March 18, 2013 | by Chris Johnson
RNC report calls for gay outreach
Reince Priebus, Rebpublican National Committee, RNC, Republican Party, GOP, Republican National Convention, gay news, Washington Blade

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Amid division within the Republican Party on LGBT issues like marriage equality, the Republican National Committee unveiled a report calling for greater outreach to gay people along with other minority groups.

The 98-page report launches the “Growth & Opportunity Project” to repackage the GOP brand after losses on Election Day.

Outreach to gays is noted in the section of the report that recognizes the notion some minorities think the Republican Party is uncaring. One recommendation: Republican candidates and officeholders need to “do a better job” talking to communities the party normally doesn’t address.

“We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian and gay Americans and demonstrate that we care about them, too,” the report states.

The report notes that younger voters — not just gay people — are being turned off by the Republican Party because treatment of gay people is seen as a “gateway” to entering the party.

“Already, there is a generational difference within the conservative movement about issues involving the treatment and the rights of gays — and for many younger voters, these issues are a gateway into whether the Party is a place they want to be,” the report states.

Other non-gay related recommendations in the report are enhanced messaging, holding fewer debates during the presidential primary and holding the Republican National Convention earlier in the year. As part of a $10 million effort, the report recommends hiring political outreach directors to communicate with black, Latino and faith-based communities, although hiring an LGBT outreach director isn’t identified in the report.

The report makes no mention of the positions the Republican Party should adopt on LGBT issues, such as same-sex marriage. The 2012 Republican Party platform opposes marriage equality and calls for passage of a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

During a breakfast at the National Press Club, RNC Chair Reince Priebus talked about the importance of the report and said it highlights errors made by the party in the 2012 election.

“We wanted an assessment that was frank, thorough and transparent,” Priebus said. “To get a fresh start, we had to be honest with ourselves and with our voters. We want to build our party, and we want to do with bold strokes to show that we’re up to the challenge, and we’re done with business as usual.”

During the question-and-answer session, Priebus was asked by event moderator and National Press Club President Angela Greiling Keane about what the GOP can do to overcome its anti-gay and anti-woman reputation. In his reply, Priebus invoked Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who came out last week in favor of marriage equality.

“I think Sen. Portman made some pretty big inroads last week,” Priebus said. “I think it’s about being decent. I think it’s about dignity and respect — that nobody deserves to have their dignity diminished, or people don’t deserve to be disrespected. I think there isn’t anyone in this room — Republican, Democrat, in the middle — that doesn’t think, Rob Portman, for example, is a good conservative Republican. He is, and we know that.”

But in response to a question submitted by the Washington Blade, Priebus dodged when asked whether the RNC supports Portman’s decision to come out for same-sex marriage.

“It’s his decision,” Priebus said. “It’s not a matter of whether I support his decision; I support him doing what he wants to do as an elected person and as American. If that’s his opinion, I support him having that opinion.”

Asked whether Portman’s position would detract from the financial support the senator would receive from the RNC, Priebus replied, “No, not at all. He will be supported.”

The Democratic National Committee didn’t respond to a request for comment on the GOP’s plans, but LGBT groups affiliated with the GOP had high praise for the report.

Gregory Angelo, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, attended the breakfast and said Priebus demonstrated he’s “serious” about getting back voters who’ve been turned off by the party.

“Of all the underrepresented populations with which the GOP needs to make inroads, acknowledging the party’s deficiencies in addressing LGBT voters would not only broaden support among gay voters, but increase appeal among the youth vote that is critical to the longevity of the Republican Party,” Angelo said.

Jimmy LaSalvia, executive director of the gay conservative group GOProud, also praised the report.

“This report was a massive undertaking with input from all kinds of Republicans, including gay conservatives,” LaSalvia said. “I am very encouraged by the final product. It demonstrates that the RNC’s leadership ‘gets it.’ We have to engage with everyone in America, and that includes gay Americans.”

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

3 Comments
  • He is a joke! Does Priebus really think that all he and other anti-Gay Republicans have to do is to say that they want our votes, but them continue to do everything they can think of to demean and insult us. Not to mention, denying our basis civil rights? Forget about it. I’ll NEVER vote Republican, simply because of all the harm they have caused in the past. It will take several decades, not years, for them to repair the damage they have done, and even longer to repair their image!

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