Staff Editorial 10/10: Equality issue crosses political lines

Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has upset her constituents as of late, including some at the University of Miami. Ros-Lehtinen, who represents Florida’s 18th district in the House of Representatives, has recently shared her unexpected views on LGBT issues.

Republicans are known for being socially conservative, but Ros-Lehtinen recently surprised her Republican stronghold by co-sponsoring a bill repealing the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). In doing so, she became the first Republican to co-sponsor legislation that would repeal the federal ban on gay marriage. The 1996 DOMA defines marriage as “a legal union between one man and one woman” and prevents the federal government from granting legitimacy to same-sex marriages.

Her support of LGBT rights may stem from her personal life. Her son, Rodrigo, who was born female, has worked as a field organizer for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Ros-Lehtinen is now the only Republican member of the LGBT caucus, although she previously endorsed the ban on same-sex marriage in Florida’s constitution in 2008.

Like Ros-Lehtinen, other Republican politicians have family members who are part of the LGBT community, including Michele Bachmann’s stepsister, Alan Keyes’ daughter and Newt Gingrich’s sister.

Clearly, the LGBT issue is crossing political boundaries, but the question remains: Should this even be a political issue? Identifying with either the Republican or Democrat parties should neither have a solid definition, nor a set of views that members must adhere to.

Being socially liberal doesn’t mean you can’t be a Republican.

This concept is increasingly being realized, as demonstrated by the various legislation being passed to foster gay rights. For example, New York legalized gay marriage this summer, and the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was repealed, which was actually made possible, in part, by Republican support. Still, this shift is largely taking place at the state level; the bill to repeal the DOMA has received little support from Republicans in Congress.

The Republican Party seems to be at a tipping point, with momentum in favor of LGBT equality. There’s still a long way to go, but the fact that it is a personal issue for many Republicans could skew future policies to favor socially-liberal views.

Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.