Founded in 1977, the Log Cabin Republicans is an organization comprised of LGBTQ conservatives and allies who strive to transform the inclusivity and unprejudiced outreach of the GOP. Members of the LCR preach the principles of Republican ideology, including strong national defense, limited government regulation and a free market economy. Yet the organization has faced an uphill battle with the steady social conservatism that has defined the scope of the Republican Party since its founding. The LCR has grown to contain chapters representing 26 states, yet its national presence has remained steadily drowned out by the unflinching traditionalist principles of the GOP. According to 2017 studies conducted by the Pew Research Center, 70% of Independents and 73% of Democrats support same-sex marriage. Republicans trudge far behind with a meager 40% in support of marriage equality. And yes, conservatives have grown more “supportive” of LGBTQ rights since the 20th century, but there is a timeless divergence between what politicians will say for votes and what they will do in office.
“There’s no way to sugarcoat this: I’m mad as hell, and I know you are too,” announced LCR president Gregory T. Angelo in 2016, following RNC delegates’ revitalization of the Republican platform. “Moments ago, the Republican Party passed the most anti-LGBTQ platform in the party’s 162-year history.” The 2016 GOP platform was revised to reaffirm the core ideals of the Republican political identity and to reverse the policies set in place by President Obama. However, it also spearheaded a refreshed attack on LGBTQ equality. The new platform clearly condemned same-sex marriage, called for the appointment of judges who would overturn the 2015 Supreme Court marriage equality ruling and endorsed bans on transgendered Americans’ rights.
The platform even endorsed the use of dangerous and disproven conversion therapies. It outlined “the right of parents to determine the proper treatment or therapy for their minor children.” According to TIME, Tony Perkins, a Republican and president of the notorious organization Family Research Council, an anti-gay lobbying group and facilitator of conversion therapy, “originally drafted a more explicit embrace of [conversion therapy], but amended the text after consultations with top RNC officials.” This is not a stance unseen in the GOP. Vice President Pence pledged his support to “those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.” Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum are a handful of past Republican presidential candidates who have monetarily or verbally endorsed, or even campaigned with, organizations that promote and facilitate conversion therapy. A practice that makes queer youth more than 8 times as likely to have attempted suicide, nearly 6 times more likely to have severe depression and more than 3 times as likely to use illegal drugs or be at high risk for STDs like HIV.
Yet the new platform was a step in the right direction in terms of equality, according to many GOP officials. Conservatives proudly announced that America would no longer be governed by revolutionary policies that are contradictory to its founding principles. As the original GOP platform draft stated, President Obama’s support of LGBTQ individuals sought “to impose a social and cultural revolution upon the American people.” According to Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, co-chair of the Republicans’ 2016 platform-editing committee, the priority of the committee was to “stand for the human rights of all people, not just one segment, one class, one race, one preference, but for all people in the United States.” She continued, “besides, there were gay people on the committee. We’re an inclusive party; a big tent.”
Correction: there was one LGBTQ representative on the committee. Rachel Hoff, the first openly gay Republican to ever serve on the committee. A representative who was driven to tears as she had every advocation for softer restrictions on LGBTQ freedoms slammed down in disapproval. In her emotional appeal to other committee members, Hoff exclaimed, “freedom means freedom for everyone, including gays and lesbians… And all I ask today is you include me and those like me.” Nonetheless, her platform amendment supporting marriage equality was dropped at the hands of overwhelming objection. In an interview with TIME, Hoff admitted, “Why am I even here?… These last few days is the first time I’ve ever thought about leaving the Republican Party.”
Advocating for greater equality is a paradox in Republican politics. It too often is used as a facade for voter support, a placeholder for discriminatory policies and legislation. Former RNC chairman and current White House Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus put it pretty well during the 2016 election. “We’re still a party that believes that marriage is between one man and one woman, but it doesn’t mean that we’re going to kick people out.” He added, “I can’t win this race if I tell people that they’re not welcome in our party.” Essentially, others are welcome to join us, but they will not necessarily be recognized by us. I watched every Republican presidential debate in the 2012 and 2016 elections, and every time the topic of marriage equality was raised, I expected the same response from each candidate. And they didn’t disappoint. Here are some samples from past GOP presidential candidates:
Ted Cruz: “[The 2015 Supreme Court ruling] was an illegitimate and wrong decision to seize the authority of marriage… The very definition of tyranny.”
Marco Rubio: “You have to really have a ridiculous and absurd reading of the Constitution to reach the conclusion that people have a right to marry someone of the same sex.”
Ben Carson: “[Redefining marriage] is a slippery slope with a disastrous ending, as witnessed in the dramatic fall of the Roman Empire.”
Jeb Bush: “Should sodomy be elevated to the same Constitutional status as race and religion? My answer is no.”
Rand Paul: “There is a moral crisis that allows people to think there would be some sort of other marriage.”
Mike Huckabee: “We can get into the ick factor, but the fact is [same-sex marriage], biologically, doesn’t work the same.”
A common GOP justification for remarks, beliefs, and policies that discriminate against LGBTQ citizens is that they lead a “lifestyle” that is inherently dangerous and unhealthy. A way of life that is risky if one submits to that route. This stance is carefully portrayed as a manifestation of the GOP’s concern and love for minorities. Banning this "lifestyle" will help eradicate the harmful psychological and physical effects that it has on queer youth. Voting for any pro-LGBTQ legislation may lead to more people being damaged by its harmful effects. But this approach is completely incorrect. Yes, LGBTQ people are at a higher risk for mental illnesses, more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, more likely to be promiscuous and engage in unhealthy sexual behavior and much more likely to commit suicide. However this stems not from self-hatred, but external hatred.
Johann Hari, a British writer and journalist and a contributor to The Independent and The Huffington Post, explains that “being subjected to bullying and violence as children and teenagers makes gay people unusually vulnerable to depression and despair.” According to Hari, homophobes use that depression and despair “to claim that homosexuality is inherently a miserable state - and that we shouldn’t do anything that might ‘encourage’ it.” Those against LGBTQ rights commonly “create misery, and then use it as a pretext to create even more misery.” Too many GOP leaders do not understand that the damaging acts that queer youth engage in stem from a need for support, recognition, and validation. Not from internal hatred.
And yet the exorbitant weight of shifting a party’s crucial pillar rests upon the shoulders of the Log Cabin Republicans. The organization’s determined, albeit unrealistic, expectations have left it between a rock and a hard place from its founding. It has often been stuck between standing with its own party’s election and supporting anti-LGBTQ politicians. Despite being a Republican group, for example, it did not endorse President George H. W. Bush and the reelection of George W. Bush. Most of the LCR chapters did not endorse Donald Trump for president as well. However, the organization has also endorsed anti-LGBTQ Republican candidates. It endorsed Mitt Romney, despite his outspoken support for a constitutional amendment defining traditional marriage, his support for the anti-LGBTQ “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military policy, and his opposition to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
LGBTQ rights are not just one small issue. They are a crucial step on the road to more expansive equality for all. They are an important next step to solve prejudice of all kinds, homelessness, family rejection and isolation, bullying and harassment, substance abuse and promiscuity. They open doors to better sexual education, therapy and counseling, advocacy for mental illness and suicide prevention. These imperative issues can be averted with a simple thing: political representation. Yet this cannot be achieved when an entire political party prides itself on discrimination, when an entire political party turns a blind eye to those who need to be seen.
2016 GOP Platform:
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