They’re Here, They’re Queer, They’re… Republican?
Republican politicians are coming out of the closet. Will they champion gay rights?
by Jared Peraglia
Part I – Dean of the Gay Legislature
A year before election day in 2015, Todd Novak’s phone rang. It was Mark Pocan, a Congressman from Wisconsin’s 2nd district. Pocan asked Novak if he’d consider running for an open seat in the 51st assembly district, which is located in southwest Wisconsin, just west of Madison. Despite being Mayor of a small town called Dodgeville, Novak told Pocan he wasn’t interested. Privacy was important to him, and state politics is no place for a man who wants to keep his personal life personal.
A few days later, Novak got a knock on his office door. This time from Speaker of the Wisconsin House, Robyn Vos. After a long meeting of convincing, Novak told him no. Novak then received a call from Governor Scott Walker. Again, Novak said no.
“After about three months, I thought about it. And I figured a door only opens once and sometimes you got to walk through it and take a chance,” Novak says. So he called up Vos and finally said yes. But first, the Wisconsin Republican party needed to run a standard background check. Passing with flying colors, Novak met with Vos to celebrate. “If you’re going to do this, you really need to discuss it with your wife and kids, because this is hard on the family,” Vos said. Novak had been married for five years, and was also concerned about what politics might do to his family. Mostly because his spouse was a man. “Well… I’m gay,” Novak told him.
“Oh, my gosh. I am so sorry. I didn’t know that,” Vos said. Despite a foray of background checks, the fact of Novak’s same sex marriage didn’t reach Vos’ desk. For Novak, the fact that his sexual orientiation didn’t land on Vos’ desk says a lot about the modern Republican party. “Nobody ever brought it up because nobody cared,” Novak says.
And voters didn’t seem to care either. Running as a Republican in an almost solidly blue district, Novak outpaced his counterparts and went on to win by 64 votes.
Thirty years ago Novak couldn’t have imagined working in politics. He comes from a generation of people who are “anti government.” Novak’s family immigrated to Wisconsin in the 1860s from Bohemia, settled in Iowa County, and founded a successful farm. The Novaks credit their success to their independence and balk at the idea that government involvement had anything to do with it. Iowa County is among the smallest counties in Wisconsin. It’s home to over 16,000 people, where 97 percent of the population is white with the second largest group being Latinos at 3 percent. Novak grew up in the east of Iowa County, in a small farming town of barely 500 people called Cobb. It’s a quaint place, with a century old post office and an annual corn roast that celebrates the summer’s end.
Graduating from high school in 1963, Novak went to vocational school to study finance. For a while, he worked as an accountant, but sitting at a desk all day made him go stir crazy. “I think that comes from being a farm kid,” Novak says. He needed to be out and moving. A friend of Novak’s asked if he was interested in working in the printing department of a local newspaper, The Dodgeville Chronicle. In the warehouse, Novak moved paper through machinery, loaded trucks, and got his hands dirty with ink. One day the editor, short on staff, and knowing that Novak was a history buff and avid reader of presidential biographies, asked him to cover a county board meeting. Novak obliged him, headed to the meeting, took pages of detailed notes, and wrote the article. The editor was impressed with his writing and promoted him to staff reporter, covering everything from elections to school board meetings. Twenty years later, Novak became the editor of the paper.
By 2012, people in Dodgeville were concerned about their town’s future: the Mayor decided not to run again, and one of the only candidates for the position was a widely disliked city councilman. Members of the Dodgeville business community practically begged Novak to throw his hat in the race.
“Why do you want me to run for Mayor?” Novak asked.
“You’ve been in every council meeting for 20 years. If anybody knows what’s going on and can help fix things… you can,” a woman said.
Novak said yes and won his election by 78 percent of the vote. At his inauguration in 2012, he became the first openly gay Mayor in Wisconsin’s history. But in a state where conversion therapy is still legal, he was stepping into a ring more complicated than he bargained for.
Born in 1965, Novak knew he was gay from an early age. But during the 60s in rural Wisconsin, sexuality wasn’t talked about. So Novak did what most closeted gay men do: he dated women, got engaged, and mantained a heterosexual perosna. “For a while I thought, well, this is just something I’ll put in the recesses of my mind,” he says.
