Posts Tagged As: Log Cabin Republicans
July 19th, 2016
The Log Cabin Republicans have plagarized Donald Trump’s tweets (that’s a joke, people!) for a full-page ad in the Cleveland edition of USA Today in response to yesterday’s adoption by the Republican National Convention of the most anti-LGBT platform in the party’s 162-year history. They explain in a press-release:
“Response from allies to our reaction in the wake of the drafting of this vitriolic anti-LGBT platform has been nothing short of staggering,” Log Cabin Republicans President Gregory T. Angelo stated. “The email sent to our members last week propelled Log Cabin Republicans to the top trend on Facebook for more than two days, and now holds the record as the highest-grossing single fundraising appeal this organization has ever sent. But this was fundraising with a purpose—I’m pleased to share that every last cent donated to Log Cabin Republicans via last week’s email has been spent on this project. This unprecedented support is representative of the GOP I know, and this is the GOP our members want to see.”
The provocative advertisement reads, “LOSERS! MORONS! SAD! No, these aren’t tweets from Donald Trump. This is what common-sense conservatives are saying about the most anti-LGBT platform the Republican Party has ever had. GOP Platform Committee: Out of touch, out of line, and out of step with 61% of young Republicans who favor same-sex marriage.”
“It’s my hope this advertisement will be a wake-up call to the intransigent and ancient voices on the GOP Platform Committee that marriage equality is the law of the land, gay families are a part of the fabric of America, and LGBT Republicans have an important role to play in growing the Party,” Angelo concluded.
July 13th, 2016
On Tuesday morning, the first openly gay member of the Republican Party’s platform committee said she was offering amendments to see “just
According to reports, the platform committee went about as far as they could. The committee voted twice yesterday — exactly one month to the day after the Orlando massacre at the Pulse gay night club — to erase the gays from the worst mass shooting on American soil in a century. For example, under “War on Terrorism,” the platform now reads:
War on Terrorism
We are a nation at war! Islamic extremists have declared war on our Nation and the civilized world. The terrorist’s attack
on the LGBT communityin Orlando on June 12th ads to the long list of hundreds of attacks of war against the United States…
The strike-out “on the LGBT commiunity” was a proposed amendment to the platform which was rejected by the platform committee. That move builds on a predominantly-Republican theme of refusing to say our name. In another statement on “radical Islamic terrorism,” the platform committee rejected a mention of “LGBT individuals, Christians, Jews and women” as being “a target of violence and oppression.”
The New York Times political reporter Jeremy Peters reports: “Jim Bopp, a delegate from Indiana, said the Republican Party had always rejected ‘identity politics.’ Arguing against the measure, he said, ‘Obviously, there’s an agenda here’.” Peters continues:
But nearly every provision that expressed disapproval of homosexuality, same-sex marriage or transgender rights passed. The platform calls for overturning the Supreme Court marriage decision with a constitutional amendment and makes references to appointing judges “who respect traditional family values.”
“Has a dead horse been beaten enough yet?” asked Annie Dickerson, a committee member from New York, who chastised her colleagues for writing language offensive to gays into the platform “again and again and again.”
Additional provisions included those that promoted state laws to limit which restrooms transgender people could use, nodded to “conversion therapy” for gays by saying that parents should be free to make medical decisions about their children without interference and stated that “natural marriage” between a man and a woman is most likely to result in offspring who do not become drug-addicted or otherwise damaged.
The Family “Research” Council’s Tony Perkins, who is a Louisiana delegate to the platform committee, was in a celebratory mood going into yesterday’s final meeting ahead of the convention. In a email blast to supporters:
The marriage plank was strengthened with language explaining why children deserve a mom and dad. Religious liberty text was added protecting businesses and military service members. …
We are also pleased that the party is now on record standing with the 23 states that are suing President Obama over his bathroom & locker room edict. These amendments were overwhelmingly adopted. There were a handful of LGBT activists and sympathizers who opposed language highlighting the privacy and safety concerns related to the president’s locker room decrees as well as the party’s clearly stated view that natural marriage is the cornerstone of society. Some in the media attempted to seize on this as evidence of a divided party. Far from it. My prediction is that Republicans will leave Cleveland with a solid platform and will unite around the party’s nominee for the purpose of saving America for the next generation and beyond.
