also pro-war, slightly xenophobic with somewhat racist inclinations.
In my ignorance and backwards ideology, I had twisted parts of the Bible in order to justify my views -- all while refusing to study or learn about differing opinions.
Then, during the summer of 2012, my views radically changed. I experienced an awakening that began when I immersed myself intensely into researching both sides of the political spectrum. By the time summer was over, I had made a 180-degree turn, dumped Fox News and questioned everything I had been told.
"Why would you vote for a party that sees you as a second class citizen?" I've asked gay Republicans. They usually give me the less religious, more modern approach of it not being about gay rights -- it's about jobs, the economy, smaller government and the constitution. "The liberals and Obama are destroying this country's job sectors, all while ballooning the Federal Government," some say. I guess facts such as the low unemployment rates, strong stock markets, high consumer confidence, equal rights and healthcare are all too inconvenient for many to accept. I mean, who has time for those silly facts, right?
If the economy, money or following the teachings of a religious book are more important to you than civil rights, perhaps Saudi Arabia would be a better choice for your "lifestyle". Equality should never be a back burner issue for the sake of an economy, religious beliefs or your sheer ignorance.
So how can gay conservatives be ok with supporting anti-gay figures such as Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh or Fox News? The same reasons I did; many gay Republicans self-hate, are conflicted with their beliefs, are quietly racist, selfish or want to gain general acceptance. "I am gay and believe in gay rights but I cannot support abortion or stem cell research so I align with conservatives," I have been told. "I love Bill Clinton and would vote for him if he could run again -- just can't support Obama or Hillary," told me another one. "I believe being gay is wrong and that the Bible is completely right, but I was born gay and can't change that, so I will always vote for a Christian leader" Umm... huh? My favorite line is, "I am fiscally conservative but socially liberal... so I vote Republican." Yes, because there's nothing like saying money is more important to you than equality.
Being gay is not a choice. Many gay Republicans though, having been raised in a heteronormative or conservative environment, make the decision to pursue a lifestyle that reflects their heterosexual counterparts. Just because you want to be perceived as straight-acting doesn't change the fact that you are gay. I refuse to accept the notion that being gay is not an important aspect that defines you. It touches everything that defines you. You could lose your job, wealth, reputation, status and family but being gay remains with you until you die.
Masking your ignorance, religious nature, self-hatred, racism, or selfishness with the argument that you simply care more about the country as a whole -- versus a "minor" issue, is an insult to anyone with a semblance of intelligence.
When you vote for a candidate that believes being gay is a choice; one that would strip you of your dignity, respect and self-worth, then you are what's wrong with our country.
Equal rights should never be superseded by money, wealth, religion, ideology or ignorance. The Declaration of Independence doesn't say, "some men are created equal." We are all equal, deserving of dignity, respect and equal treatment under the law. Sadly, it's the people who vote against their own best interests that are holding our community and nation back. Those are the people who will be remembered as having turned their backs on what's right -- especially when they were needed the most.