April 26, 2012 | by Chris Johnson
Will Log Cabin endorse Romney?
Mitt Romney speaking before attendees at the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Mitt Romney swept a series of GOP presidential primaries this week as news surfaced that Newt Gingrich will suspend his campaign on Tuesday.

With Romney poised to wrap up the Republican nomination — and ready to pivot to the general election contest — his campaign announced the appointment of a gay man, Richard Grenell, to serve as national security and foreign policy spokesman.

The developments this week raise questions about whether the Log Cabin Republicans will endorse Romney for president, despite his promise to pursue a federal amendment banning same-sex marriage, among other anti-gay positions he’s articulated during the primary season.

The debate over whether to endorse Romney could prove thorny for Log Cabin. On one hand, the organization is likely to feel pressure from its Republican base to throw its support behind the party’s standard-bearer in the general election. On the other, Romney has backed anti-gay positions during the primary season, including support for a U.S. constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage throughout the country and a pledge to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court.

Christian Berle, Log Cabin’s deputy executive director, said the board will make the endorsement decision in advance of the Republican National Convention in Tampa Bay, Fla., this August.

“The endorsement of any candidate is something Log Cabin Republicans takes very seriously, particularly when it comes to a presidential nominee,” Berle said. “Staff and the board of directors will take the next several months to review Gov. Romney’s record and his vision for leading the country. Log Cabin Republicans will maintain its battle focus on building a stronger, more inclusive GOP.”

If history is any guide, then Log Cabin may withhold support for Romney because of his support for the federal amendment. Log Cabin endorsed George W. Bush in 2000. But in 2004, the group created a national stir when it withheld its endorsement of Bush’s re-election due to the president’s support for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. In a 22-2 vote, the Log Cabin board decided to withhold the endorsement.

Log Cabin’s then-president Patrick Guerriero explained the decision not to endorse Bush in an op-ed piece published in the Los Angeles Times.

“This year, despite our loyalty to the party of Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln, we have decided, after significant discussion, to withhold our endorsement of President Bush,” Guerriero wrote. “It was a difficult choice, but our integrity requires it, and the Republican Party’s future will be stronger because of it.”

Although other concerns were cited, the primary reason for withholding support for Bush was his call for Congress to pass a Federal Marriage Amendment to send to the states for ratification.

“The constitutional amendment would not only ban gay marriage, it would also jeopardize civil unions and domestic partnerships,” Guerriero said. ”The president’s support of an unnecessary and discriminatory constitutional amendment ignores the party’s belief in state autonomy and disregards the nation’s reliance on federalism. Using the Constitution as a campaign tool weakens our nation’s founding document and erodes our party’s proud tradition of equality and liberty.”

In many ways, Romney’s views mirror those of Bush in 2004. Romney signed a pledge from the National Organization for Marriage to back a Federal Marriage Amendment, defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court and establish a commission on “religious liberty” to investigate the alleged harassment of same-sex marriage opponents. NOM has endorsed Romney, whose Free & Strong America political action committee donated $10,000 to the organization as it sought passage of California’s Proposition 8.

Log Cabin has an awkward history with Romney. In 2007, Log Cabin ran an ad against Romney in Iowa attacking him for not being conservative enough. It included footage of Romney running for U.S. Senate and expressing pro-choice views and distancing himself from former Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. A message at the end of the ad says it came from Log Cabin, but the Blade reported in 2008 that it was financed by Gill Action Fund.

“For years, he’s fought conservatives and religious extremists,” a female voice in the ad states. “Mitt Romney opposed the gun lobby, even Ronald Reagan. … A record fighting the religious right, a pro-choice record, Massachusetts values: Mitt Romney.”

But despite his support for a federal amendment, Romney’s anti-gay positions aren’t as extreme as other GOP candidates who competed against him for the Republican nomination. In a December interview with the editorial board of the Des Moines Register, Romney said he’s “not planning” on working to reinstate “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” unlike the other candidates such as former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum. Additionally, Romney said that although he backs a Federal Marriage Amendment, he doubts the political wherewithal exists to pass it.

Meanwhile, Romney’s decision to hire Grenell, who’s gay and a former Bush administration official, as his national security and foreign policy spokesman, was viewed as a pivot to the political center now that the primary season is ending. Grenell has come under fire for speaking out on Twitter against women, Democratic officials and the Gingriches. Around 800 tweets were reportedly deleted from his account.