Log Cabin Republicans were outraged:
There’s no way to sugar-coat this: I’m mad as hell — and I know you are, too.
Moments ago, the Republican Party passed the most anti-LGBT Platform in the Party’s 162-year history.
Opposition to marriage equality, nonsense about bathrooms, an endorsement of the debunked psychological practice of “pray the gay away” — it’s all in there.
This isn’t my GOP, and I know it’s not yours either. Heck, it’s not even Donald Trump’s! When given a chance to follow the lead of our presumptive presidential nominee and reach out to the LGBT community in the wake of the awful terrorist massacre in Orlando on the gay nightclub Pulse, the Platform Committee said NO.
Peters said the platform that emerged from yesterday’s meeting “amounts to a rightward lurch even from the party’s hard-line platform in 2012.” With the public moving steadily toward support for marriage equality and non-discrimination protections for LGBT people, moderate Republicans say they have enough signatures to demand a vote on their proposals to take to fight over the party’s anti-LGBT planks to all 2,475 delegates on the Convention floor, which should make for some compelling must-see TV.
May 20th, 2016
Here’s their press release:
Log Cabin Republicans has sent a letter to Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) demanding full accountability and a public explanation for the unprecedented and likely unparliamentary act yesterday that allowed a pro-LGBT amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to fail.
“During an election year in which voters across the country are crying out because they feel our country’s political system is at best broken and at worst rigged, the sham on the floor of the United States House of Representatives yesterday spearheaded by Leader McCarthy played up everything wrong with congress today,” Log Cabin Republicans President Gregory T. Angelo stated. “Beyond overriding an executive order that existed under President George W. Bush, yesterday’s actions on the House floor defy the repeated promises of House Leadership to operate under regular order and with transparency. Log Cabin Republicans commends the 29 Republicans who refused to succumb to strong-arm tactics and voted for the amendment, and demands those congressmembers who perpetuated this fraudulence be held accountable.”
After House leadership broke their own House rules to orchestrate the defeat of Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY)’s amendment restoring President Barack Obama’s executive order requiring federal to maintain anti-discrimination policies covering sexual orientation and gender identity, Democrats pounced on the seven vote-switchers, three of whom are in particularly vulnerable in tight races, and vowed to make their actions a campaign issue. LCR is also publicizing the those vote-switcher names. In case you missed it, they were Reps. Jeff Denham (R-CA), Greg Walden (R-OR), Mimi Walters (R-CA), David Young (R-IA), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Bruce Poliquin (R-ME), and David Valadao (R-CA).
April 27th, 2015
A compelling argument for equality focused on an erea that I hadn’t noticed: (NY Daily News)
Under federal law, it’s illegal to make a political contribution in the name of someone else or using someone else’s money. This anti-corruption law is specifically designed to preempt individuals who seek to dishonestly circumvent contribution maximums by making a donation under another name.
Married couples are the exception to this rule. Most states — including all four states with marriage bans before the Supreme Court — extend to a husband and wife their own contribution limits, even if only one spouse brings income into the marriage. But committed same-sex couples living in states where their marriage is not recognized do not enjoy the same spousal exemption.
It’s even more unbalanced when a gay candidate runs for office. Her spouse is limited to contributions, just as if she were a stranger, while her opponent can use his wife’s funds as if they were his own.
When marriage equality heads to the Supreme Court, we’ll hear arguments loudly advocating for the supposed states’ rights to settle the marriage debate outside of the courtroom.
This approach places faith in our political system without realizing that the existing same-sex marriage bans hampers the democratic process. In the absence of equal spousal exemptions to campaign finance laws, gay and lesbian men and women are less able to participate politically as donors and as candidates. And as a result, an already marginalized group is further disenfranchised.
March 2nd, 2015
Log Cabin Republicans was founded in 1977 in Southern California to oppose a ballot initiative that would have banned gays and lesbians – and those who supported them – from holding the position of teacher in a California public school. Log Cabin was able to marshal support from what was called ‘country club Republicans’, and eventually, after former GOP Governor Ronald Reagan took a stance in opposition, the Briggs Initiative was defeated by a vote of 58% to 42%.
