Three speakers at the Institute of Politics last night debated the future of gays and lesbians in politics and whether they could ever hope to gain equality by voting for a Republican.
The speakers hailed from three of the nation's largest gay and lesbian political organizations--Tim McFeeley, former executive director of the Human Rights Campaign Fund, Melinda Paras, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and Abner Mason, national president of the Log Cabin Federation.
McFeeley spoke about the danger which the new Republican Congress presents for the gay and lesbian community.
"Having the Republican party in Congress cannot possibly help gays and lesbians," he said. "I don't think Log Cabin or the Messiah can effect what Republicans do in Congress."
"Gingrich has never voted for us, and he never will," he added.
Mason, however, who is president of the nation's largest Republican gay and lesbian organization, stressed that achieving equality does not mean voting for a particular party.
"We will not achieve equality through a legislative act," he said. "We have to communicate to the majority of Americans who we are."
But McFeeley insisted that "laws are important" and Democrats will be the ones to pass the laws needed to improve and protect gay and lesbian rights.
"We still have to pass legislation to gain our rights," he said. "But that's only the starting point, to have to get to the hearts and minds of the people."
Paras also said that the current Republican Congress is a threat to the gay community.
"It cannot help to have [Republicans] in Congress," she said. "[We cannot ignore] what [Gingrich] is doing to poor people, liberal people and minorities.. and our liberation is intimately connected to theirs."
But Mason said that times had changed with the new Republican-controlled Congress and gays and lesbians need to work within the current political context.
"If you want to make a difference in this movement the battle is on [the Republican] side of the aisle," he said. "Having achieved equality in much of liberal America, for us to achieve equality means making progress in conservative areas."
Mason also said that the 1990s has been a time of "highs and lows" for the gay movement.