Novak was almost thirty when the AIDS crisis hit. It was a lonely time for Novak, being an isolated gay man in the middle of nowhere, far from the coasts where people like him were dying. He eventually fell in love with a man and decided it was time to tell his family about his homosexuality. To his biggest surprise, nobody seemed to care. He describes the experience as a “big yawn.” Today, he is happily married to his husband, Chris, an engineer, and has two adopted sons. “Sometimes I wish I wouldn’t have waited so long,” he says.
Novak always considered himself a moderate Republican, and claims coming out of the closet has not influenced his politics. Like many Republicans of his generation, he was “enamored” of Ronald Reagan when he ran for president in 1980. But Novak is the first to admit that the GOP’s history on LGBTQ rights is battered. “I think there’s some scars with the older, my, generation of LGBT people that will not forgive the Republicans for that,” Novak says. “We’ll get them there.”
The roots of homophobia are historically deep in the Republican party. It took Reagan four years to address the AIDS crisis, only to refer to the epidemic as a “gay disease.” When President George H. W. Bush took office, it was one year before he called for “compassion,” but he then did nothing concrete to respond to the crisis.
By contrast, the Democratic Party has championed gay rights and gay politicians. In 1972, the Democrats elected Gerry Studds, the first openly gay man to Congress. Despite signing the Defense of Marriage Act, President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, was the first US president to address AIDS by funding health programs. And the Democratic Party was the first to support civil unions and marriage equality. It was Democrats who were first to support gay icons like Harvey Milk and Barney Frank. So it is Democrats that the LGBTQ community overwhelmingly supports in every federal and state election. As LGBTQ rights have gained momentum, Novak’s position as a gay Republican has become more complicated.
Last year, a bill came before the Wisconsin house banning transgender children from participating on sports teams in public schools. It was a moment of internal crisis for Novak. Personally, he didn’t agree with it but he felt he had to represent the opinions of his district: thirteen Superintendents demanded he vote for the ban. And Novak did just that.
“I took it on the chin on that,” Novak tells me. “That’s the first anti-LGBT bill I’ve gone through and voted on, but the Governor vetoed that. It’s important they understand I’m not an identity person. I don’t vote on things because I’m gay. I vote on legislation because of the issue.”
Perhaps the closest Novak comes each year to bringing his personal life to bear on his politics is his opposition to the practice of conversion therapy. Each year since 2015, Novak has introduced a bill to the Wisconsin house floor that would effectively ban the therapy’s usage statewide. While thirteen counties ban the use of conversion therapy on minors, the remaining 59 have virtually no laws limiting its usage. But for the seven years he’s been in office, Novak hasn’t been able to get his bill to move.
Novak argues that Republican efforts to securing civil rights for gay people in Wisconsin are overlooked by the media. He is frustrated by Democrats and progressives who accuse him of harming the LGBTQ community by being Republican. He notes that is was under a Republican governor in 1982 that Wisconsin became the first state in the US to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Novak believes he deserves more credit than he gets. “I’ve killed and done more stuff for the LGBT community being in the legislature more than anybody. And, so, it kind of infuriates me,” he says.
Since 2015, when same-sex marriage was legalized, the national conversation regarding LGBTQ rights has become more inclusive, taking into account the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals. Novak has struggled to keep up. “It’s very hard for me at my age to accept. I don’t know who added the Q to the LGBT, but that ‘queer’ drives me nuts because that was very inflammatory when I was growing up. That’s to me equal as the faggot. I find that repulsive cause in my day, queer was used to be really nasty,” he says.
It is a familiar dilemma: the old guy who is confounded by the new ideas and nomenclature used by younger generations of “his people.” Fortunately, Novak receives advice from a loose coalition of young and old gay Republicans across the country. He is the de facto leader of the group, and jokingly calls himself the “Dean of the gay legislature.” “We’re a rare breed,” Novak says. While his band of young and old gays may discuss new ideas about LGBTQ rights, the prospect of Novak putting those ideas into practice isn’t promising. Much like his bill to ban conversion therapy, Novak isn’t moving anytime soon.
Part II – Party First
Goffstown, New Hampshire is an hour north of Boston. Hugging the Piscataqua River, surrounded by dense forest and American suburbia sits a small town with a population of 18,000. Flags, churches, and farms lead the way to the heart of town. Once there, everything is white: the buildings, the churches, the homes — and the people.
