S.C. Log Cabin Republicans
10 years out
Raised on the Alabama coast, Truman Smith's childhood was full of fishing and hunting, tennis, and watching his grandmother bagging wild turkey, even when she was well into her 70s. It's hard to imagine a more classic Southern upbringing. He went on to Baylor and Harvard, made his money in venture capital, and believes in traditional Republican goals of limited government, fiscal restraint, low taxes, and a strong national defense. He is also perfectly frank about his own sexual identity as a gay man. He currently serves as the chair of the S.C. Log Cabin Republicans, the state chapter of the national gay and lesbian activist group that he hopes can help "bring the party back to its roots as the party of equality."
I'm sure that you get this question all the time. How does it fit together, being gay and Republican?
[Laughs] I hear it all the time. The first challenge is to remove the misunderstanding that social extremists are representing all Republicans when they speak against equality. What we hope to do is to work within the group to bring the Republican Party back to its core values. We believe in the free market and national defense, and we also believe in equality for all Americans.
In discussing equality, let's talk about some of your personal experiences as a gay man.
The most blatant time I was discriminated against due to my sexual orientation was when I was kicked off the advisory board of the business school at Baylor University after the dean learned that I am gay.
How did your family react when you came out?
They were fine with it. My father could not have been more gracious or accepting of me. The first family member I came out to was my sister. We went out to dinner together, and I told her. Later, I told the rest of my family. We were very typical middle-class Southern, from coastal Alabama, and it was fine.
That's where change begins, with individual people, families, being okay with differences.
Right. And that's why it is so important to take the party back from the social extremists, from the dividers. Charleston in particular tends to have fewer problems with these issues than you see in some other places. But then, historically, port cities do seem to be more comfortable with diversity.
What are some of the key legislative issues that the Log Cabin Republicans are working on right now in South Carolina?
We're working to secure hospital visitation rights for [LGBT] couples, and we are also working on hate crimes legislation. We do this by developing relationships with legislators and entering into dialogues with them to bring about change, to get elected leaders to do what they know is right, not what they think that voters want to hear. We have found that most leaders are willing to enter into dialogues about these issues. We often work together with the Stonewall Democrats [also a LGBT grassroots organization] as we have so much in common. The focus of both our organizations is on achieving equality. With that in mind, we can agree to disagree on fiscal or tax policy and move forward on common goals.
If only more people could do that.
Equality for gays and lesbians is going to happen. It's only a question of how long it will take for us to get there. — Jason A. Zwiker