Chris Douglas

To my friends in the LGBT community: Elrod vs Carson

Filed By Chris Douglas | March 05, 2008 4:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics

[EDITOR'S NOTE:] This guest post comes to us from former Bilerico contributor Chris Douglas. Chris is a longtime Republican LGBT activist.

Chris DouglasIn the special election on March 11th, we will be presented with a decision which previously has been all too rare, a choice between two candidates, Jon Elrod and Andre Carson, either one of which could be worthy personally of GLBT support.

I write as one who as a Republican valued Julia Carson's strong record of support for the GLBT community, and who in return supported her financially in the face of challenges by Republicans that I considered to be second to her in their humanity. For such a steadfast friend of our community, I could never find it within me to join in derision of her. I write as one who has not been shy in identifying to the gay community Republicans who I felt fell far short of our support in contests against friends of the community. Finally I write as one who in spite of my high esteem for him, declined to support Jon Elrod in his successful bid for the Indiana House, for I felt that no matter how worthy Elrod, the House Republican Caucus posed too great a threat to the Constitution to be allowed the power of a majority.

In my opinion now, the GLBT community and our allies in Indianapolis, whether Republican, Independent or Democrat, would best be served by supporting Jon Elrod in his bid for Congress. Under present circumstances, a successful Elrod bid in this Elrod-Carson race would present the greater opportunity for progress both in Indiana and nationally.

With regard to the GLBT community, support for Jon Elrod is support for progress in my opinion. I detail my reasons below.

First, of the candidates, Elrod has proven himself under fire as an ally of the glbt community by speaking up both publicly and privately against SJR-7, the amendment banning not only same sex marriage but banning any incident of marriage from being extended to same sex couples. Further, Jon Elrod advises that he agrees with an expansion of coverage in nondiscrimination legislation to ensure that glbt citizens are as protected as all others. And he favors a military policy of recruiting and promoting based on no other factor than merit.

Second, Elrod has demonstrated a willingness to take these positions in a political environment in which he has had few natural allies. (He was the only member of the Indiana House Republican caucus publicly to oppose the marriage amendment and thereby invite the displeasure of the Republican Party's most extreme elements. Opposing the Amendment as a Republican has meant few friends among opponents of the Amendment, the majority of whom have tended to be Democratic. )

Third, Jon Elrod is running for Congress at a time when Congress is in no danger of falling into Republican hands. For moderate Republicans, independents and Democrats, a vote for Elrod is in no way a vote for Republican extremism or for its control. A vote for Elrod in no way forwards an anti-gay agenda in U.S. congress. To the contrary, this election represents an appropriate opportunity to convey to the Republican Party both in the State of Indiana and nationally that Republican candidates who campaign on a platform of inclusion will be rewarded by voters. Only this message will contribute to broader fundamental change in the Republican Party, change which is inevitable, but which must occur sooner rather than later in order for us to achieve real progress in our lifetimes.

Fourth, it is in the matter of achieving this fundamental change that the strongest argument for the election of Jon Elrod to Congress exists. The apparatus of the Republican Party remains seized by a conservative perspective that increasingly conflicts with what most Americans, editorial boards, and corporate leaders believe, namely, that glbt citizens deserve to have our rights as full citizens acknowledged. This conservative perspective conflicts with Republican principles in a way that an effective stand within the Republican Party can and should be taken in order for broader progress to become possible.

In my opinion, an ever increasing percentage of Republicans of all ages are becoming intuitively uncomfortable with the Party's record of intolerance with regard to the GLBT community, and are looking for the philosophical ground on which to make a change. Vocal elected Republicans such as Elrod gaining stature in the party can demonstrate that the right path exists in the Republican Party... towards the protection of the individual guarantees that are inherent in the Bill of Rights, guarantees against the government encroachment of which Republicans are traditionally wary.

Occupying the office, Elrod as congressman, and his perspective, would gain stature in Indiana Republican politics, enhancing a base for forward movement in the Indiana Republican Party at the state and local level. He would offer a challenge in Washington from inside the Republican caucus to backward thinking elsewhere in the caucus. He would break up the group-think of the Indiana Republican congressional delegation.

In contrast, Andre Carson while well-meaning, would have no more impact on glbt interests than to affirm from a back bench what is already the position of leading Democrats. His candidacy and election would represent little challenge or change to any status quo either locally or nationally, little real opportunity for progress, no matter his personal merit.

In short, with sincere thanks to Julia Carson, and respect to Andre Carson, I nevertheless believe that Indiana and National GLBT efforts are best served with the election of Jon Elrod to Congress in the coming special election.

Please consider contributing to Elrod's efforts.