Main street is roaring with cars, mostly bulky American-made pickup trucks. In parking lots, teenagers do wheelies on bicycles, and on sidewalks middle-aged moms jog in groups of three. Driving through, I lose count of the number of flapping red lawn signs. On a patch of grass, over a dozen people, young and old, hold signs reading “Elect Shea for School Board.” They howl at my car.
The town was founded before the revolution in 1761, named after Jon Goffe, a colonial soldier who fought in the French and Indian War. It was a bustling lumber and fishing community. Remnants of the Civil War sit West of bars and banks: a stone statue of a Union soldier towering 15 feet high. These are people proud of their town, proud of their country.
Goffstown is solidly Republican, blue-collared, and Catholic. Nothing here is out of the ordinary. Except maybe for 27-year-old Joe Alexander — a gay Republican serving Goffstown in the state’s legislature.
I meet Joe for coffee at a local cafe on a sunny March afternoon. As I arrive, he sits on the cafe’s porch, head covered by a black baseball cap. Standing to greet me, he lifts off his cap, exposing a receding hairline that compliments his thick black beard.
The cafe is the town hot spot. We grab the last available spot, a table right in the middle. He’s anxious, new to the interview game: eyes darting, scanning the room, looking at each person as they walk through the door. The second a corner table becomes available Joe asks me if I want to move. I follow his lead.
When Joe decided to run for office in 2018, his family wasn’t surprised. In elementary school, Joe’s mom would bring him to the polls to see democracy in progress. Ever since Reagen, his parents have voted down the ballot for Republicans. And that ideology has influenced Joe’s entire political life. “I would say that kind of sparked my choice of politics, at that moment, when she kind of showed me this is what you have, this is what you do… and you have to do it,” Joe says.
In 2017, he graduated from Saint Anslem College with a Bachelors in Public Policy. Election nights have now turned into Joe’s Super Bowl. He even named his cat Nixon.
Joe’s family is a working class Italian family: his mother works in public administration in Concord, and his father is an engineer. With two brothers and two sisters, Joe said the house was crowded growing up. Today, with his oldest brother deployed in Hawaii, and his sisters scattered across the state, Joe misses the bustling household of his youth.
Family means everything to Joe, and he is especially close to his mother. When he started questioning his sexuality as a teenager, he feared coming out would drive a hole through his familial relationships. “I felt disappointed because I was the first born of my father, the first son of my father. I was like, shit. Like, I really, I really messed this up,” Joe said. To Joe’s surprise, they didn’t. But when his sister came out as transgender late last year, Joe’s family faced a more difficult test. His father didn’t support his new daughter. But like Joe, his father eventually came around.
Joe tells me that coming out didn’t make him any more or less conservatitve. He claims his sexuality has no impact on his politics, and describes himself as a social conservative. He is pro-life, pro-gun, and dislikes Liberals and big government. He voted for Trump twice, and notes that he was the first President to enter office supporting same-sex marriage. Joe even calls Melania Trump a “gay icon.”
Most of all, Joe likes Trump because he believes he is tough. “He taught Republicans how to fight,” he says. And Joe is really good at fighting. He routinely gets into arguments with his “massive Lib” gay uncle. His uncle is “way far left” and can’t comprehend how Joe could be both gay and Republican. But any suggestion that being Republican makes Joe less gay is an insult. “Put a couple drinks in me and I’m making more,” Joe says.
When Joe ran for office in Goffstown, his sexual orientation wasn’t part of the campaign. If someone asked, he had no problem telling them. But he believes that flaunting your sexuality on the campaign trail is what Democrats do — not Republicans. Any mention of identity politics makes Joe furious.
Earlier this year, a bill came before the New Hampshire House that sought to legalize conversion therapy. Joe took the House podium and addressed the speaker directly. He cited a study that found conversion therapy is correlated with a spike in teen suicide rates. The bill failed: 197-147. But when it comes to banning conversion therapy elsewhere in the country, Joe believes he has no business pushing for change despite the therapy being legal in more states than it is illegal.
Joe says that state’s rights is the foundation of his conservatism. He is willing to express his opinion on anything having to do with New Hampshire, but is cautious beyond that. So when Florida passed the Parental Rights in Education bill, also known as the Don’t Say Gay bill, he wouldn’t take a stand. After all, who is he to tell the people of Florida how to govern?
