In addition to labeling conservatives and Republicans "anti-woman" (for opposing government-mandated free contraception), "anti-black" and "anti-Hispanic" (for advocating photo identification for voting), and "anti-science" (for skepticism regarding the belief that man-made carbon emissions will destroy much of the planet), Democrats now regularly label Republicans "anti-gay" (for opposing same-sex marriage).
All these charges are demagogic. But when it comes to the "anti-gay" charge, conservatives need to clarify to themselves as much as to the general public where they stand.
As an opponent of the most radical redefinition of marriage in history (more radical than outlawing polygamy), I have argued for the Defense of Marriage Act before Congress and have written and spoken on behalf of amending state constitutions to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. I believe that the ultimate aim of the LGBT movement and the rest of the cultural left is nothing less than to end gender distinctions.
But I am not anti-gay. Proponents of same-sex marriage may conflate opposition to same-sex marriage with being anti-gay. But conservatives must not.
Those of us who fear the consequences of redefining marriage -- asking children if they hope to marry a boy or a girl when they get older, banning religious adoption agencies from placing children first with a married man and woman, denying the importance of both sexes in making families, choosing boys to be high school prom queens, and girls to be high school prom kings, and much more -- must make it clear that we regard homosexuals as fellow human beings created in God's image just as heterosexuals are.
This issue has most recently arisen with regard to Richard Grenell, a foreign policy aide to Mitt Romney, who resigned shortly after his appointment. It is not yet clear why he resigned, but many assume that he did so because he is a gay man who is an outspoken proponent of same-sex marriage, and as such, not a good fit for the Romney campaign.
The Grenell case notwithstanding, no conservative should oppose a competent gay serving in a Republican administration so long as the person shares the values of the Republican Party. Even support for same-sex marriage should not necessarily rule someone out of a leadership position in the Republican Party. Former UN ambassador John Bolton supports same-sex marriage, and he is, for good reason, a hero to conservatives (though I could not back anyone for president who supported redefining marriage). Only if a person is an outspoken advocate of same-sex marriage would he or she, whether homosexual or heterosexual, not be a good choice for a high position in a Republican administration. Just as an outspoken defender of non-medically necessary abortion would not be.
Conservatives must object to values, not to individuals.
As it happens, there are far more gays who hold conservative values than many gay activists -- or conservatives -- realize. And we should embrace these people. Being gay does not automatically mean that one is on the Left, and conservatives should not assume that they are. Otherwise, they risk pushing the gay conservative leftward.
Conservatives have to be true to social as well as economic conservatism. But there is no reason why a gay should not be a conservative.
I am close to a gay man -- and his partner -- who lives in the heart of San Francisco. This man is a major fund raiser for Republican candidates. And given his homosexuality and where he lives, his Republican activism is quite courageous. He should be regarded as a major asset to the conservative cause.
It is the gay Left that argues that every gay person must think like a leftist. Conservatives should not be helping these leftist activists by objecting to gays holding positions of influence in conservative political life. And, again, I am not arguing for the Romney campaign to have retained Richard Grenell. I am arguing that Mitt Romney was right when he told Fox News last week that his campaign hires people "not based upon their ethnicity or their sexual preference or their gender but upon their capability."
This is not only the right moral position; it is also the right political position. We have a much better chance to win young and independent voters whenever we show in word and deed that Democrats and others on the left are engaging in smears when they accuse conservatives and Republicans of being anti-woman, anti-minority, or anti-gay.
Gay men and women who believe in the American Trinity -- Liberty, In God We Trust, and E Pluribus Unum -- and who believe in small government, in American exceptionalism, and in the need for America to be the strongest military and economic power in the world are one of us. And should be embraced as such.