By Andrea Ordonez
R. Clarke Cooper, Executive Director of the Log Cabin Republicans, united two unlikely groups Wednesday: the LGBT community and the College Republicans. In the grand scheme of political campaigning in America, this combination of conservative views and gay rights support led to the creation of the Log Cabin Republicans, a group which now has prominent candidates like Massachusetts' Richard Tisei and Arizona Sheriff Paul Babeu running for Congress.
For Cooper, his sexual orientation takes a back seat when it comes to whom he picks at the polls.
"I'm not going to walk away from what I believe as a conservative because of my sexual orientation," said Cooper.
Being conservative and supportive of LGBT rights acts as an emerging trend for young voters. Cooper exemplified this trend by pointing out the shift from Democrat to Republican support in the 2010 midterm elections. More importantly to young voters, he pointed out that the addition of advocating gay rights to the party's platform is particularly evident to the GOP's members in college.
Curiosity drew Arnel Larracas, a freshman finance major who does some work for the University's Chapter of the College Libertarians, to Cooper's talk. Larracas knows the misconception of the Republican Party's complete opposition of LGBT rights. But he was pleased to hear about the disappearance of this false belief.
"It's interesting to get the perspective of what the Log Cabin Republicans think, especially at a school that is very big on the LGBT," said Larracas. "I know it's always seen as the Republicans are maybe, like, hating on gays or don't want to give them rights, but seeing the perspective of Mr. Cooper was very nice."
"The party's stance on gay rights is evolving," said Lisa Serbaniewicz, head of the University's chapter of the College Republicans. "If you believe in limited government, individual liberty, personal responsibility, free markets, a strong national defense and gay rights, you are a Republican."
Christian Fuscarino of the Pride Network also acknowledges the changing face of the Republican Party toward favoring LGBT rights.
"What people are taking away from tonight is that you don't have to be a Democrat if you're a member of the LGBT community," said Fuscarino. "I'm a Democrat, but I accept anyone who is a member of the Republican Party as long as they are not going to oppress LGBT people."
However, Cooper's visit was not just about addressing new political trends and platforms. According to David Zuniga, president of SGA, listening to different political views show the importance of free expression and tolerance on campus.
"We as students should always be open to different opinions and through these exposures, develop our own," said Zuniga.
Fuscarino agrees noting that Cooper's talk is not just about politics, but individual rights.
"Equal rights isn't really a red or blue issue," said Fuscarino. "It's an American promise."
Additional reporting done by Jesse Bade.