While Joe opposes identity politics when it comes to sexual orientation, he feels a deep affinity with the identity of his fellow Republicans. For Joe, it’s party first. “I’ll defend my party before I defend my community,” he tells me, referring to the gay community. He gives me an example. If an anti-gay Republican ran for office in New Hampshire, Joe wouldn’t vote for him in the primary. But come the general election, if that anti-gay politician became the Republican nominee, Joe would support him without hesitation.
For Joe, the stakes aren’t huge. He doesn’t see any looming threat to gay Americans and argues that more Republicans support same-sex marriage than ever before. When Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court case which legalized gay marriage, was decided in 2015, Joe was in his junior year of college and already out of the closet. And for Joe, that was the moment gay Americans reached full equality with hetereosexual Americans.
But what about other members in Joe’s LGBTQ community — like his transgender sister? Joe doesn’t deny that he’s part of a community, but exactly what that community looks like is unclear to him. “They’re creating different boxes for everybody. And it’s like, just say the community. So do I support the letter T? I don’t know, because I don’t know who that is,” Joe says.
When I begin listing issues facing the LGBTQ communtiy — conversion therapy, access to healthcare, employment discrimination, housing discrimnation, and so on — Joe starts to laugh. He tells me that the only reason these are issues is because Democrats have made them issues.
As of 2021, only 26 openly LGBTQ Republicans held office opposed to 721 openly LGBTQ Democrats in office. Joe believes there are far more LGBTQ Republicans in office than we know, even at the federal level, but they remain closeted. He blames the Republican party’s reluctant support of LGBTQ rights throughout history as part of the reason Democrats have a stronghold over LGBTQ voters and politicians. But Joe believes the main reason is more cut and dry: Democrats see government as an answer to the problems — such as aiding gay rights — where Republicans do not. But Joe believes Republicans are beginning to see the importance of gays in their party. On the state board for the Log Cabin Republicans, a national organzation consisting of gay Republicans, Joe says there’s a loose plan in development to recapture the suburban woman vote for Republicans: send in the gays. “What do suburban women like? They like the gays, right? The gays are fun, you know,” Joe tells me straightly.
The potential strategy, which Joe says is real, would send in gay Republicans to surbuban areas during election years, state and federal, to convince women to vote Republican. Joe wouldn’t tell me much after that but noted that the LRC board feels the plan is feasible. This is all to say that the LRC, and gay Republicans in New Hampshire, are more interested in progressing Republican legislation than they do LGBTQ rights.
Part III – Running Gay
“Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the 2021 Spirit Award honoree… Melania Trump!” an announcer says as the former president and first-lady make their way down a narrow aisle. It is the annual Spirit of Lincoln Gala — an event hosted by the Log Cabin Republicans (LRC), a conservative gay-rights group — to celebrate the progress made on gay conservative issues. This year, at Mar-a-Lago, the LRC honored Melania for her work with “Be Best,” an anti-bullying campaign.
Melania or not, the event feels like a Trump rally. “TRUUUUUUUUUMP!!!” the crowd screams as the pair passess through Mar-a-Lago’s glass front door, greeting rowdy patrons being restrained by the Secret Service.
Among the crowd is Joshua Higginbotham, wearing a black suit, white dotted blue tie, and a gold pin with George Washington’s profile on it. Six-foot and slightly overweight, Higginbotham turned 24 in June. His southern accent, dirty blonde hair, and baby face help maintain Higginbotham’s charming disposition. Back in West Virginia, Higginbotham is the youngest Republican ever elected to the state legislature. And on that November evening at Mar-a-Lago, he was a staunch Trump ally.
“Politics, just like sexual orientation, is a spectrum,” Higginbotham says. “And Donald Trump, whether you love him or hate him, was the only U.S. president in history to enter the oval office in support of gay marriage.” Higginbotham considers meetings with Trump staff at the White House to be some of the most important days of his life. But perhaps the day that tops all occured in his bedroom back in June when Higginbotham sat in front of his phone’s camera, hit record, and told West Virginians he was gay.
