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RNC chair praises Log Cabin Republicans

‘It’s an historic way to cap what will go down in history as a legendary year celebrating four decades of Log Cabin Republicans’ achievement,’ said Gregory Angelo. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

In what LGBT Republicans consider to be a first-of-its-kind development, the chair of the Republican National Committee last week issued an official letter commemorating Log Cabin Republicans on its 40th anniversary and praising the group for advocating for LGBT rights.

“As the nation’s original and largest conservative organization advocating for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, the work you do is critical in supporting liberty and equality for all,” said RNC Chair Ronna R. McDaniel in her letter.

“The Republican Party prides itself on being an inclusive Big Tent Party that fights for the values that Make America Great,” she states in the letter. “We are fortunate to have strong, freedom-fighting advocates like Log Cabin Republicans with us, and we stand with you in pursuit of individual liberty, limited government, and equal rights under the law.”

McDaniel, who was elected as RNC chair in January at the request of then President-elect Donald Trump, added in her letter, “Today, we celebrate your decades of support for the LGBT community and its allies. On behalf of our Party, we will continue to stand with Log Cabin Republicans as you advance the ideals of freedom over oppression – now, and for years to come. Your voices make our Party stronger, and our nation greater.”

Log Cabin Republicans was founded in California in 1977 as a local gay GOP group to provide a home for what it said were conservative and moderate members of the LGBT community who were Republicans and wanted to advocate for LGBT rights within the party. The group soon expanded to become a national organization with chapters in many states.

Gregory Angelo, the group’s current president, called McDaniel’s letter historic.

“Log Cabin Republicans has had a longstanding relationship with the RNC, but having their formal and public recognition of our organization – by the current Chairwoman of the RNC, no less – as well as a commitment to ‘continue to stand with Log Cabin Republicans,’ marks a watershed moment in GOP politics,” Angelo told the Washington Blade.

“It’s an historic way to cap what will go down in history as a legendary year celebrating four decades of Log Cabin Republicans’ achievement,” he said.

Log Cabin’s national board chose not to endorse Donald Trump in last year’s presidential election. But since Trump’s electoral victory last November the group, led by Angelo, has pledged to work with the Trump administration to push for LGBT-related issues that they believe other national LGBT organizations will be unable to do because of their opposition to and hostility toward Trump during the 2016 election campaign.

“Log Cabin Republicans has been in frequent communication with the Trump administration over the past year,” Angelo said in an email to the Blade. “From our work with the Department of Education, the United Nations and the State Department, HHS, and the Justice Department, there is no part of the current administration which Log Cabin Republicans is not communicating,” he said.

Several LGBT organizations like the Human Rights Campaign and Lambda Legal have criticized the Trump administration for what they consider a sweeping rollback of LGBT rights in a number of key areas, including the president’s decision to rescind the Obama administration’s directive allowing transgender people to serve in the U.S. military.

LGBT Democrats have also called the Republican Party platform adopted in 2016 and which remains in place as its most anti-LGBT platform ever. They note that it denounces the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage, supports conversion therapy seeking to change gay people’s sexual orientation, supports adoption agencies that refuse to serve same-sex couples, and backs state laws that would allow businesses to refuse to serve LGBT people on religious grounds.

D.C. gay Democratic leader Earl Fowlkes, who serves as chair of the Democratic National Committee’s LGBT Caucus, called McDaniel’s letter to Log Cabin a “small step” that could have gone further.

“It wasn’t as though she said the Republican Party will be more sensitive to the needs of LGBTQ Republicans or Americans,” Fowlkes said. “But any step toward LGBTQ equality is a step, no matter how small,” said Fowlkes, adding, “Hopefully, the chair of the Republican Party can get everyone else in the Republican Party to be as accepting and appreciative of the Log Cabin Republicans and the existence of LGBTQ Republicans in their party.”

Jose Cunningham, the chair of D.C.’s Republican Party, who’s gay, said he, too, believes McDaniel’s letter was a major development for the party.

“I was thrilled to see formal written recognition of the Log Cabin Republicans by the RNC and feel that both LGBT Republicans and LGBT Democrats should be proud that the two national parties agree with the non-partisan ideal that equal rights under the law make our nation stronger,” Cunningham told the Blade.

“At a time of some political polarization in our country, it’s terrific to see both parties recognize the roles LGBT people can play in advancing the ideals of liberty and freedom,” he said.

D.C. gay Republican activist Bob Kabel, who was elected by D.C. Republicans as one of the city’s two representatives on the RNC, called McDaniel’s letter “a sign that we are making progress.” He said the Republican Party, unlike the Democratic Party, is not the party of “identity politics” and McDaniel’s strongly worded letter to Log Cabin should be viewed in that context.

McDaniel, 44, is the granddaughter of former Michigan governor and 1960s-era GOP presidential candidate George Romney and the niece of 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

She is the former two-term chair of the Republican Party of Michigan and served as a delegate committed to Trump at the Republican National Convention in 2016. She is credited with playing an important role in helping bring about Trump’s upset victory in Michigan over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.