The Board of the Nation’s largest group of LGBT Republicans has voted to not endorse Donald Trump, in a contentious decision that did not reflect the preference of many of its chapters.
While the Log Cabin Republicans are united against Hillary Clinton, the Group’s 14-member National Board narrowly voted to “withhold” an endorsement of the Republican nominee, according to Gregory T. Angelo, the Organization’s President.
It’s the second time the official National group has chosen not to back the GOP nominee, the prior time was 2004 for George W. Bush. The move reflects struggles throughout the Republican coalition, though for LGBT Conservatives it’s been particularly wrenching. Trump’s rhetoric, they say, has been more pro-gay than any Presidential nominee in history.
“Withholding an endorsement is not the same thing as opposing someone’s nomination,” Angelo said in an interview. “There were members of our national board of directors who had very passionate feelings in favor of both.”
Angelo, who is not a voting member of the Board, said that State Log Cabin Chapters were surveyed as part of the endorsement process for recommendations, and a majority supported endorsing Trump.
“This is not something board took lightly,” Angelo said. But on Oct. 18, after about three weeks of formal deliberations, the Board decided not to endorse in a “very close” vote, though Angelo declined to detail the exact margin.
Ultimately, Angelo said, Board members didn’t feel like they could trust Trump, noting “many vacillations” on a range of issues. “Could Donald Trump be the most pro-LGBT president that this country has ever had? He might well be,” Angelo said. But the nominee’s inconsistencies “presented enough reservations such that the board did not feel comfortable putting the full face of our 40-year-old brand behind the Republican Party’s nominee for president.”
Trump presided over a remarkably pro-gay convention in Cleveland, featuring Silicon Valley mogul Peter Thiel declaring himself a “proud gay American” from the stage and the candidate himself pledging to “do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology,” a reference to the Orlando massacre at a gay nightclub.
However, just a week earlier, Republicans adopted a persistently anti-gay platform, despite an unprecedented effort to introduce more inclusive language. Rachel Hoff, the first openly gay Republican on the Platform Committee, and LGBT allies told POLITICO at the time that Trump’s team hadn’t made an effort to push their cause.
Log Cabin Republicans were also frustrated by responses they received to questions about his agenda, Angelo said. “The senior advisers and campaign staff that I engaged with on LGBT issues continually went back to the mantra that you don’t have anything to worry about,” he recounted. While the response was “encouraging,” Angelo said, it did not ease their concerns. For example, Trump’s vow to tear up all of President Barack Obama’s executive orders would mean scrapping the Democrat’s ban discrimination by Federal contractors based on sexual identity.
As with other Conservatives who are backing Trump, Angelo said, there were Board members who hold “a strong concern about what the Supreme Court means for other issues, like the Second Amendment, and that contingent fell very much on the side of endorsing Donald Trump.”
The endorsement anguish for gay Republicans is nothing new. It’s been a constant struggle to reconcile their right-leaning views on foreign and fiscal policy with the Social Conservatives who tend to lead the ticket. Past endorsements have often meant choosing head over heart, or looking past candidates’ rhetoric in hopes they’ll be more gay-friendly in office.
Log Cabin Republicans’ discomfort with Trump extends beyond uncertainty about his LGBT agenda. In December, for example, Angelo slammed Trump’s proposed ban on Muslim immigration, saying as an organization fighting to make the GOP “more inclusive,” it was “impossible to stand in silence.”
Still, Trump’s success in the Republican Primary has been encouraging to gay Republicans, even those who don’t support him, Angelo said. His public overtures to gay voters “prove a lesson to anyone in the Republican Party that you need not toe an anti-LGBT line in order to win,” he said.
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