Gina Roberts. Photo by Ken Stone

By Gina Roberts

It is time for me to say something about the Republican Party and some of its members — and the way they treat certain people.

I often find myself staring at a poster on the wall of my house that says, “Join the party of Freedom, Join the Republican Party.” Freedom. Now that is a powerful word. What does it mean to you?

Well, to me it means that we have the ability to live our lives in the way we need, as long as our freedom doesn’t impose on another’s freedom. That may be a bit more Libertarian than Republican, but my meaning and understanding should be clear.

So why do I refer to this wonderful poster and its message?

We, Republicans, were founded on the principles that are espoused in the Declaration of the Independence and better defined in The Constitution and the Bill of Rights: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

This passage is often referred to as the most important passage in the English language; it was touted by our first Republican President Abraham Lincoln, who considered the Declaration of Independence to be the foundation of his political philosophy. He argued that it is the statement of principles through which the United States Constitution should be interpreted.

We, the Republican Party, led the country into a bloody civil war to act upon these rights and to ensure that an entire group of human beings, held as slaves, be freed and allowed to practice the freedom guaranteed by our fundamental founding documents.

We led the fight for freedom! We stood for all mankind for freedom; we sacrificed hundreds of thousands of human lives to do two things. First, to keep the United States of America as a single country. And second, to wipe out the scourge of slavery from our land, which is what precipitated the division in the country.

Yes, that division was also about state’s rights, but those rights were mostly being used to enslave an entire group of the American people.

So my big question: What happened? Why is it that within our party are whole groups of people that choose to marginalize and denigrate entire other groups of people that should be free to live their lives the way they need, without imposing their will on others?

That is the definition of freedom, right?

There are people within our party that are using their right to religious freedom, another fundamental right acknowledged in the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights, to impose their beliefs, their lack of tolerance, their “direction from God and His almighty word as presented in the Bible,” to cause hurt and harm to an entire subsection of the national population.

I’m referring to the total distain and lack of understanding and denial of freedom for those people loosely referred to as being in the LGBTQIA community — lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (questioning), intersexed and asexual. (LGBT will be used in later references.)

Yes, I understand that the acronym is getting very long and tiring, but that isn’t the issue. I don’t care what they call themselves, what is important is that these people are Americans, they are citizens, they are human beings and they should be treated as such.

For those of you who haven’t figured it out, I’m in the transgender part of that world, and I truly and proudly identify as transgender. I rarely make a big deal out of that designation, because it isn’t what defines me — it is merely part of who I am. But it does make me a bit more sensitive to some issues that may not seem like a big deal to people that are not in the LGBT community.

What I have seen recently has incensed me to a new level of discontent.

Let me explain what has elevated this issue to the point where something needs to be said. In Virginia’s 13th House of Delegates District, an election was held between the 25-year incumbent, Robert Marshall, and a new candidate, who is transgender and a Democrat, Danica Roem.

I’m a fan of Roem not because she is a Democrat or a transgender person or because of her policies. What makes me a fan is that her opponent chose to focus on Roem being transgender instead of the issues that affect his constituents. Because of this approach, Ms. Roem won easily, and outfundraised her opponent 5-to-1.

Robert Marshall in his 25 years in the Virginia House is best known for proposing a Transgender Bathroom Law, which died almost instantly in committee, but throughout his campaign he continually referred to his opponent using male pronouns and generally disrespecting her because she is transgender.

Next, upon Roem’s successful election as the highest elected openly transgender political figure in the United States, the Republican-held House of Delegates chose to change the way they refer to the delegates, from “gentleman” and “gentlewoman” to the generic “delegate.”

What? So they don’t have to refer to her as “gentlewoman”? Wow.

Simply, Marshall (self-described as the “Chief Homophobe of Virginia”) lost because instead of focusing on the issues in the district, his team focused on Ms. Roem’s gender status and her need to advance the “transgender agenda” and “teaching transgenderism to kindergartners.”

Seriously, that is the one thing you attacked? Sorry, Mr. Marshall and the people that supported you, but you deserved to lose, you went low and you lost, and because of that the Republican hold on the House of Delegates is tenuous at best.

I feel very fortunate. I live in California and our state party in general has been very accepting of me as who I am, a conservative Republican that happens to be transgender. I’ve had a couple of people ask weird and rude questions, but they are the exception and I’m proud to be who I am in the party and work to advance our Republican values.

But one thing that is not a Republican value is to treat others with anything other than respect and dignity.

Religious freedom implies many things — that you are free to practice your religion as you choose, but it also implies that others are free to practice (or not practice) their choice of religious persuasion, and not have others try to get them to comply with their rules driven by their beliefs.

If people are imposing their beliefs on others, what makes them different than, say, radical Muslims or others that live and die to force people into their beliefs, or punish them for not being part of the faithful?

If your religion requires that you marginalize others because of how they live their life, you really need to consider that your God is not happy in how you are working in his name; as one of the basic tenets is to “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37).

So, folks, if you are in a position in which you are exposed to people of a different belief system or life situation than your own, it’s really OK; it does not affect you directly; it does not detract from your life (unless you let it do so). It is your life; do you wish to spend it hating others or loving others for how they can contribute to the world?

I’ve heard people make the comment that the LGBT community is only 5 percent of the population and they don’t influence elections. I beg to differ. That seemingly small 5 percent is supported by over 60 percent of the electorate, and they tend to vote more emotionally than some. Want to win elections? Think about it.

One thing that our esteemed Chairman Tony Krvaric of the San Diego County Republican Party has said is that our parties in the United States are not like those in other countries; we have two major parties and as such they tend to be a much more heterogeneous mix of ideas and people.

We tend to have people of all sorts of views and orientations and life goals; these people often share a great deal of ideas in common which identify us as Republicans.

As a great Republican once said, “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally — not a 20 percent traitor.” We need to live by the words of Ronald Reagan, but more importantly, we need to understand that everybody in the world does not enjoy the same circumstances as we do. We are in no place to judge anyone’s life but our own.

Gina Roberts is a member of the San Diego Republican County Central Committee, a delegate to the California Republican Party, president of the Log Cabin Republicans of San Diego, vice chair of the Log Cabin Republicans of California, a Tea Party member, board member of the Escondido Republican Women’s Federated and founding board member of the San Diego County Gun Owners PAC. A version of this column was originally posted on San Diego Rostra.

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