In 1996, Kathryn Lehman was a soon-to-be married lawyer working for Republicans in the House of Representatives. One of her major accomplishments: helping to write the law that bans federal recognition of same-sex marriages.
Today, Lehman, 53, no longer has a husband, and is no longer straight. And she is a lobbyist for Freedom to Marry, which is devoted to overturning the very law she helped write, the Defense of Marriage Act.
But Lehman is still a fervent Republican.
"I'm trying to break the stereotype that all gays and lesbians, especially lesbians, are Democrats," she said.
Although the Republican Party has long drawn gay men who believe in the party's message of small government and a muscular military, Republican lesbians are a rare political breed.
"Oh, we're like unicorns," said Erin Simpson, 51, who cites "personal liberty" as a fundamental value and teaches firearms safety in Tucson, Ariz. Simpson, who came out in February, was "very disheartened" by Mitt Romney's loss -- one fueled, in part, by overwhelming gay support for President Barack Obama.
There is no way to measure their true numbers, but gay activists say that in many cases, these "unicorns" were Republicans before they were gay -- driven by conservative upbringings, economic issues and libertarian principles. They often did not acknowledge their sexual orientation, even to themselves, until middle age.
In interviews, these Republicans
But they are beginning to make their presence known, said Casey Pick, a program director and first woman on the staff of the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay-rights group.
"There is a presence of mature, established Republican women who are being more vocal of late," Pick said.
These women fear that they are losing the younger generations, who are coming out earlier, and are even more likely to identify with the Democratic Party now that Obama has embraced gay marriage. The election results, including victories for same-sex marriage advocates on ballot measures in four states, offered ammunition for Lehman when she talks to Republicans on Capitol Hill.
Lehman said last week that some conservatives had already begun saying to her, "'You know, it's not really worth pursuing a federal marriage amendment; this really should be left to the states.'"
"That is the more consistent conservative position," she added.