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Posts for May, 2014

Texas GOP Convention Denies Log Cabin Request for Booth

Randy Potts

May 30th, 2014

Yesterday, the Log Cabin Republicans announced that their request for a booth at the annual convention in Fort Worth had been denied by the state Republican Party:

“Overall, Log Cabin Republicans of Texas has found incredible support within the Republican party — Texans, like the rest of the country, are evolving on LGBT rights issues,” said Log Cabin Republicans of Texas Chairman Jeffrey Davis. “The Republican Party of Texas has even welcomed many of our members as delegates to the Texas State Republican Convention. However, the party has denied our several attempts to host a booth in the convention exhibit hall, citing archaic language in the party platform to support their actions.”

That “archaic language” is not so archaic, coming from page 8 of the 2012 Texas Republican Party platform where over 100 colorful words describe the party’s position on “homosexuals” (the position against human trafficking, on the same page, takes only 12 words):

Human Trafficking ― The Republican Party of Texas adamantly opposes any form of human trafficking.

Homosexuality ― We affirm that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society and contributes to the breakdown of the family unit. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable “alternative” lifestyle, in public policy, nor should “family” be redefined to include homosexual “couples.” We believe there should be no granting of special legal entitlements or creation of special status for homosexual behavior, regardless of state of origin. Additionally, we oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction or belief in traditional values.

The decision, unusual for a state party, is, according to this source, allowed because of a 1997 ruling by then-Texas-Supreme-Court-Justice and now-Texas-gubernatorial-candidate Greg Abbott who

ruled on the case of the Republican Party of Texas vs. Dietz, which was a suit brought by the Republican Party against a lower court judge who ruled the Party had to provide the Log Cabin Republicans with a convention booth. Abbott ruled– relying on a muddled conflation of Texas state and US constitutional law– the Party could legally bar the group from its convention because the Texas Bill of Rights only applies to government and the Party’s actions did not constitute state action.

Gregory T. Angelo, head of the National Log Cabin Republicans, has condemned both the decision and the language in the state party platform.

 

 

Nevada GOP drops anti-gay position

Timothy Kincaid

April 13th, 2014

Nevada Republican Party activists met this weekend at their annual convention. And it was a contentious meeting with factions battling over the endorsement process and what it means to be a “true” Republican.

What was not contentious, however, was the move to drop opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage from the state party platform. From the Washington Times (which I nearly never quote, but which seems to be carrying the story before anyone else):

The Nevada Republican Party stripped opposition to abortion and gay marriage from its platform Saturday as state convention delegates instead focused on judging fellow Republicans on their worthiness to serve in office and adherence to GOP values.

The platform, with few changes, was adopted overwhelmingly as the Las Vegas convention stretched late into the evening. The vote mirrors that of the Clark County GOP, which voted earlier to remove platform language defining marriage as between a man and a woman and statements opposing abortion.

Congratulations to Log Cabin Nevada and others who have been working for a long time on this issue.

UPDATE: The Washington Times has inexplicably dropped the story, it seems. But the Las Vegas Review-Journal gave the following detail:

By a show of hands, convention-goers adopted the platform as proposed by a separate committee without the two planks on marriage and abortion, following the Clark County GOP’s lead in removing hot-button social issues from the party’s statement of its principles. Some 520 delegates attended the convention, but less than half were present when the platform was adopted at about 7:30 p.m. Little debate preceded the vote, a far contrast to earlier in day.

State party Chairman Michael McDonald said it was a successful convention at the end of the day.

“I think it was about inclusion, not exclusion,” McDonald said, referring to the platform. “This is where the party is going.”

Republicans who sat on the platform committee said they decided not to deal with social issues this year because the U.S. Supreme Court and lower courts have weighed in and it doesn’t make sense for the party of “personal freedom” to have the government or the political party get involved in people’s personal lives.

“The issue was how can we back out of people’s personal lives,” said Dave Hockaday of Lyon County, who sat on the platform committee. “We need to focus on issues where we can have an impact.”

NYT features gay GOP Pennsylvania Rep.

Timothy Kincaid

September 28th, 2013

Frank Bruni’s New York Times op-ed on rural Pennsylvania GOP Representative Mike Fleck:

At the end of last year, he announced that his marriage of 10 years was over. And that he’s gay.

Plenty of people figured that he’d exit state politics after that. But on Monday he’ll announce his campaign for a fifth term. This time, it will almost certainly be a campaign, with rivals and an uncertain outcome, hinging on whether he can persuade his constituents that he’s the same politician they embraced before, the same man, apart from a reality owned up to, a truth embraced.

Their acceptance or rejection of that will be an unusually clear-cut referendum on attitudes about homosexuality in rural America, or at least in this verdant stretch of the heartland about 75 miles west of the state capital of Harrisburg. Fleck, 40, hasn’t changed his position on issues like gun control, of which he’s skeptical. (He owns a pistol, two rifles, one muzzleloader and 10 other firearms.) He didn’t come out of the closet in a swirl of scandal. There was no news about an intern, no talk of an affair. He just came out, because his marriage had unraveled, because the toll of staying in was too steep and because he saw an opportunity to challenge the bigotry in his community by presenting its residents with something that he certainly never saw when he was growing up here, an openly gay man who doesn’t conform to the sorts of stereotypes that are especially prevalent far away from metropolitan areas.

Arizona group to put marriage back on ballot

Timothy Kincaid

June 19th, 2013

Should the Supreme Court of the United States fail to make a broad ruling on marriage equality (and few think they will) a group in Arizona is getting ready to put the issue back on the 2014 ballot. (AZ Central)

If that happens, a new political group, Equal Marriage Arizona, will jump into action.