Log Cabin threw its support behind Republican presidential nominee John McCain in 2008. In a 2008 Q&A with the Washington Blade, McCain said he’d establish a national AIDS strategy and would welcome a review of a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — although the lawmaker was the primary opponent of repeal during the 2010 legislative effort. As a U.S. senator, McCain voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment and didn’t run for president supporting the measure.

Many gay Republicans and Log Cabin chapter leaders declined to comment when contacted by the Washington Blade about whether Log Cabin should endorse Romney. In a leaked email dated April 13 obtained by the Blade, Log Cabin’s national staff told its chapter leaders not to speak to the Blade about the endorsement.

“We have been informed that Chris Johnson of the Washington Blade is reaching out to our chapter leaders with questions regarding the potential for Log Cabin Republicans to endorse Mitt Romney,” the email reads. “Please redirect Mr. Johnson to the national staff on this issue. No endorsement decision has been made, and it is in the best interest of our organization to refrain from comment at this time.”

Still, a handful of gay Republicans voiced support for the idea of a Romney endorsement when contacted by the Blade.

Bob Kabel, who’s gay and chair of the D.C. Republican Party, responded favorably when asked if he believes the national gay organization should throw its support behind Romney.

“I do think Log Cabin should endorse Romney,” Kabel said. “Romney has a good track record as governor of Massachusetts on gay issues, including appointing a number of openly gay officials in important positions. Other than on marriage, which we have a strong disagreement about, he is actually quite good on gay issues and, in addition, I think Log Cabin would support him because of his background and proven ability to understand the economy and create jobs. That what’s important to so many people, including gay people.”

Although Kabel touts Romney’s work on gay issues in Massachusetts, many LGBT advocates have criticized him for working to block legalization of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts and resurrecting a 1913 law preventing non-residents from marrying in the Bay State. According to MassEquality, Romney abolished the Governor’s Commission on GLBT Youth and rescinded an executive order prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination in the state workforce. Another Republican, former Gov. William Weld, had put those measures in place.

Jim Driscoll, a gay Nevada-based activist who served on the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS during the Bush administration, also called on Log Cabin to endorse Romney. Driscoll is a Romney supporter who donated to his campaign — both in 2008 and 2012 — and supported him during the Nevada caucuses.

“I think they should endorse him,” Driscoll said. “It looks to me as if the only issue there is the marriage amendment. This isn’t something that I’ve followed closely, but it seems to me that there’s very little chance that that marriage amendment can pass. It’s kind of a dead issue. I don’t see that it has any momentum. And I suspect that while [Romney] formally favors it, he’s not going to lift his little finger to do anything to see that it passes.”

Outside groups on the right and left had their own views on whether Log Cabin should get behind Romney.

Jimmy LaSalvia, executive director of the gay conservative group GOProud, refrained from directly saying whether Log Cabin should endorse Romney.

“It’s not for me to opine on whether Log Cabin Republicans should or should not endorse Gov. Romney,” LaSalvia said. “It should be noted, however, that in 2004 they emphatically stated that they could not endorse a candidate who supported a Federal Marriage Amendment, and in 2008 they spent more than $100,000 to run television and radio ads attacking Mitt Romney.”

Jerame Davis, executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats, said “any credible organization” working for the LGBT community “cannot and should not endorse Mitt Romney,” but noted the question of an endorsement will likely be a difficult one for the organization.

“Log Cabin is in a very precarious situation when it comes to endorsing Mitt Romney,” Davis said. “On the one hand, if they do endorse Romney, they are sending a clear signal to the rest of the LGBT community that being partisan hacks is more important than standing up for LGBT equality. On the other hand, if they don’t endorse Romney they become largely irrelevant in the debate about who will be the next president. Not only would this give their rivals, GOProud, an opening to out flank them on the right, but it would also be problematic for their executive director, who happens to sit on the RNC finance committee.”

Former Log Cabin leaders were reluctant to weigh in on whether the organization should endorse Romney. Guerriero, who after leaving Log Cabin served as head of Gill Action Fund, didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment. He’s now a partner at Civitas Public Affairs Group.

Patrick Sammon, who headed Log Cabin during its decision to endorse McCain and is now a filmmaker, declined to comment.

But Rich Tafel, who founded the organization and led it from 1993 to 2003, said in an email to the Blade that the organization, “will probably endorse Mitt Romney.”

“Mitt is a moderate, which is [why] he’s had a tough time this primary,” Tafel said. “He has a history of supporting gays and appointing them, which makes him unique among the GOP candidates. He has a 45 percent chance of winning so LCR has a responsibility to ensure it has a role with him should he win. He’ll need to move back to the middle to win this.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

25 Comments
  • Since Romney kept his 2002 promise to the Log Cabin group to NOT oppose the 2003 gay marriage court ruling — and in fact implemented it without legislative authorization (vs. the Mass. Constitution) — how can they not endorse him?

