Despite being denied a formal role in the Republican Party, gay and lesbian conservatives are fighting for a voice.
A growing group of Republicans who advocate for the interests of gays and lesbians say that if the Republican Party refuses to give lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people official recognition within the party, they may face an intra-party war.
One of the most vocal LGBT Republican organizations is the San Francisco-based Log Cabin Republicans group. Formed in the late 1970s in order to oppose a proposed state constitutional amendment which would have banned gays and lesbians from working in public schools, members of the grassroots organization identify themselves as “loyal Republicans” who “believe in limited government, strong national defense, free markets, low taxes, personal responsibility, and individual liberty.”
But unlike many leaders of the Republican Party, Log Cabin Republicans say they are a bit more socially liberal than the GOP base, and believe all Americans deserve civil equality and equal protection under the law, such as being able to marry a same-sex partner.
In order for these socially liberal Republicans to make a change, they say they need the Republican Party to remove the bylaw that excludes groups advocating for “certain lifestyle preferences or orientations” from holding a position within the party.
Because of the current bylaws, Log Cabin Republicans are not eligible to win charter status in the party, meaning they cannot appoint any delegates to attend GOP conventions or have a permanent seat on the party’s executive committee.
Charles Moran is the Chair of the California Log Cabin Republicans, delegate of the California Republican Party and Executive Committee member. He said that while he doesn’t want to have to “go to war with the GOP” in order for the party to accept LGBT people, he will if he has to. “[If] I have to go on the floor to tell my coming-out story, I’ll do it,” he said.
Moran said now is the time when the Republican Party should “unite” on issues that “reflect the diversity” of the United States.
“There is a huge amount of diversity in the conservative thought movement, so I don’t paint all grassroots activists as ‘social conservatives’ and as anti-gay automatically,” Moran says. “If you are pro-life, you’re not automatically anti-gay. If you’re strongly religious, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re anti-gay, either. And if you’re a Tea Partier who is outraged over the size and scope of government encroachment in our lives, that doesn’t mean you’re anti-gay.”
Fred Schein is the San Francisco chapter leader of the Log Cabin Republicans. He said that what the group is trying to change is the notion that you can’t be both conservative and a gay person.
“We’re concerned about the nation, the economy and the excesses of government in people’s lives,” Schein said. When new members join the group, Schein says they often find it exhilarating that they can be both. But Schein, like others in the group, say that in order for the group to make any changes and attract more LGBT people to the Republican Party, the group should be able to have a voice.
According to Brad Torgan, a Log Cabin member and secretary of the Republican Party of Los Angeles County, the Log Cabin Republicans have seen success in largely Democratic areas such as San Francisco and Los Angeles because “we go into the belly of the beast — places where other Republicans fear to tread.”
But the group has struggled to garner support in rural areas and in portions of the United States where the old values of the Republican Party are still emphasized.
One prominent fundamentalist Republican who disagrees with the inclusion of the Log Cabin Republicans in the party is the Rev. Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition. At a recent GOP convention, he shared that he has fought against the “gay agenda” for the past 40 years and said he plans to continue to fight for “family values.”
But Moran says statements such as Sheldon’s are not going to stop them. “We’ll take on some of the conservative non-thought leaders,” he said, “because we’re just as conservative and Republican as they are.”
Battle at the polls
In order to remove some of these anti-LGBT conservatives from blocking the Log Cabin Republicans from obtaining a larger voice within the Republican Party, some are urging Republican voters to support those conservative politicians who support equality for all.
For example, in September David Lampo, who is on the national board of the Log Cabin Republicans, wrote an op-ed piece for the Washington Post on why Republican voters in Virginia should not vote for Ken Cuccinelli for governor.
Lampo wrote that while a vote against Cuccinelli or not voting at all may seem “unpleasant,” he said it was necessary for the sake of the party’s future since Cuccinelli has “built his career on anti-gay, anti-abortion and anti-immigrant votes (as a state senator) and legal decisions (as attorney general).”
“While such positions play well with highly conservative voters, more mainstream voters, particularly those with libertarian leanings, need to stop and take stock of Cuccinelli’s long-held social views,” Lampo wrote. Though Cuccinelli has run on a platform that includes support for reducing taxes and spending, as well as for gun rights and repealing the Affordable Care Act, Lampo says Cuccinelli’s views on social issues show he is anything but a libertarian:
“Most libertarians understand that there is more to liberty than just low taxes and the right to bear arms. Regardless of their personal religious views, libertarians (as well as many conservatives) believe in the time-honored principle of separation of church and state: not just freedom of religion but freedom from religion for those who so choose.
“Given their fundamental belief in social tolerance, the last thing libertarians should want is a government based on what many conservatives refer to as ‘biblical principles,’ yet that seems to be what Cuccinelli wants to give us. Most principled libertarians do not believe that the government should oppose equal rights for gay and lesbian Virginians simply because some religions consider homosexuality sinful; such a view is a complete repudiation of the live-and-let-live basis of libertarianism.”
Lampo went on to say that Cuccinelli’s record is awful and includes
“opposition to repealing the state’s sodomy law, which was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court 10 years ago; opposition to allowing private firms to offer health and life insurance benefits to employees’ domestic partners; opposition to expanding Virginia’s anti-discrimination law to cover state employees who are gay; opposition to protections for gays and lesbians working at Virginia colleges and universities; opposition to domestic partnerships or civil unions for gay and lesbian couples; support for taxpayer funding of private adoption agencies that discriminate against gay and lesbian Virginians; and support for a law making divorce more difficult, potentially trapping people in unhappy marriages.”
It’s not just Cuccinelli’s record that has the group concerned. His running mate and Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, the pastor E.W. Jackson, is worse, according to Lampo:
“His claim to fame is a history of extreme statements about people he dislikes. He has labeled gays as ‘perverted’ and ‘very sick,’ disparagingly said the president has the ‘sensibilities of . . . an atheist and a Muslim,’ and compared Planned Parenthood to the Ku Klux Klan. He told a conference of conservatives in June that ‘freedom doesn’t mean ‘do whatever you want.’’ Apparently, when it comes to running your life, it’s his way or the highway, the very antithesis of limited government and individual rights.”
While there are candidates like Cuccinelli that the Log Cabin Republicans argue should not be elected for the sake of the party’s future, other candidates such as Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Fleck the group has urged to support.
Fleck, a member of the Log Cabin Republican group himself, has twice been elected to the Pennsylvania legislature with 100 percent of the vote — once in 2008 and again in 2012. He ran unopposed, but after he announced last year that his 10-year marriage was ending because he was gay, some say Fleck’s political race will illustrate whether or not the Republican Party accepts or rejects homsexuality, especially since his stance on issues such as gun control have not changed.