In the 38 years since that time, Log Cabin has had varying times of success. As the Republican Party turned more and more to social issues and adopted opposition to gay rights as a fundraising and voter rallying point, LCR took an an odd role. Candidates for offices often used the political shorthand of supporting or denouncing Log Cabin to publicly identify with either the right-wing social activist or the fiscal conservative wing of the party.
And Log Cabin grew. First within California and then, in the 90s, into a nationwide organization.
In the beginning, LCR’s position within the community was often welcomed and respected. As co-founders of California’s LIFE Lobby, which provided one of the first full-time gay lobbyists to a state legislature, Log Cabin utilized its perspective and partisan language to appeal to Republican legislators. And Log Cabin forged relationships within other growing national groups.
But over time, national groups began to see themselves as more aligned with progressive ideology and, rather than strictly advancing legislation that dealt with matters impacting gay people, instead saw their place as partners in a progressive movement. As this movement drifted further towards the left side of the Democratic Party, there was less and less commonality with Log Cabin and eventually the organization separated itself from the nominally non-partisan joint efforts.
Log Cabin turned, instead, to a tactic that had been used successfully by social conservatives in the past. They became grassroots activists. Turning to county central committees and structures within the GOP, they sought to influence and change the presumptions of ‘the base’.
And Log Cabin has made visibility within the party a priority, knowing that simply being in the room could change the rhetoric.
Some places they found harsh opposition. The Texas GOP has proudly waved its bigotry and homophobia like a banner. New England was much more welcoming.
In California, the group has had a mixed record. In some years, statewide candidates have been supportive, in others homophobia has ruled the day.
For many years there has been a battle within the state GOP for control of the party and its image. Some wanted the GOP to be a voice for fiscal conservatism and others wanted to champion theocracy. As the latter gained more influence, the party as a whole lost power.
The Legislature has seen a constant decline in GOP representatives as moderates and independents in the state have found the Party’s positions to be harsh and not reflective of their views. Currently Democrats have a super-majority in both the Assembly and the State Senate and the GOP holds no statewide elected office.
In this climate, the statewide party structure has not been historically supportive of the gay group. They have never been banned from visibility in state conventions – and one of the best attended social events has always been the Log Cabin party.
And in several counties, Log Cabin has had chartered recognition and gay Republicans pretty much keep the party going in some places. But access to statewide decision making has been limited.
However over the weekend there came an important change (LA Times)
The Log Cabin Republicans, a 38-year-old organization that had unsuccessfully sought a charter from the state party several times in the past, received the formal imprimatur on a 861-293 vote at the party’s biannual convention in Sacramento.
This is more than just a polite acceptance. As an official part of the structure of the California Republican Party, Log Cabin gains rights and access on the same terms as other volunteer organizations. They now have a vote on the State Central Committee and a voice in establishing party policy.
This move did not come without opposition.
Some opponents said Log Cabin’s proposal was sneaked onto the convention agenda without notice, and that the group violates the party’s by-laws, which forbid the recognition of organizations focused on “lifestyle preferences.”
“The only thing I ask is this body stand on the rules we’ve supported for two decades that say there is a process to change the rules and the bylaws,” Assemblywoman Shannon Grove repeatedly pleaded during the hearing.
And Grove is correct. Anti-gay factions in the party had specifically changed language in the past to exclude the possibility of Log Cabin’s inclusion. This seems, however, to have been ignored by 75% of the delegates to the convention.
It is difficult to know exactly what this says about the future of the California Republican Party. Symbolically, this may send a message that the theocrats have finally lost. It may be the first step in the dismantling of bigotry and exclusion within the California Republican Party.
Or it may simply be a middle ground. This may be an indication that party members want a ‘balance’ that allows for gay people to be in the room but keeps policies and positions as hostile.
I’m inclined to see this as reflective of significant change. Because the vote was so large and because it was vehemently fought by the far right contingent, this seems to be to be a major gain for the party’s moderate faction.
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.
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.”
September 28th, 2013
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.
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.
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.
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.
January 18th, 2013
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.
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.
January 9th, 2013
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.
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.
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?
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 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.
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.
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Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”
Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends On How The Meaning of the Word "Change" Changes
Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"
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