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COMMENTARY: Republicans and Democrats can both learn from a gay conservative

(James Owens is president of the Log Cabin Republicans of Oregon and a Leadership Committee member for Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry.)

A gay Republican is an oxymoron, no matter what side of the aisle you're on. It's a scary thought for social conservatives, because what would happen to this party and what it stands for if it were taken over by immoral and reprehensible sinners? After all, gay Republicans are just liberal infiltrators who are trying to tear apart our nation's moral fabric. It's a scary thought for liberals, because what would happen if the Republicans came back into power? We'd go back to the Bush era, when Guantánamo was still open, we were at war with high unemployment, and we were living with an administration that tapped phone lines. And, after all, gay Republicans are just Uncle Toms anyway.

Let me give you a little insight into what it's like living the life of a gay Republican. A few months ago a fellow gay Republican and I decided to run for chair and vice chair, respectively, of the Oregon Republican Party. Before attending the organizational meeting (where the candidates have a chance to make their case and the delegates vote), we sent out an email to the delegates in order to gauge support for our candidacy. We asked, "Would you vote for a qualified candidate who is a member of the Oregon Log Cabin Republicans for Oregon Party Chair?" Here are just a few of those responses:

"This is an Unequivocal No to your question. Your agenda is NOT the agenda of the conservative Republican."

"Please don't bother me with this drivel again."

"No! Focusing on mostly civil rights makes me believe LGBT Log Cabin Republicans are trying to change what the party stands for."

"In answer to your question, No. I strongly oppose the whole gay & lesbian agenda."

"The homosexual lifestyle is a perversion of our function and uses affection and lust of pleasure, you call it love, to justify it."

"Log cabin republicans are people trying to legitimize behavior that ultimately is destructive to children and families."

"You're a sick person."

I've got to say that although I expected some negative feedback, I didn't expect a lot of what I got. I expected this kind of treatment in middle school or high school. But when grown adults, the very people who are shaping the future for our children and grandchildren, come to me with such vile words, I wonder what I've done, I wonder what I've gotten myself into, and I wonder whether I should even try anymore. So why am I trying? Why do I consider myself a conservative? It's a great question, and I'm asked it all the time.

I manned the Log Cabin Republicans booth at Pride this last weekend, and as one could imagine, the showing of conservatives was sparse. Several Pride goers asked me why I am a Republican. My honest response was as follows: "Because I believe in lower taxes for all, strong Second Amendment rights, strong national defense and individual freedom. But I also believe in the freedom to marry for all, and we need advocates in both parties to make that happen, don't we?" All the responses from that mini-speech were responses of genuine understanding: "Oh, OK, I just never knew," or, "Oh, that makes sense." I also reminded people that President Obama wasn't pro-marriage-equality for a long time and waited well into his first term to publicly come out in favor of it. However, the president, along with most Democrats, has realized that this is a defining moment in our history, and that people like doctrinaire Michele Bachmann will forever be known as the George Wallaces of our time.

Let me tell you a story about a boy who grew up in a small Oregon town who was raised by conservative parents. He was about 13 years old when he realized he wasn't normal. Something wasn't right with how he felt. He figured that the weird feelings were fleeting, and that if he just didn't think about it, they'd go away. A couple of years went by, and this nagging feeling of being different hadn't gone away. In fact, it got stronger. So as a good and faithful Christian, he turned to prayer:

"Please, God, I don't want to be gay."

"God, why do I feel like this?"

"Please, God, change me."

"God, don't let me be gay."

Every supplication ending in sobbing and self-loathing, some even ending in screaming at God, with tears streaming down his face, wondering whether he should tell someone. This went on for years. There were moments when he wanted to take his own life, but fortunately for him, he found a friend who helped him work through it. Many others his age never found that friend to talk to.

Fast-forward to today, and that boy, now a man, is speaking to an audience made up of people who support him, people who don't support him and people who call him sick and destructive to children and families. Now travel back in time and try telling that same boy -- tears welling up in his eyes because he hates himself -- that he is going to graduate from college someday, but that his peers will still reject him. He will join the military and serve his country, but he'll still be hated. He'll try to make the case for equality in the year 2013, but he will be told that he's disgusting.

To liberals I say: Gay Republicans are not Uncle Toms. There is obviously substantial representation for LGBT issues within the Democratic Party. Should we not also have representation in the Republican Party? A healthy nation has a balance of different perspectives. One-party rule is good for no one, no matter what party you identify with.

To conservatives I say: Stop being so afraid and obsessed with the gay issue. Equality and civil rights scared people in the 1950s. It should not be what scares us today, because we are facing financial and foreign crises that are much bigger, and with more disastrous and damaging implications. Yet we as a party sit here and contend with something that should be a non-issue while we lose election after embarrassing election.

It's been tough, but I've learned to live without acceptance from other people. And that's why I am not asking for acceptance from either side. All I am asking for is a little impartiality. The worst thing that could happen to this country is for it to become more partisan. Maybe I should be a Democrat -- and maybe I shouldn't. But what is more important is that we listen to each other, really listen and consider others' perspectives. If only we did that, perhaps we could come together as a nation that once again stands for freedom, equality, responsibility, justice and a future brighter than the one we are on the path to now.

To visit HuffPost Gay Voices, a content partner with SDGLN, click HERE.