Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

As a founder of Conservatives Against Discrimination, protecting LGBTQ rights is high on our list

As a proud conservative, standing up against discrimination is only natural — because as conservatives we value individual liberty, hard work and freedom for all.

I am a strong defender of our basic rights and freedoms, and I am adamant that these rights and freedoms should be applied equally to all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identification. That’s why during Pride month, it’s so disheartening that LGBTQ Americans are still vulnerable to discrimination in 30 states, including here in my home state of Florida.

No one should live in fear of facing discrimination simply because of who they are, what they believe, or who they love. Protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination is about safeguarding freedom for all Americans.

The America I believe in is a land of opportunity and freedom. As a refugee from the brutal Castro dictatorship in Cuba, I understand the damage that is caused when government does not defend the individual rights of all its people.

I’m so grateful for all the opportunities that this great country has afforded to me. I have always viewed the United States as a symbol of freedom, equality, and opportunity; fundamental values that should be the same for everyone. Discrimination of any kind runs counter to those values we hold dear.

Even though we may have different beliefs, what’s most important is focusing on what we have in common — taking pride in our work, respecting our neighbors and coworkers, and getting the job done.

Today, a strong majority of Republicans nationwide support LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections. The reality is that bipartisan momentum for protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination has skyrocketed in recent years. Conservatives should be working for nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people because these common-sense protections are about freedom, liberty, and fairness.

I’m proud to lead the new Conservatives Against Discrimination project alongside my friend and former Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson. This project is part of a national organization called Freedom for All Americans. Our Republican party should embrace and champion nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people because it reflects our conservative values of freedom and liberty. When we treat everyone with dignity and respect, everyone has the opportunity to work hard, support their families, and contribute to our nation.

Explaining broad political philosophies is difficult. Relying upon them to decide specific issues is even more difficult. But I’ve found a few basic principles which always helped in thinking about the role of government with respect to social issues. Surprisingly, conservatism turns out to be fairly “liberal” in many instances. I view conservatism as limiting government to essential government functions. Freedom for sexual orientation and gender identity, without government restrictions, is a genuine conservative principle.

Conservative belief in freedom does not rest upon conservatives making the “right” philosophical choices on behalf of others. Genuine conservatives doubt the ability of any of us to choose better for others than those others can choose for themselves. Freedom extends to everyone in their private lives. The duty to not discriminate in their activities that are empowered by government action extends to everyone as well. Even though we may have different beliefs, what’s most important is focusing on what we have in common.

LGBTQ people are our friends, our coworkers, our neighbors. I want all of our nation’s children to have their shot at achieving the American dream without the fear of discrimination in their daily lives.

As my fellow Americans get the opportunity to meet their LGBTQ neighbors, I know they will come to see that protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination is about nothing more than giving everyone the opportunity to truly live free.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is a former veteran Republican congresswoman from Miami-Dade. She can be reached at HeraldIleana@gmail.com

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