The group filed paperwork Monday with the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office to begin gathering signatures for a ballot initiative to redefine marriage as “a union of two persons.” The initiative also includes a clause stating that religious organizations or individuals cannot be required to officiate a marriage if they have religious objections.

The group’s co-chairs, Phoenix Libertarian businessman Warren Meyer and retired Tucson attorney Erin Ogletree Simpson, chairwoman of the Log Cabin Republicans of Arizona, said they will begin collecting the required 259,213 signatures as soon as the Supreme Court rules. They have until July 3, 2014.

The initiative has the support of former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party’s nominee in 2012 and the leaders claim that they have commitments for funding. They are currently looking for a Democratic co-chair.

A whole new reason to support equality

Timothy Kincaid

April 9th, 2013

I’ll admit that this is not the first thing I think of when I ponder marriage inequality. But any injustice is worth fighting. (LATimes)

A Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts who supports gay marriage has asked the Federal Election Commission to determine whether gay couples have the right to make joint contributions to political candidates.

In a request for an advisory opinion Friday, attorneys for state Rep. Dan Winslow, a moderate Republican running in a special election to fill the seat vacated by Secretary of State John F. Kerry, asked the commission whether gay couples could donate to his campaign with a single check, as heterosexual married couples were allowed to do.

In heterosexual families, if wifey is the breadwinner, both her and hubby can contribute to the candidate of their choice using just one income. But if wifey’s spouse is a woman, then federal election law steps in and says “you ain’t really married; you’re just skim-milk married; you can only give half as much.”

So Winslow has teamed up with Log Cabin to have DOMA questioned in an area most of us haven’t thought of. And due to his election deadline, he’s asked for expedited ruling.

And while this may seem a bit, well, non-essential, it’s actually quite important that election law not discriminate against those who support equality.

Log Cabin speaks to the Colorado Republicans

Timothy Kincaid

February 11th, 2013

Alexander Hornaday, Vice-President of the Colorado Log Cabin Republicans, spoke some truth to Colorado’s Republican legislators. They mostly chose to ignore his warning, but it is, nevertheless, something they needed to hear.

The tide has moved on this issue, and it’s not just Coloradans generally who are reconsidering their past opposition, it’s many Republicans too. I am not the only Republican here offering support. Mr. Nicolais already testified to the support in the Colorado Republican Convention for civil unions. A month earlier at the Denver Republican Assembly, for which I also serve as treasurer, 56% of delegates voted to support civil unions.

Look at our young Republicans. Yesterday the Colorado Federation of College Republicans reaffirmed its support for civil unions, and gosh, until it became cost prohibitive the Denver Metro Young Republicans met at Hamburger Mary’s, a gay bar! Most striking, though, is that with the possible exception of a few primary races, opposition to civil unions did not prove to be electorally useful for Republicans. In the General Election it was quite the opposite, in fact.

Only one Republican Senator voted for civil unions. But those who opposed did so mostly quietly and any outcry has mostly been a whimper. They know he’s right.

Cuz when it comes down to it, we are all fighting for equality

Timothy Kincaid

January 18th, 2013

R. Clark Cooper (left) and Joe Jervis (right). Photo by Phil Reese

Joe Jervis, of Joe.My.God, and Clark Cooper, former head of Log Cabin Republicans don’t see eye to eye on much. One is a fierce fighter for progressive causes and the other a defender of conservative principles. But while they may not agree on how to get there – or even what “there” looks like – both are battling for a day when Americans, irrespective of sexual orientation, are equal under the law.

Sometimes it’s nice to remember that. And that while they may differ, both are gay men, part of a greater LGBT community, and – most importantly – human.

Former LCR Member Criticizes Anti-Hagel Ads

Jim Burroway

January 9th, 2013

First, an introduction is in order. From the tag line:

Berin Szoka, a technology policy analyst based in Washington, was a D.C. delegate candidate for the 2008 GOP national convention, and was, until recently, an active member of the D.C. Log Cabin Republicans.

He was also a Ron Paul supporter. He’s also president of TechFreedom, an advocacy group which appears to lobby against regluations on technology and privacy concerns. Here’s a small part of why he says he quit LCR:

Keeping the controversy over Hagel’s comments alive gives some Democrats a convenient excuse for opposing Hagel: Can he be trusted to implement repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?” That reform is one of the few wins progressives can claim from a president they see as disappointingly “center-right.” So it’s the perfect wedge issue for attacking Hagel’s left flank while rallying conservatives — provided it comes from the right messenger: gay Republicans.

Craven as that is, it’s even more of a stretch for Log Cabin, which hasn’t exactly been tough on gay rights. Mitt Romney opposed DADT repeal, marriage equality, employment non-discrimination and essentially every other gay issue Log Cabin stands for — yet Log Cabin still endorsed him, albeit in a “qualified” way. Now they oppose Hagel, who’s said he’s “fully supportive of ‘open service’ and committed to LGBT military families” — the only gay issues a secretary of Defense actually handles. That bizarre double standard will frustrate what should be Log Cabin’s top goal: encouraging Republicans to improve on gay rights — precisely as Hagel’s done.

Log Cabin’s Romney endorsement declared that “building a stronger, more inclusive Republican Party requires Republicans reaching out to Republicans.” Apparently, that tolerance doesn’t extend to Republicans who believe that, in foreign policy, discretion is the better part of valor. That’s why I’ve quit Log Cabin, an organization I’ve been involved with for a decade and whose annual D.C. holiday party my partner and I used to host.

