This weekend, I am participating in the Log Cabin Republicans & Liberty Education Forum’s annual convention and symposium in Denver. It’s a great opportunity to mix and mingle with my fellow pink elephants and reconnect with old friends and colleagues.

The organization presented their annual Ronald Reagan award to former US Senator Alan K. Simpson (R-WY). The former Senator gave a rousing 45 minute speech that had everybody in the room rolling! If you’ve never heard Simpson give a speech, or aren’t familiar with his style, it’s definitely worth seeking out. Simpson, who is 75 years old, was a 3-term senator from Wyoming.

Simpson was always known as a “western conservative” who truly embodied the sense of individualism and hard work that is such an important facet of the western states in America. He’s only a few steps away from the ideals of Barry Goldwater.

Simpson was adamant, however, that we stick with the Party. He called it the “creeping maturity” – the strides that the gays and lesbians have made toward equality in his lifetime, and that the “zanies and the goofies” (read that as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson) will pass on before we do.

He abhorred the mentality that he saw increasingly pervasive in the Republican party, where the focus on Terry Schiavo, gay marriage and opposition to stem-cell research, all contributed to GOP losses in the November 2006 election. He referred to them as “fringe issues.” Through his experience, he said that those fringe issues don’t settle well with regular Republican or Democratic voters.

The one thing that gave me some of the greatest hope in the battle we face…and made me laugh ’till my side ached were Simpson’s closing words when he recited a little story that his mother used to say about those in the Republican Party who were intolerant and hate-filled zealots. “His mom, Simpson said, always said that hatred corrodes the containers it comes in. And ‘those people’, he said of the religious right, are filled with gas and body odor and heartburn. They smell bad.”