(Note: Jon Elrod describes himself as pro-life. I have noticed in the Republican Party that the label means less and less. Republican women with whom I am acquainted describe themselves as pro-life in one breath and then in the next breath say it is only their personal position and should be up to the mother. Elrod believes that Roe v Wade is in place, is likely to remain in place and abortion legal for the foreseeable future, is not sympathetic to the various nit noid harassing measures that are designed more for wedge purposes than for real effect, believes that there would always need to be exceptions to any attempt to restrict abortion and, given the status quo, assigns no priority to the issue. I would classify him, even if he would not himself, as one of those Republicans that would like to see the Party move on from the topic, and his election as representing no threat to pro-choice voters. Of course, these are questions that pro-choice voters should ask for themselves.)

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I would like to remind our columnist that there are more than two people running in this race. You have built a strong case for Mr. Elrod and I applaud you for your support of him. However, I believe in this day and age we have the ability to look beyond the "only two options." The only way this country is going to heal itself and move forward in a positive direction is start recognizing that political machines do not have to choose our candidates but that the people have a voice. The only way that people can have a voice is if we inform them of everyone running and everything that stand for. And that not every time do we have a choice of one or the other but a choice from among many that support positive outcomes for our community.

I urge everyone to consider all the candidates for the race in the 7th District. This is an historic occasion and one that should not be overlooked. The following candidates are running for office in the 7th District Special Election: (listed alphabetically)

Andre Carson
Jon Elrod
Sean Shephard

Please check their websites for up to date information in this race.

Chris Douglas | March 6, 2008 10:32 AM

Charles, in my opinion, whatever Shepherd's merits (which I have not assessed), he lacks a fulcrum on which to lever change. I do not think a compelling argument can be made for him.

Wilson46201 | March 6, 2008 1:12 PM

Only André Carson whole-heartedly and enthusiastically supports LGBT people of Indiana. He answered the Indiana Equality questionnaire with detailed, supportive answers. Elrod looked as though he couldn't really be bothered...

Chris Douglas Chris Douglas | March 6, 2008 5:15 PM

Nice Try, Wilson! (How are you, by the way?)

In contrast to Andre, Elrod is receiving no serious financial or infrastructure support from his Party at the National Level, and very little from the State Party. His campaign is putting together their own mailers, even, in contrast to Andre's mailers and commercials which are all being organized for him. He and they are fully tasked.

Elrod is very clear where he stands on the most important issues, and he left blank those that would have impacts that he didn't understand and would need to look into... a fairly responsible approach under the circumstances.

I would like to see the Libertarian party gain more traction. While I don't agree with much of their policies, I think I agree with them more than the Republicans and the Democrats.

Wilson46201 | March 7, 2008 7:42 PM

Well, I suppose if poor Jon Elrod's campaign is so underfunded and disorganized he can't spare an extra 30 minutes or so to write out any substantive explanations of his LGBT positions for us ... after all, we're an insignificant part of the GOP coalition so why even bother, right?

Chris Douglas Chris Douglas | March 8, 2008 12:35 PM

Wilson, I reviewed that questionnaire myself and found many questions that I thought required considerable research, and perhaps even testimony in a legislative context. I don't have any problem with Elrod placing himself solidly on the record on the most controversial aspects and demurring on questions that might entail obtaining more insight. That is the mark of thoughtfulness, not neglect.

Elrod's avoidance of responses regarding funding for HIV/AIDS, federal tax benefits for same-sex couples legally recognized by a specific state, and allowing same-sex partners to legally immigrate to the United States is telling. Sounds here like he is giving in to the Bush Administration priorities.

Chris Douglas Chris Douglas | March 11, 2008 12:43 PM

Frank, Elrod just hasn't been educated on those topics, yet. The survey question on AIDS for instance calls for increased funding... I don't know what level of funding is appropriate, do you? My initial reaction is that the Bush Administration (of which I am not a supporter) has directed considerable funds towards AIDS internationally, though their policies need significant work in order to make funding more effective.

With a government of limited resources, which resources go in which direction is a question requiring significant study, in my opinion. I have some doubts, with all respect to Andre, that he could really at this stage answer serious questions on the topic. Just saying "Yes, Increase" is a very easy thing to do. (For heaven's sake, he supported an increase in the minimum wage to level that in my opinion was not serious... just a mindless gesture of pander. It isn't only politicians of the religious right that are capable of pander...!)

I agree whole-hearted with the immigration question.. it affected me personally and painfully in the late 1990's. I just haven't addressed it with Elrod. I will.

I suspect that after this special election, when everyone has a bit more time, we will see additional responses come out of Elrod.