Log Cabin Republicans Place Full Page Ad in “The Hill” Promoting Marriage Equality

Jim Burroway

January 9th, 2013

Click to enlarge.

The smaller print reads:

Log Cobin Republicans applauds those Republican Members of Congress who have signed on to the Respect for Marriage Act and urges other Republicans to follow their lead. To be the party of limited government, individual liberty, and fiscal responsibility, the Republican Party must stop standing in the way of caring adults building a family and a life together. A full 53 percent of Americans now support the freedom to marry. It’s time for Republicans to stop spending taxpayer money defending DOMA and start defending the right of All Americans to pursue happiness with the person they love.

The two GOP members of Congress who have signed on as co-sponsors of the Respect for Marriage Act are Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY).

This is the third full-page ad taken out by the Log Cabin Republicans in as many weeks, with the first two, in The New York Times and The Washington Post, attacking President Barack Obama’s nomination of Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) for defense secretary. The Hill is a special interest paper aimed at politicians, staff, and political pundits. For comparison purposes, here are the circulation figures for the three papers:

New York Times full-page ads run in the neighborhood of $100K. I would presume that the ad rates for the other papers are roughly proportionate to their circulation figures.

 

The Discussion That Wasn’t

A commentary

Jim Burroway

January 8th, 2013

It’s official. Yesterday, President Barack Obama formally nominated former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) for Secretary of Defense. Obama’s announcement recounted Hagel’s qualifications: an enlisted Purple Heart veteran of the Vietnam War, Veterans Administration deputy administrator during the Reagan Administration, and serving on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Intelligence Committee in the Senate. He voted for the Iraq War, but became a vocal critic as the war’s execution was bungled by the Bush administration, something that people who have actually served in combat tend to do, much to the annoyance to those who convinced themselves they knew what they were doing. After retiring in 2009, he became chair of Obama’s Intelligence Advisory Board, a move which the GOP sees as traitorous on par with Tokyo Rose. I don’t see how anyone can say he’s unfit to be Defense Secretary. They may disagree with him on policy — or Obama’s policies, more specifically — but we had an entire election where we got to debate those policies and Obama won. So here we are.

But there is that thing about Hagel’s anti-gay record, and it’s not a small thing. A full recap is in order, and this time I want to go over the full context rather than relying on drive-by pull-quotes. Let’s start at the beginning.

Hagel vs. Hormel, 1998
Fourteen years ago, President Bill Clinton nominated James Hormel as ambassador to Luxembourg. Senate Republicans, led by Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) immediately set about blocking his nomination. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) was just one of many Senators on both sides of the aisle to express their concern for the appointment. Those expressions ranged from mild to wild, with Hagel staking out the wilder side. On July 3, 1998, Hagel expressed his concern to the Omaha World-Herald this way:

Ambassadorial posts are sensitive, Hagel explained.

“They are representing America,” he said. “They are representing our lifestyle, our values, our standards. And I think it is an inhibiting factor to be gay — openly aggressively gay like Mr. Hormel — to do an effective job.”

Hagel noted a documentary, filmed with money Hormel donated, that showed teachers how they could teach children about homosexuality. He said he had seen another video clip that showed Hormel at what Hagel called an anti-Catholic event in San Francisco, featuring the “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence,” a group of male drag queens.

“It is very clear on this tape that he’s laughing and enjoying the antics of an anti-Cathloic gay group in this gay parade,” Hagel said. “I think it’s wise for the president not to go forward with this nomination.”

Over the years Hormel, a former dean of the Chicago Law School, has given money to civil-rights groups, colleges, symphonies, and to groups fighting autism, breast cancer and AIDS. Hormel listed the contributions in a letter to a supporter, Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore. In the letter, Hormel said he provided “minor” support for the teacher documentary and had no control over its content.

The Log Cabin Republicans, a gay group, says the videotape from the San Francisco event resulted when men dressed as nuns walked past a broadcast booth where Hormel, a well-known civic leader in the city, was giving an interview to a local reporter.

Hormel’s homosexuality is not the problem, say Hagel and other opponents of the nomination. It’s his openness about being gay and his advocacy of some causes, they say.

Hagel, meanwhile, said a homosexual should not necessarily be disqualified from all ambassadorships.

His approach to nominees, he said, has been to examine the person’s qualifications first. The United States has had gay ambassadors in the past and gays in the military, who have done well by quietly adopting the Pentagon’s current “don’t ask, don’t tell” attitude.

Hormel, however, has gone beyond that, Hagel said.

He “very aggressively told the world of his gayness and the funding and all the things he’s been involved in. I think you do go beyond common sense there, and reason and a certain amount of decorum,” Hagel said.

“If you send an ambassador abroad with a cloud of controversy hanging over him, then I think it’s unfair to our country, it’s unfair to the host country and it’s unfair to the ambassador because the effectiveness of that individual is going to be seriously curtailed. That’s just a fact of life. And I believe Hormel’s situation is one of those.”

It’s important to remember the context in 1998, when any kind of pro-gay gesture was fodder for anti-gay prejudice, whether it was attending a Pride parade — regardless of whether drag queens and Sisters were there or not — or suggesting that a discussion about the issues of LGBT youth. Fourteen years ago, those were areas that even our supporters feared to tread, and more often than not, they would inoculate themselves by bemoaning Pride parades and assuring a jittery public that nobody would come within a thousand miles of their children with material that might suggest that having two moms or experiencing “funny” feelings might be something to talk about.