    • If he decides to court anti-gay hate groups like NOM and bigots like Bryan Fisher in 2012, how can they not /denounce/ him?

      [URL REMOVED]

      Romney’s between a rock and a hard place, and if he has to choose between losing support of the Log Cabin Republicans or the support of the fundamentalist christian right, which way do you think he’ll jump? Seriously?

    • Care to explain how a governor can disagree with the Supreme Court of his own state?

      Every single gay-related issue over which Romeny had a CHOICE, he voted or acted against us. EVERY SINGLE ONE.

      And he has promised to do so as president. LCR are delusional.

  • Mr. Magic underwear has won power and money while promising to facilitate a federal ban on gay marriage. May he and his supporters reap what they sow, and more.

  • Gay Republicans are turkeys endorsing Butterball.

  • Peter Rosenstein

    This is a great piece and clearly shows what a difficult position Log Cabin is in. Do they maintain credibility as part of the LGBT community or do they go with their Republican leanings. Hard to do both. One indication may be that R. Clarke Cooper, President of Log Cabin, serves on the RNC Finance Committee and is already raising money which among other things will go toward the Romney Campaign. It will also go to a slew of other Republicans who will be working to overturn any gains the LGBT community has made. The RNC has some of the same problems as the DNC. Many people I know now don’t give to either but rather contribute directly to the candidates they support.

  • Of course the Log Cabin Republicans will endorse Romney for President. The more Romney spits on them, the more they love him. It’s called masochism.

  • Frank Ricchiazzi

    Hold on everyone. Log Cabin is being judged to put all their marbles on not endorsing Romney because he is against gay marriage. Let me see if I understand this from the perspective of the party hacks of the Democrat gay clubs. When then State Senator Obama supported gay marriage, that was logical for the Dems in the gay community to support Obama. However, when the “talk out of both sides of his mouth” Presidential candidate Obama was running for President, he did a complete 180 degree turn. Did the gay Democrat hacks have this so called “dilemma” four years ago when they endorsed Obama? And let us then ask our dear brethern on the Democrat side of the aisle: How much money did Log Cabin put up to fight the Obama administration in the courts, when it came to Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
    Uncle Frank Ricchiazzi, a co-founder of Log Cabin Republicans

    • Griffin Blake Bradley

      Frank – Sorry, but the gay marriage debate is not the only reason why LCR have not decided to endorse Romney. Try again.

    • You’re a gay republican legend Uncle Frank of that there is no dispute, but this is not the LCR of your day and these are not the politics of your time.

      LCR has their DADT laurels to rest on, but it’s the seem to have forgotten how the DADT victory was achieved that frustrates me the most about them. DADT like all other major advances in nationwide equality emanated not in Congress or from the electorate but through the courts, and generally the Supreme Court. Congress did not end DADT. They simply affirmed what they had been ordered to do by a judge ironically nominated by the same Democratic President who signed it into law. And it wasn’t a white male judge, but a woman. In fact even LCR concedes that it was the Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas, not some shift in republican ideology, that opened the door for the DADT lawsuit that led to repeal. Considering that Scalia and Thomas vigorously dissented, do you think that if Lawrence were tried before the current court we would have gotten a 6-3 or even a 5-4 decision to overturn?

      So Uncle Frank, you are right about one thing, this election is not about gay marriage. It is about control plain and simple. Mitt Romney and Barack Obama have their eye on the same prize and that is who will shape the ideology of the Supreme Court for the next two to three decades. LCR doesn’t seem to get that, but you know who does? Matt Barber, Vice President of Liberty Counsel Action, an organization whose sole purpose is to defeat Barack Obama.

      In fact, Mr. Barber is no fan of Mitt Romney yet he is more than willing to put aside his reservations because according to Barber the person elected in 2012 will likely name two or three justices to the U.S. Supreme Court.

      “For that reason alone, to have Barack Obama re-elected is simply not an option. He has already appointed two radical, secular, socialist justices,” Barber said. When asked if he was enthusiastic about Romney, though, Barber laughed. “That’s a good question. I will work with every fiber of my being to see that Barack Obama is not re-elected, and to the extent there is a collateral benefit to Mitt Romney, so be it.”

