The Log Cabin Republicans announced on Tuesday morning that it’s giving a “qualified endorsement” to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney after months of speculation over whether the gay GOP group would back the candidate despite his anti-gay views.
R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the organization, announced that Log Cabin’s board had elected to endorse Romney in a statement because supporting the candidate is the right decision “for our members, our community and for the nation as a whole.”
“Despite our disagreement with Gov. Romney on the issue of marriage, on balance it is clear that in today’s economic climate, concern for the future of our country must be the highest priority,” Cooper said. “We are Republicans, and we agree with Gov. Romney’s vision for America in which success is a virtue, equal opportunity is ensured, and leaders recognize that it is the American people, not government, that build our nation and fuel its prosperity. On issues of particular concern to the LGBT community, we believe Governor Romney will move the ball forward compared to past Republican presidents. No matter who is in the White House, it is crucial 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.”
Log Cabin also sent a statement to supporters via email saying the organization is giving Romney a “qualified endorsement” and the organization will ”be most active” in supporting previously endorsed House and Senate candidates — such as Richard Tisei in Massachusetts and Rep. Nan Haywoth (R-N.Y.), a member of LGBT Equality Caucus — as opposed to getting more involved in the presidential election.
Cooper told the Washington Blade that Log Cabin’s 15-member board made the decision to endorse Romney earlier this month by a vote of 14-1. Cooper declined to identify the dissenting member of the board and wouldn’t immediately offer the exact date for when the board made the decision.
The endorsement for Romney comes even though Romney has signed an agreement with the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage to back a Federal Marriage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court and establish a presidential commission on religious liberty to investigate the harassment of opponents of same-sex marriage. In 2004, Log Cabin withheld the endorsement from then-President George W. Bush largely because of his support for a Federal Marriage Amendment.
Log Cabin’s email to supporters explains the decision to endorse Romney despite his decision to sign this pledge and back a Federal Marriage Amendment, saying “2012 is not 2004. The Federal Marriage Amendment has been voted on twice, and each time has failed with bipartisan opposition.”
“While even the suggestion of enshrining discrimination in our nation’s most precious document is deeply offensive, there is a significant difference between a valid threat and an empty promise made to a vocal but shrinking constituency,” the email states. “In our judgment, the NOM pledge is ultimately merely symbolic and thus should not be the basis of a decision to withhold an endorsement from an otherwise qualified candidate, particularly given the gravity of the economic and national security issues currently at stake.”
Andrea Saul, a Romney campaign spokesperson, thanked Log Cabin for its endorsement in response to an email inquiry from the Washington Blade.
“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,” Saul said.
Jamie Citron, the Obama campaign’s LGBT vote director, rebuked the gay GOP group for endorsing Romney based on the candidate’s previously articulated anti-gay positions.
“If the Log Cabin Republicans are interested in supporting a candidate who would have left ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ in place and has committed to enshrining discrimination into the constitution, then it is an endorsement that is best suited for Mitt Romney,” Citron said.
Individuals working to re-elect Obama to the White House expressed displeasure over the decision. Among them was Jerame Davis, executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats, who slammed Log Cabin for endorsing Romney and called the organization a sell-out to the LGBT community.
“The Log Cabin Republicans have proven once and for all that they are not an organization aligned with the LGBT movement,” Davis said. “They are a Republican front group bumbling their way into fooling LGBT voters that it’s OK to support a party that would legislate us back into the closet.”
Davis added that the endorsement decision was a “disgrace” and motivating factors other than Romney’s record were in play.
“This is politics at its worst — when a community sells out its own people for the gain of a few individuals,” Davis said. “There is little doubt that Clarke Coooper’s position on the RNC finance committee played a major role in this decision. Of course, so did their blinding fear of GOProud nipping at their heels.”
Previously, Cooper told the Washington Blade that Log Cabin was seeking clarity on Romney’s position on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act before making an endorsement decision and was seeking to meet with the Romney campaign about the issue. Romney supported the legislation as a U.S. Senate candidate in 1994, but has since backed away from that support and hasn’t talked about the bill during the 2012 presidential campaign. In the email to supporters explaining the endorsement, Cooper said on the issue of workplace discrimination, “we are persuaded that we can work with a Romney administration to achieve a desirable outcome.”
The “qualified” endorsement is akin to the qualified endorsement for the candidate that gay former U.S. House Rep. Jim Kolbe gave to Romney in an interview with the Washington Blade during the Republican National Convention based on the candidate’s business background despite his opposition to same-sex marriage.
The statement also includes a photo of Cooper with Romney and Kolbe. The file name for the photo denotes a meeting between Romney and Log Cabin on Oct. 17 in Leesburg, Va. It’s not immediately clear whether the photo was from a meeting in which Romney’s position on ENDA came up.
In the statement announcing the endorsement, Log Cabin also provided words from Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), who endorsed Romney during the primary, and Ted Olson, a former U.S. solicitor general who’s leading a lawsuit against California’s Proposition 8, but helped the Romney campaign with debate prep.
Ros-Lehtinen, a supporter of marriage equality who’s known as being one of the most pro-LGBT Republican lawmakers in Congress, praised the endorsement.
“Our nation needs common sense solutions to fixing our economy and creating private sector jobs and Gov. Romney will provide us with the strong leadership we need at this critical time,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “Gov. Romney understands that businesses need less government regulation and lower taxes. Romney is the right man for our time. I am pleased that Log Cabin Republicans is endorsing Gov. Romney. I know that all of us together will fight for equality for all Americans, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation.”
Olson emphasized that both he and Log Cabin support Romney for president and marriage equality at the same time.
“Like the Log Cabin Republicans, I am proud to support Governor Romney for president, and I am proud to be an advocate for the freedom to marry,” Cooper said. “This endorsement speaks to Log Cabin’s principled belief in equality for all Americans, and the pragmatic recognition that our nation is in need of new leadership. Getting our fiscal house in order is more than an economic imperative – it’s a moral imperative. Gay or straight, Americans deserve a president who will secure a future for our children that doesn’t leave them buried in debt.”