I say that not to excuse or exonerate Hagel. Instead, it goes to show how powerful a cudgel Hagel wielded when he made those remarks to the World-Herald. That was in 1998, and Hagel would spend the next ten years in the Senate opposing nearly every pro-gay measure, racking up a very nearly perfect zero score on the Human Rights Campaign’s congressional scorecard. There were two exceptions: Hagel supported reauthorization of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which included an end to Jesse Helms’s cherished AIDS travel ban. That nudged his HRC score off of zero for 2007-2008, even though I’m unclear about whether he voted for it because of, despite, or with indifference to the lifting of the travel ban. The second exception was a bit smaller: He voted for the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2004, but didn’t cast a vote in 2006. Soon after, he voiced his opposition to the FMA, earning this rebuke from Focus On the Family.

But before we continue, it is important to note a few more things about Hagel’s term as Senator. LGBT issues aside (and his record in that area was deplorable), Hagel had earned a reputation as a moderate in the Senate. Those positions in today’s GOP would have made him a traitor, but just ten short years ago, when Hagel criticized the war in Iraq and the Bush Administration’s “war on terrorism” rhetoric as needlessly alarmist, and criticized the prison on Guantanamo as the reason the U.S. was “losing the image war around the world,” questioning things that were going wrong wasn’t yet a crime against nature. He voted against “No Child Left Behind”, but supported President Bush with the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006, which would have provided a pathway to residency and citizenship for undocumented immigrants who have been in the country for five years. During Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) 2008 run for president, he floated Hagel’s name as someone who would make a good Secretary of State for a McCain Administration.

Hagel v. Hormel, 2012
Since Hagel’s retirement on January 3, 2009, he has stayed mostly out of the limelight, only to re-emerge over the past year or so. In 2011, he said that there was the Defense Department is “bloated”, and said that diplomats should, you know, engage in diplomacy, with Iran and Hamas. He now is being criticized for having said things like, “I’m not an Israeli senator. I’m a United States senator” — a statement that wasn’t nearly as controversial just a few short years ago in the GOP as it is today. He also, inelegantly, said that the “Jewish” lobby has too much influence. If he had said “Israeli lobby” instead, he would have been more accurate, but I don’t think it would have shielded him from accusations of being an anti-Semite since the dominant GOP trend now is to show what a strong “friend of Israel” you are by never contradicting Netanyahu on anything. In 2012, he endorsed Democrat Bob Kerrey in the race for an open U.S. Senate seat in Nebraska, and you just know that didn’t go over very well with fellow Republicans either.

So when rumors began to circulate that President Barack Obama was thinking about nominating Hagel for Defense Secretary, the knives were already out. Meanwhile, the LGBT community remembered Hagel’s comments to the Omaha World-Herald in 1998, a rediscovery which reopened a lot of old wounds in the LGBT community. HRC’s Chad Griffin said on December 20, “Senator Hagel’s unacceptable comments about gay people, coupled with his consistent anti-LGBT record in Congress, raise serious questions about where he stands on LGBT equality today.” Hagel moved quickly to try to put out that fire with this short statement to Politico on December 21:

My comments 14 years ago in 1998 were insensitive. They do not reflect my views or the totality of my public record, and I apologize to Ambassador Hormel and any LGBT Americans who may question my commitment to their civil rights. I am fully supportive of ‘open service’ and committed to LGBT military families.”

Naturally, given the timing and brevity of Hagel’s statement, Hormel’s initial reaction was negative:

“I have not received an apology,” Hormel, who is a major figure in Democratic politics, told me. “I thought this so-called apology, which I haven’t received, but which was made public, had the air of being a defensive move on his part.” Hormel added that the apology appeared to have been given “only in service of his attempt to get the nomination.”

But a few hours later, after Hormel had a chance to think it over, he issued this statement accepting Hagel’s apology and supporting his nomination:

Senator Hagel’s apology is significant–I can’t remember a time when a potential presidential nominee apologized for anything. While the timing appears self-serving, the words themselves are unequivocal–they are a clear apology. Since 1998, fourteen years have passed, and public attitudes have shifted–perhaps Senator Hagel has progressed with the times, too. His action affords new stature to the LGBT constituency, whose members still are treated as second class citizens in innumerable ways. Senator Hagel stated in his remarks that he was willing to support open military service and LGBT military families. If that is a commitment to treat LGBT service members and their families like everybody else, I would support his nomination.

As Hormel says, there has been a huge shift in public opinion since 1998. Actually, you don’t have to go back that far to see a strong shift. You only have to go back to 2008, the year that Hagel voted to rescind the HIV travel ban but voiced support for DADT, and the year that he retired from the Senate. That same year, Californians voted 52.2% to 47.8% to strip gays and lesbians of their right to marry. Voters in Arizona and Florida also enshrined discrimination into their state constitutions. In 2009, Maine voters rejected a bill granting same-sex marriage by 52.9% to 47.1%.

But three short years later, in 2012, Maine voters reversed themselves on the same question by very nearly the same margin, 52.7% to 47.3%. Voters in Washington and Maryland — with substantial support even from GOP voters — also approved marriage equality bills, and Minnesota voters rejected an attempt to deface their constitution with discrimination. In that same short time span, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed with bipartisan support; the New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire legislatures enacted marriage equality, also with bipartisan support; former Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA), who had authored the “Defense of Marriage Act,” came out for DOMA’s repeal; and two current GOP representatives are cosponsoring a bill to do just that.