      So spin it any way your want Uncle Frank, but LCR is not working in the best interest of gay americans with their efforts to defeat Barack Obama. However I’m sure Matt Barber will pen Clarke Cooper a thank you note. You’re known by the company you keep.

  • As an American who is Gay, not a Gay American, I do not let my sexuality define me. I am an out, mainstream, successful person who sees the multifaceted aspect of supporting a candidate. I will gladly, wholeheartedly and financially support Mr. Romney, as I do not feel I have suffered at all. Perhaps because I allow people to see all aspects of my life, not just those by which we differ.

    • Griffin Blake Bradley

      Jayson – You sound silly. Who cares how out, mainstream, and successful you are. Obviously, you are a Republican, therefore, you will support Romney. There are plenty of out, mainstream, and successful American’s who are gay that will NOT support Romney.

    • Wondering if you feel the same about Romney since openly gay advisor was dismissed. Not saying that you should, just wondering if his actions sway you.

  • The Log Cabin Repugs have never met a Republican they won’t endorse.

  • Gay Republicans suffer from a form of Battered Wife Syndrome. The more the GOP abuses, denigrates, and beats the crap out of them by running for office campaigning against their interests and then working against their interests once elected, the more they just keep going back for more, apparently thinking “Oh, it’ll be better this time.”. Of course, it won’t be, and it will never be, but logic and common sense never seem to have an impact on such people. Masochism indeed.

  • Could a LCR please point out ONE pro-gay position Romney has taken? Not more of that “lower taxes for everyone including gay people” stuff. A concrete, pro-gay act or position that was not merely the carrying out of his constitutional duty as governor of a state whose Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was constitutionally required.

    Just one. It can’t be THAT hard.

  • Enough of the LGBT blogs and major LGBT groups force-feeding us Obama and the 2party system.

    Obama is GWB’s 3rd term in the assault on civil liberties, war, the drug war, drones, environmental destruction, and government secrecy + killing US citizens, supporting indefinite detention, and the attack on the internet.

    Obama was never a 100% pro-equality candidate – the only candidates who were back in 2008 were Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel.

    If we can elect a black President and openly-gay candidates then we can certainly use the power of Occupy to overturn the 2party tyranny.

    Stop Voting For Democrats & Republicans
    [URL DELETED]

    2012 Presidential Debate Of Alternative Parties
    [URL DELETED]

  • I think there is little doubt that a majority of LCR Board members blinded by their own sense of self-importance, will vote to endorse Romney. We need to remember, but for sexual orientation, they for the most part mirror the GOP demographic of aging white males living in fear of their bank accounts being pillaged, lamenting the diminishment of their influence.

    #GRNDR “Gay Republicans Naively Disregarding Reality”

  • The Log Cabin Republicans should have long ago endorsed Ron Paul. The Human Rights Campaign also should have endorsed Ron Paul. When asked if gays should be allowed to marry Ron Paul said “Sure. They can do what they want and call it whatever they want.” I wish we would call it gay liberation (freedom from government coercion) instead of gay pride.

  • On gay rights the Ds make a point of staying one or two steps ahead of the Rs, yet usually remain two or three steps behind public sentiment. Resting in a political sweet spot is not leadership. It does not deserve the knee-jerk support gay Ds give their party. The Ds have shown that the only way they move ahead is if the public moves first and the Rs are moving as well. Being a gay R requires the courage to stand up to bullying group think by gay libs. Being a gay D involves only comfortable conformity. Over two decades LCR has quietly but determinedly advanced gay rights by edging the Rs forward; it has not sacrificed convictions for a place at the table. Most gay Rs believe Mitt Romney is not biased personally and opposes discrimination on principle. Most are seriously disappointed with Obama’s deficient leadership on gay rights, AIDS, and the economy. We support Romney because we value what we believe is best for America, including in the long run GLBT America, over being in with the in crowd or securing a place at the table.

  • I hope the Log Cabin Republicans do not endorse Mitt Romney – not after his $10,000 donation to NOM and his endorsement of writing discrimination into our Constitution. I hope they can muster enough courage to reject Romney, and show their fellow Republicans that gays do indeed have self-respect, and deserve and demand respect from others.

  • The critical issue is not so much marriage equality as the direction of the Supreme Court over the next half century. In the next 4 years, the President will most likely be able to nominate two, possibly three, new justices. Romney has essentially promised the religious right wing (NOM, in particular) a veto over his SC nominations. A Romney presidency coupled with a Republican-controlled Senate might well produce a Supreme Court that would reverse the Griswold and Lawrence decisions, thus reinstating the anti-sodomy laws that a number of states still have in place.

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