At last week’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, the GOP unveiled its most right-wing platform in years. It called for the end of women in combat, said pornography is a “public health crisis,” and, over a full year after the Supreme Court declared marriage a constitutional right for all, still defined marriage as between one man and one woman. But behind the scenes of the platform’s adoption was a small and ultimately outnumbered group of moderate voices fighting to keep their party relevant.
One of those voices was Rachel Hoff, the first-ever openly gay delegate on the Republican platform committee. Hoff proposed an amendment that wouldn’t actually endorse gay marriage but would acknowledge that people within the party disagreed on the issue. It was voted down. Then, in part to “test just how far this committee is willing to go to avoid a single positive reference to the LGBT community,” she proposed language specifying that the victims of the Orlando mass shooting were targeted for being gay. That, too, was rejected.
Hoff, who isn’t a supporter of Donald Trump but acknowledges that Trump is closer to the mainstream on LGBT issues than much of the party, said the experience “made me wonder what sort of party we’re becoming.” But the exchanges around the failed amendments, broadcast on C-SPAN, made Hoff sort of a minor celebrity in the ensuing week at the RNC. Media attention followed, but so did the gratitude of fellow Republicans dismayed at their party’s backwards-looking stance on LGBT issues.
Hoff is a defense analyst from Washington, DC and hadn’t previously been involved in the fight around LGBT issues; she identifies as a Republican primarily because of national security issues. But after her week of semi-fame, she thinks she thinks activism will have a new role in her life. She told Quartz that one of the most powerful experiences of the week for her was meeting Jim Obergefell, the plaintiff in the Supreme Court case that ultimately overturned same-sex marriage bans nationwide. “What he did was on a different level than the little fight than I’m engaging in,” she said, “but it gave me renewed appreciation that being the one to stand up comes with the gratification of knowing that you’re the one who was there fighting the good fight.”