That represents a huge sea change in LGBT politics in just four years. Of course, not all Republicans are participating in that change. Among elected officials and party activists, the vast majority are not, as evidenced by what was perhaps the GOP’s most overtly homophobic platform in history. But taken together, that represents an extraordinarily wide spectrum within the Republican Party, with people like Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL, and a vice chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus) on one end and Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-TX, retrograde) on the other. It’s safe to say that Hagel falls somewhere within that very wide spectrum, but exactly where he is we don’t know.

Unwarranted Attacks
And the way things are shaping up, few of our so-called “advocates” are interested in finding out. I can’t think of another context in which a politician who had previously had a pretty solid anti-gay voting record and who had, just a few short years later, voiced support LGBT Americans’ civil rights — and those were his words — only to have everyone evaluate that transformation not in terms of what it means for LGBT Americans, but strictly through the lens of unrelated politics. And in this case, it seems to be politics related to whether Israel or America determines American foreign policy. At least that’s how Log Cabin Republicans appear to have framed the issue. When rumors first began circulating that Hagel was being considered for Defense Secretary, L. Clarke Cooper responded on December 14:

Speaking for himself and not for LCR, Cooper wrote in an email, “I recall working with Senator Chuck Hagel and his staff during the Bush administration and he was certainly not shy about expressing his criticisms. But despite his criticisms, Hagel voted with us most of the time and there was no question he was committed to advancing America’s interests abroad. As for his nomination to be secretary of defense, it is well worth noting that Senator Hagel is a combat veteran who has hands-on experience in the field. The battlefield is not just theory for him.”

The timeline here is important because it helps to provide context. Cooper voiced this support for Hagel after reports were circulating about his 1998 comments to the Omaha World-Herald and before Hagel apologized for those comments. Which means that Cooper was defending Hagel despite Hagel’s comments from 1998.

LCR’s mission, according to its own web page, is “to build a stronger, more inclusive Republican Party” while adhering to what LCR calls the party’s “core values.” And so when a previously anti-gay politician utters words which indicate a shift away from exclusion towards inclusion, one might think that an organization which claims to promote inclusion would want to encourage that. You know, something like this:

Hey, we’re glad you came around. We’re glad you apologized. It’s a really good start, but we’d like to know more. What changed? Why did you change? And that thing you said, about your commitment to our civil rights. This is the first time you’ve said anything like that. Can you tell us more? Which of our civil rights are you committed to? And that thing about LGBT military families: that’s an important issue that’s still unresolved. Thanks for noticing. What issues to you think you can resolve for them? Where do we go from here?

LCR’s Hagel Ad in The New York Times, December 27, 2012. (Click to enlarge.)

There are so many things LCR could have done, and it appeared that based on what Cooper said before Hagel apologized, LCR was in the perfect position to carry out what it claims to be its mission. Bizarrely, Log Cabin Republicans did exactly the opposite. After Hagel issued his apology, Log Cabin Republicans placed an expensive, full-page ad in the December 27 edition of the New York Times quoting from Hagel’s 1998 comments — as though his more recent statement had never been uttered — and tied their opposition to Hagel to Israel and Iran. And as icing on the cake, they called the man who, for the first time in his career recognized “LGBT Americans’ civil rights” by using those very words, “Wrong on Gay Rights.”

Bizarre, I know. But then, this is the same organization who endorsed a presidential candidate who signed on to the National Organization for Marriage’s five-point plan to destroy LGBT Americans’ civil rights. What can I say but “Exclusion wins!”

Oh, and Israel! Iran! Wherever that came from.

LCR’s Hagel Ad in The Washington Post, January 7, 2013. (Click to enlarge.)

LCR doubled down yesterday with another expensive full-page ad in the Washington Post. This time, they made it all about the gays, leaving the Middle East out of it. But of course, in the context of the greater GOP opposition, LCR has already shown their hand with The Times ad. In this ad, they claim to examine Hagel’s anti-gay record — except, of course, they left out his 2006 change of heart on the FMA because that inconvenient fact interrupts their narrative. (If you recall, that would be the very same position on FMA that LCR explicitly cited when they endorsed McCain for president in 2008.) And in a particularly juvenile move, LCR decided to acknowledge Hagel’s brief apology by crossing their arms, stomping their feet and shrieking “Too little, too late“. Seriously. That’s the concluding line they stamped across the bottom of their ad. It’s a fine retort for a first-grader, but not from mature adults who claim that they want to actually accomplish something.

If this is how LCR slams people who make a move towards inclusion while rewarding presidential candidates who really do want to turn back the clock on our civil rights, then they’ve pretty much sent the message to everyone in the GOP that they may as well stay right where they were in 1998.

Unearned Embraces
If LCR represents one cynical extreme with its irrational reaction to Hagel’s statements, then thank goodness we still have the Human Rights Campaign around to remind us about its well-earned reputation for being too cozy with Democratic politics.

HRC’s mission, according to their web page, is “to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.” And so when a previously anti-gay politician utters words which indicate a tentative shift away from discrimination and towards fairness and equality, one might think that an organization which claims to promote those values might want to seize the initiative and try to elicit some kind of a follow-up to Hagel’s three sentence statement. Obviously Hagel’s apology raises far more questions than it answers. If that’s all he has to say on the subject, than I don’t think anyone with a shred of self-respect would accept it as a final word. After all, contrary to Hagel’s assurances LGBT Americans do have plenty of good reasons to question Hagel’s commitment to their civil rights. Those reasons can be found in his own record.