In the video, Higgibotham stares at the camera, brows darting, “I’m Joshua Higginbotham and I’m gay,” he says. “I’m still a conservative Republican. Rare, I know. But you can still be gay and Republican.” The video, posted on Twitter, amassed tens of thousands of views and sent shockwaves across the country. Practically every major news outlet covered the story as Higginbotham made history, becoming the first ever openly gay lawmaker in West Virginia. The social media response to Higginbotham’s video was a mixed bag.
“I have no issues with you being gay. I do have issues with you being Republican,” a comment read.
“God says homosexuality is wrong, period,” wrote another.
“I don’t care where you put your dick. What do you believe happened on January 6th,” another comment asked.
West Virginia is one of the most conservative states in the union. It has virtually no laws against conversion therapy and still allows landlords and employers to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
Four years ago, from his college dorm room at the University of Charleston, Higginbotham ran a campaign that boasted pro-life, pro-gun, pro-law enforcement, and pro-Trump views. West Virginians loved Higginbotham and elected him to office twice. But he is now taking aim at a higher position: state senate. This is the first race Higginbotham will be running as an openly gay man.
Higginbotham grew up in the Kanawha Valley, just outside Charleston, in the heart of Appalachia. 180,000 people live in the valley named after a native tribe, and 90% of whom are white. Up until the early 2000s, West Virginia was considered a swing state, with a long Democratic and union history. Since then, it has veered to the right. And being the most populous county in the state, Kanawha is a bellwether.
Higginbotham hails from a line of hardworking blue-collar West Virginians. His father is a farmer and welder, and his mother a Sunday school teacher. Growing up, life in Appalachia was relatively simple for Higginbotham: he went to church on Sundays, and occasionally hunted deer with his brother in the evenings.
But being gay complicated his upbringing. He cites his devout Presbyterianism for providing some form of stability and clarity through the fog of his sexual awakening. In fact, when Higginbotham was eighteen, he wrote a book, Ecclesiastes, which modernized age-old sentiments found in The Old Testament. In his book, Higginbotham tells the story of two senators who must work together to defeat an “unforeseen enemy” that encroaches Washington, D.C..
But Higginbotham’s challenge isn’t defeating some unforeseen enemy. It is convincing voters that being gay is less important than the fact that he is a pious conservative that wants to fuel money back into public schools, repair the state’s dying infrastructure, and curb the rising tax rate.
The local reaction to Higginbotham’s coming-out seems mostly positive. “Most of the old ladies with the church like me more now,” he says. Although his family was hesitant at first, they cite their church in helping them become accepting of Higginbotham’s sexuality.
Higginbotham’s sexual orientation didn’t come as a surprise to most people. He confides that he sometimes overheard fellow legislators speculating about his sexuality. But when he did come out, he received supportive letters, phone calls, emails and text messages from Republican and Democratic members of the legislature. But not everyone.
“There have been people in both parties that have told me that I cannot be in politics because I’m gay,” Higginbotham says. “And I have to remind them that it wasn’t that long ago that people didn’t feel comfortable with an immigrant running for office or, you know, any other minority.” But as election day gets closer, Higginbotham knows he has a lot of convincing to do.
Brad Todd — a founding partner of On Message, which has helped get high profile Republicans like Rick Scott and Josh Hawley elected to office — doesn’t believe Higginbotham’s gayness will have an impacr on his electability. Todd cites the campaigns of past openly gay Republicans like Jim Colby and Mark Foley as examples. However, Colby and Foley told the public they were gay after they were elected to office. Todd believes Republicans aren’t swayed by identity politics as much as Democrats are. “The way you get a Democrat to vote is you have to nag them,” Todd says. “It’s just an anathema to Republicans to be talked to as if our group membership trumps our own ability to make our own decisions.”
The word around Kanawha Valley seems to echo Todd’s sentiments. Anthony Conn, a reporter from Kanawha on WCHS, covered Higginbotham’s coming out story. But when Higginbotham’s story broke at WCHS, Conn and his fellow reporters didn’t feel the news was that big of a deal. In fact, Conn feels the national coverage of the news was more dramatic than it was in Kanawha and across West Virginia.“It was just another story for us,” Conn said. The people of Kanawha seem not to care if he is gay, but Higginbotham’s inner circle is worried about his sexuality impacting the campaign.
