Ah, political theater. This round involves a Portland vaudeville performer, 26-year-old Xander Almeida, who also happens to be a Republican. Recently, Almeida has been pissed off at the Oregon Republican party for hostile anti-gay language in its official party platform. Instead of biting his tongue or changing parties, Almeida decided to try and erase the language. So last spring, Almeida and about a dozen other young Oregon Republicans got themselves elected as delegates to the state platform convention, which occurred last weekend in Bend. Their express goal as delegates was to rewrite the Oregon Republican's official policy language toward LGBT issues. And guess what? They did it! I talked with Almeida yesterday about how he and the group made the local GOP language "90 percent less anti-gay."

Xander: Totes Republican.
  • Xander: Totes Republican.
MERCURY: How did you wind up a Republican?
XANDER ALMEIDA: Through fiscally conservative values and a belief in small government in general. The anti-gay feeling of the party really bothers me and people always ask me why I don't just become a Democrat. I don't believe in the way they want to run government and I can't change the party if I'm not a part of the party. You've actually got to show up to make change.

So tell me what happened at the party convention.
My goal was to take out as much of the hostile language toward LGBT people as possible. The "family platform" section of the party used to read: "We concur with the Oregon Constitution that marriage is between one man and one woman. We do not consider “same sex marriage” to be 'marriage' nor 'civil unions' to have any equivalency nor right to legal standing. Nor do we believe 'same sex marriage' or 'civil unions' worthy of legal standing for adoption or parenting purposes."

I thought that was wrong and insulting. "I've had friends with straight parents who weren't always good parent. To just say you're gay, you're not fit for parenting is completely wrong. We were able to change the section so that it now just reads: "We believe marriage is between one man and one woman." While I personally believe the government should not be involved in marriage at all, to me that was a very good compromise. It took out the antagonistic language that was in the platform before.

Is there anything else you guys changed?
Another section of the family platform read, "We believe that obscene materials are degrading, exploitative, and detrimental to society. We do not believe that pornography should be protected as free speech. " As someone who's a huge first amendment advocate and someone with a lot of friends who are burlesque dancers, I was adamantly opposed to that language. Pornography by federal definition is not obscenity. I have friends who do nude art modeling and worried if some of that could consider that to be pornographic. Instead, we changed the language to, "We oppose sexual exploitation and human trafficking. We believe that obscenities are degrading to society."

I feel like those changes make the platform more of a small government policy all the way around rather than picking and choosing who should get rights. Being a young Republican today and trying to get people register Republican is kind of like being a Democrat in the 1850s and trying to convince your black friends to join up.

Was it a close vote on the changes?
Well, how it works is you join up with the caucus on whatever issue you want to work on. Like economy, public safety. Joined the family caucus, which had about 35 people. But after we debated the new language, the caucus actually voted 2:1 against the changes. I was really upset about that and at night, I mentioned to The chairman of the Oregon Republican Party, Allen Alley, that I was disappointed by the outcome of the vote and he encouraged me to take it to a full floor vote, so everyone in the convention could vote on the language. It was the closest vote of the entire convention. If my memory serves me, it was 116 in favor of chipping away the anti-gay language and 108 against it.

This is a good change, but what does it matter if, in the end, the Republican party still doesn't support full gay rights?
To me it comes with making small pivotal changes. When we went home from that convention, we felt good, because we had taken away the language from that was so offensive to our friends. My uncle said to me, "But you're still against gay marriage, right?" And I said, "Yes, the party is, but we did something that we didn't think was possible."

So are you a Log Cabin Republican or just a straight ally?
I'm straight, but I've always felt that everybody should be treated equally. I view myself as less of an ally, more as just a fellow human being.