And so, you might think that HRC, given their mission, might want to say something to encourage Hagel to clarify what he meant. Something along the lines of–

Hey, we’re glad you came around. We’re glad you apologized. It’s a really good start, but we’d like to know more. What changed? Why did you change? And that thing you said, about your commitment to our civil rights. This is the first time you’ve said anything like that. Can you tell us more? Which of our civil rights are you committed to? And that thing about LGBT military families: that’s an important issue that’s still unresolved. Thanks for noticing. What issues to you think you can resolve for them? Where do we go from here?

You know, the same kinds of questions that LCR could have raised.

But no. The ink was barely dry on Hagel’s apology when we got this instead:

Senator Hagel’s apology and his statement of support for LGBT equality is appreciated and shows just how far as a country we have come when a conservative former Senator from Nebraska can have a change of heart on LGBT issues,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “Our community continues to add allies to our ranks and we’re proud that Senator Hagel is one of them.”

Nothing more to talk about here. Forget everything you remembered about him. He’s our pal now, and there’s no need to worry our pretty little heads over him anymore.

True, it’s much better than kicking Hagel to the curb. But it’s a far cry from anything that would remotely resemble clarity, let alone accountability. HRC has declared the subject closed and there’s nothing more to talk about.

There is a silver lining though: at least they didn’t spend a couple hundred grand on that message.

Where Do We Go From Here?
But the conversation isn’t over. It’s barely even started. And so let me close with two statement which, I think, strike the right balance and invites Hagel to expand on his all-too-brief statement. And of all places, the first one comes from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, an organization that is often criticized for diluting their efforts across a wide array of non-LGBT issues. In 2012, the NGLTF even went so far as to claim “synergy” between same-sex marriage and an attempt to add casino gambling in Maryland. But on the Hagel nomination, the NGLTF gets it mostly right:

“We continue to express our concerns about the nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense due to his poor track record on LGBT equality and reproductive rights. Cabinet choices set the tone for an administration and it is critical that those members support fairness, women’s health and the belief in a level playing field for all. Though Chuck Hagel has recently apologized for past anti-gay remarks, we expect him to fully explain his views during the confirmation process and what steps he intends to take as defense secretary to demonstrate his support for LGBT members of the military and their families. We recognize that people do evolve on these issues and we hold out hope that, if confirmed, Hagel will meet the bar set by other cabinet secretaries and the administration when it comes to ensuring fairness for all LGBT military families and for women in the military.”

And the second one comes from Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), who said this to MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell:

“I do not know Chuck Hagel…I do want to speak with him, particularly about his comments 14 years ago, to see if his apology is sincere and sufficient. I want to hear how he’s evolved on this issue in the the last 14 years because the significance to the post to which he’s been nominated is the respect for now openly gay members of the military who because of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell can serve openly and we need to see that implemented successfully…”

Both statements strike a good balance, neither damning Hagel as irredeemable nor embracing him as though he has nothing left to answer for. Because the fact remains that he may yet become a good ally, and we’d be foolish to slam the door on that possibility. But we’d be equally foolish to pretend that our legitimate doubts about his commitment to our civil rights either don’t exist or don’t matter.

Log Cabin’s new director

Timothy Kincaid

January 7th, 2013

As of January 2, Log Cabin Republicans has had a new (interim) Executive Director, Gregory Angelo. He served as head of the New York State chapter of Log Cabin during the fight for marriage in that state.

Mr. Angelo is the current Chairman of Log Cabin Republicans of New York State, a position he has held since 2009. As New York State Chairman, Mr. Angelo led Log Cabin Republicans as part of New Yorkers United for Marriage, a coalition that collaborated to make marriage equality legal through legislative vote for the first time in a Republican-controlled legislature. He is also the Executive Director of the Liberty Education Forum, a non-partisan think tank that advocates a message of gay acceptance among conservatives and people of faith throughout the United States. Mr. Angelo is a longtime resident of Manhattan, where he serves as a GOP District Leader. He was an Alternate Delegate for Newt Gingrich in the 2012 election cycle.

That last sentence is a bit of an eyebrow raiser and is either a very good thing or a very bad one.

If Angelo played a role in Gingrich’s evolution on marriage equality, then he is an ideal choice for leading the organization. If however, the change was unrelated and Angelo supported him despite his deplorable record without any awareness of his newer perspectives, then I have to question his wisdom and commitment to changing the Republican Party.

Log Cabin doubles down on Hagel

Timothy Kincaid

January 7th, 2013

Click to enlarge.

Log Cabin Republicans has released a second full page ad, this time in the Washington Post, criticizing the record of Chuck Hagel, former Republican Senator from Nebraska. Hagel will be formally nominated later today by the President for the position of Secratary of Defense.

This ad was limited to gay issues and addressed the “totality” of Hagel’s record (from LCR press release):

• In 1996 Hagel said he supported the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law defining marriage as one man and one woman. He also supported a state constitutional amendment barring gays from marrying.
• In 1998 Hagel opposed the nomination of James Hormel as Ambassador to Luxembourg, arguing that an “openly, aggressively gay” man should not selected to represent the U.S.
• In 1999 Hagel Opposed repealing the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, saying, “the U.S. armed forces aren’t some social experiment.”
• In 2005, in reaction to a federal judge’s ruling that Nebraska’s voter-passed ban on same-sex marriage violated the constitutional rights of lesbians and gay men, Hagel opposed the decision saying, “I am hopeful the federal appeals court will recognize the rights of Nebraskans to determine their own laws governing marriage and reverse this decision.”

Log Cabin Republicans Loses Its Last Shred of Credibility

A commentary.