The decision to come out before announcing his race for state senate was one Higginbotham thought about a lot. He wanted voters to know he didn’t have anything to hide. If he could be transparent about who he slept with, perhaps voters would respect and trust him. “People told me ‘Josh, this is gonna have a negative impact on the campaign, you cannot do that.’ And I said, now that everyone in my immediate family knows, I want to make sure that the voters know.”
Higginbotham doesn’t shy away when it comes to talking about LGBTQ+ issues, whether in his state or across the country. Gay conservatives tend to agree that gay marriage was the most important goal for the gay community, and that transgender issues aren’t of great concern. Higginbotham splits from his party when it comes to issues of transgender and gender non-conforming folk. “I think we’re there on the LGB side,” Higginbotham said. “But we certainly need a bit more time on the T side.”
In the fall of 2021, a movement in Texas led by Republican State Representative Matt Krause, attempted to ban 850 books from public schools across the state. Some of the books on Representative Krause’s list are novels which feature LGBTQ themes. When I asked for his thoughts about the attempt by Representative Krause, Higginbotham grew unexpectedly shy. He told me he “didn’t know enough” about the issue to comment. Higginbotham’s dodge shows how difficult it is to be gay and Republican. On one hand, Higginbotham wants to represent his community while, on the other, he can’t upset his GOP base.
Lori Weigel, the Principal of New Bridge Strategy — a research firm based in Colorado that deals with polling primarily on Republican issues — understands the line Higginbotham is attempting to walk on. “Americans have become more comfortable with gay marriage and Republicans have not been immune to that,” Weigel said.
Weigel contends that Higginbotham’s future will depend on who he runs against, and what they believe. Like Todd, Weigel believes Republicans are complex voters who don’t agree on a single ideology. Weigel says Higginbotham’s dedication to things like infrastructure and low taxes will help him. However, she still contends that it’s “unquestionable” his sexuality will have an impact.
One of Higginbotham’s potential Republican opponents is Allen Whitt, a far-right Republican who is a member of the Family Policy Council. “It’s a very homophobic hate group,” Higginbotham said. According to Higginbotham, in 2020 Whitt made a post on Facebook alleging that gay people “don’t exist” but later took it down due to scrutiny. Recently on Whitt’s Twitter feed, he reposted a video of a pro-LGBTQ protest with the caption “Rainbow Slaves.” Whitt did not respond to a request for comment.
It’s unclear if Whitt will run. But if he does, Higginbotham is worried how Whitt’s presence will impact his electibulity as a gay conservative.“Will I lose votes for it? Probably, probably. But again… I think the majority of people just want their roads fixed.”
Part IV — Notes
When I arrived in Goffstown to interview Joe Alexander, I had a few presumptions. Chief among them: how could someone be gay and Republican? I grew up in the Northeast, sheltered by fairly progressive parents and liberal schools. Sure, I had Republican friends but they never pulled the lever for Trump. Joe was one of the first on my list of gay Republicans to speak with and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous for the encounter. Here I was gearing up to travel and speak with gay Republicans who have deep conservative values and are riding the MAGA wave.
Presumptions aside, this is what I discovered: Joe and the vast majority of gay Republicans I spoke with are decent people. Our conversations were mostly civil and I enjoyed the coffees, phone calls, and strolls around town. But the inconvenient truth is that they are not the champions of LGBTQ change some democrats and progressives, myself included, want them to be.
Gay Republicans’ mutual sentiment is that a threat to gay rights somewhere is not a threat to gay rights everywhere. This logic occurs because gay Republicans are unable to agree with gay Democrats on what in fact is a threat to gay rights and what isn’t.
A point of tension in all of my interactions was Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill, also known as the Don’t Say Gay bill. “It’s totally being misconstrued,” Todd Novak told me. “It says don’t talk about sexuality to kids between the grades K through third grade. I mean, it’s not about gays.” But critics say it is about gays, noting the bill’s vague language that leaves room for interpretation. Can a gay teacher leave photos on their desk of their significant other? Can a child with same-sex parents talk about his family’s orientation? The answer: it’s unclear.
The truth of the matter is that Joe, Todd, and Joshua are living in a, largely, post-homophobic country, benefitting from decades of work and activism by gay liberals and democrats. Gay Republicans may be enigmas, but their politics do not discount their gayness. It seems to, however, discount their role in the future of gay rights.