Jim Burroway

December 30th, 2012

And in the process, they have gone all-in on political hack-dom.

Last Thursday, the GOP advocacy group — they are no longer a GOP LGBT advocacy group — took out a full page ad in The New York Times attacking former Sen. Chuck Hagel’s (R-NE) possible nomination as Defense Secretary to succeed Leon Panetta, who is expected to step down soon.  LCR’s ad calls Hagel “Wrong on Gay Rights, Wrong on Iran, Wrong on Israel.” It comes to that conclusion after quoting Hagel’s 1998 denunciation of openly gay James Hormel as US Ambassador to Luxembourg and implores readers to donate to LCR so that they can “create a stronger and more inclusive Republican Party.”

Oh, and to tell Obama that Hagel is “wrong for Defense Secretary.”

As Timothy Kincaid noted, there are a number of very good reasons to be concerned about a possible Defense Secretary Hagel, most of which I share. Hagel attacked Hormel for being incapable of “representing our lifestyle, our values, our standards” because “it is an inhibiting factor to be gay — openly, aggressively gay.” Whatever that was supposed to mean. Hagel’s attack on Hormel stood for more than fourteen years through debates over marriage, DOMA, and DADT repeal — which incidentally a Secretary Hagel would oversee its continued implementation. Hagel supported DADT up until his retirement in 2009, although he now says that he is “pro-ending” DADT. His belated apology notwithstanding — for being “insensitive” rather than for being wrong — I find him a troublesome choice for Defense Secretary.

Log Cabin Republicans find him problematic as well, and they’ve spent an incredible amount of scratch to say so. Believe it or not, but after a highly contentious election year, they just happened to find that they had somewhere in the neighborhood of a hundred grand that was till laying around in their coffers to put towards a full-page ad in The New York Times.

That’s an incredible amount of money to tell everyone that Hagel is “wrong on gay rights.” Especially when it comes only two months after LCR decided that Mitt Romney was the right choice “for our members, our community, and for the nation as a whole” — despite Romney’s running on the most homophobic platform in GOP history and his  personal endorsement for NOM’s five-point attack plan against the LGBT community.

It’s time to face simple facts. Log Cabin Republicans is no longer an LGBT rights group. At one time, they were. They withheld their endorsement of President George Bush in 2004 because he called for the passage of the Federal Marriage Amendment, and they endorsed John McCain in 2008 partly because he opposed the Federal Marriage Amendment. They also sued the federal government in court over the constitutionality of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” That is what accountability and advocacy used to look like for gay Republicans within the GOP.

But this year, LCR endorsed Romney for holding exactly the same policies as Bush, while Hagel gets a full-page attack ad over fourteen-year-old comments — for which Hagel at least managed to muster some kind of a half-hearted apology, which, as weak as it was, is still far better than anything we’ve heard out of Romney.

And what makes the LCR’s actions all the more unbelievable is that just two weeks ago, when Hagel’s comments were first coming to light, LCR Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper was singing his praises:

Speaking for himself and not for LCR, Cooper wrote in an email,  “I recall working with Senator Chuck Hagel and his staff during the Bush administration and he was certainly not shy about expressing his criticisms. But despite his criticisms, Hagel voted with us most of the time and there was no question he was committed to advancing America’s interests abroad. As for his nomination to be secretary of defense, it is well worth noting that Senator Hagel is a combat veteran who has hands-on experience in the field. The battlefield is not just theory for him.”

Anyone can hold some unbelievably inconsistent positions, and many of us do. But LCR is putting some serious muscle behind its sterling silver forked tongue. According to tax returns filed at Guidestar (registration required), LCR’s annual revenue amounts to something in the neighborhood of $800,000, while a full-page ad at the New York Times can run in excess of $100,000.  Which means that LCR doesn’t just hold a glaringly inconsistent position, they purchased their double-platinum double standard at the cost of upwards of an eight of their annual budget.

Or so they would have us believe. Which, frankly, I find preposterous. To believe that, I would have to swallow the idea that in the closing days of an election year, this particular political organization still had an eighth of its budget unspent. Really? Nobody has that much money laying around at the end of the year. But LCR did. Or, more likely, the necessary funds just happened to materialize right at the moment when it was needed to cover LCR’s highest priority as of last week.

All of this raises some very legitimate questions about what kind of an organization the Log Cabin Republicans really is. We know they don’t give a shit about the LGBT community; they amply demonstrated that two months ago. They are now just using “gay rights” as just another angle to support the broader Party Line, whatever the Party Line is. And that Party Line is to support Party Causes, Party Campaigns and Party People, regardless of whatever their actual positions on gay rights happens to be. If it means supporting The Party’s anti-gay presidential candidate, then shut up and get in line. If it means providing cover for The Party’s opposition to a somewhat less anti-gay turncoat who would dare to work in a Democratic administration, then here’s a boatload of cash to do it with. Gay rights? Shmay rights! As long as it provides cover for The Party’s larger goals.

As a postscript: It’s worth noting that on the day after that the LCR ad appeared in The New York Times, the LCR board announced that Cooper was stepping down as Executive Director effective Dec 30. Their Party Line is that Cooper made that decision last October.

Longtime Log Cabin Republican Members Resign Over Romney Endorsement

Jim Burroway

October 31st, 2012

Kevin and Don Norte have been Log Cabin Republican members for about a decade, with Kevin winning a “Grassroots Leadership Award” from the group in 2009. Kevin has served as California trustee and Don was on the board of the L.A. chapter. They have invested quite a lot in the organization, but the national organizations endorsement of Gov. Mitt Romney two weeks ago was something they couldn’t accept:

But on Oct. 25, Kevin and Don tweeted from their joint Twitter account that they were leaving the group: “@LogCabinGOP Please accept our resignation from #LogCabin effective immediately.” The reason? The group’s endorsement of Mitt Romney.

“Leaving them is kind of like a divorce,” Kevin said sadly in an interview with The Huffington Post that night.

…”If we have Romney in office, he’ll get the Department of Justice to keep DOMA upheld,” added Kevin. “Obama’s position is to the contrary. I can’t support somebody who wants to destroy my family.”

“I’m at a point where I just can’t put myself with [the LCR] anymore because of what their positions are on marriage. They act like it’s not important anymore,” agreed Don.

LCR’s Pick responds

Timothy Kincaid

October 24th, 2012

Log Cabin staffer Casey Pick responds to the, ummm, colorful comments directed towards that organization and attempts to portray Romney in a less hostile light.

I knew what we were in for when Log Cabin Republicans made the decision to issue a qualified endorsement in favor of Mitt Romney for president. Congressman Barney Frank gave us a taste of it this summer, turning abusing gay Republicans into his personal crusade since the Democratic National Convention, with many liberals eager to take up his battle cry of “Uncle Tom.”

I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve been called a “Jew for Hitler” since the announcement, and certain “gay rights activists” have gone so far as to threaten physical violence if a Log Cabin Republican dares to show his or her face at a gay bar this weekend. We’ve even heard rumors of a bounty.

As too often happens, the bullied have become bullies themselves. The irony is that many of these same individuals often demand to know how Log Cabin Republicans can stand to be part of a political party that “hates” us.

Thankfully, there are also many in our community who, though they may disagree with our position, do recognize that bipartisan effort is necessary to winning equality for all. No matter who is in the White House, it is crucial that our community always has a credible voice speaking out on behalf of LGBT Americans. Log Cabin Republicans will be that voice to President Mitt Romney.

But while we considered many factors in our deliberations, the response from our critics was not one of them. Simply by being LGBT Republicans, there are some people we know we will never please -– no matter how many GOP voteswe secured to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” or how strong of a stand we take for the freedom to marry.

Our priorities were to represent our membership, further our mission of building a more inclusive Republican Party, and above all, stand for what we believe is in our nation’s best interests. We are proud Republicans, and we are proudly pro-equality, but we are proud to be Americans first. Especially after the economic crisis of the last four years, it is our firm conviction that the United States is in dire need of new leadership, leadership that Governor Romney is well suited to provide.

Observing the onslaught of hostility, it is apparent that too many in the LGBT community are laboring under a misperception of who Governor Romney is. As we said in our endorsement statement, Mitt Romney is not Rick Santorum.

Mitt Romney is the candidate who, when asked in a primary debate last year, “when’s the last time you stood up and spoke out for increasing gay rights?” answered, “right now.”

Mitt Romney is the candidate who, as a moderate governor of Massachusetts, appointed several openly gay individuals as judges and said “he has not paid a moment’s notice to his nominees’ … sexual orientation.”

Mitt Romney is the candidate who has campaigned on his record as a successful businessman and problem-solver, and whose aversion to running on social issues leaves antigay leaders like Maggie Gallagher frothing with frustration: “gay marriage should be helping put Romney in the White House. Instead, in his consultant-tested messaging, Romney is conveying discomfort with his own position,” she recently wrote.

Contrary to the irresponsible claims of certain activists, Governor Romney has no intention of reinstating “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” or stopping same-sex partners from being able to visit their loved ones in the hospital. Far from a fire-breathing ideologue, Governor Romney is somebody we can work with to improve the lives of LGBT Americans, including on the vital issue of workplace discrimination. And beyond specifically LGBT concerns, Governor Romney has a plan to restart our economy and put America back to work -– something that will benefit us all.

We know this to be true because Log Cabin Republicans know Mitt Romney. We’ve spoken to the man, and worked with his campaign to make this endorsement something more than just a press release, something based on the promise of actual, tangible results if the governor is elected. In response to our endorsement, a campaign spokesperson said, “Gov. Romney is pleased to have the support of the Log Cabin Republicans and looks forward to working together for the future of our country.” That is hardly the reaction of an avowed homophobe.

Governor Romney is not perfect — we know that, and the qualified nature of our endorsement reflects that reality. On the issue of marriage equality, his stated position is offensive to us both as LGBT people and as conservatives who value our nation’s Constitution.

But Log Cabin Republicans believe we should never make the perfect the enemy of the good. We encourage all Americans, especially members of the LGBT community, to get beyond the caricatures, the memes, and the myths. Before you call us crazy –- or worse — take a moment to try and see what we see. It may surprise you.

I’ve tried, Casey, and I’m sorry but I just don’t see your vision of this candidate. I’m truly glad you have a relationship with him, and I think I understand why you endorsed him, but the risks on DOMA and a Justice Department that would oppose my civil rights rather than see them as obvious are just too big a hurdle for me.

And, though you probably won’t agree, I think that four more years of a government that is hostile to business and which sees moving people from the private sector to the public sector as an economic solution just might be a fair punishment to those businesses who have empowered the radical fringe and held gay people hostage. Corporate America sold out to religious extremists and now they have to deal with the fact that this position makes my support impossible.

It’s very simple. If Romney wants my vote, he needs stop courting the vote of those who work tirelessly to keep me inferior.

[Note: Casey Pick’s name was originally incorrectly written as Chris Pick]

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