October 9, 2015 at 9:19 am EDT | by Chris Johnson
No talk of 2016, Speaker mess at Log Cabin dinner
Paul Wolfowitz, Log Cabin Republicans, gay news, Washington Blade

Paul Wolfowitz delivered the keynote address at Thursday’s Spirit of Lincoln dinner. (Washington Blade photo by Hugh Clarke)

The nation may be in the middle of a fracas ahead of the upcoming presidential election and uncertainty over leadership in Congress, but the annual Log Cabin Republicans dinner on Thursday stood in contrast as a love fest for LGBT attendees and Republicans who support them.

The “Spirit of Lincoln” dinner, which took place at the Grand Hyatt in D.C., was largely without political rancor and more a showing of solidarity with LGBT people from a party that has an anti-LGBT reputation and a platform that opposes their rights. More than 200 people were estimated to be in attendance.

Keynoting the address was Paul Wolfowitz, a former World Bank president and current Jeb Bush foreign policy adviser, who touted being among 131 Republicans who signed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in favor of same-sex marriage.

“I believe, as a Republican, it’s important for the future of the party, for the future of the country, that we not cede this issue to the Democrats,” Wolfowitz said.

Commending attendees for their courage not just for coming out as gay, but as gay Republicans, Wolfowitz recalled efforts by Republican hero Ronald Reagan against the Briggs Initiative, a 1978 measure that would have barred gay people from teaching in California’s public schools.

“I believe that if our party continues to be seen as opposing the basic rights of gays and lesbians, we will not only lose that community —somebody said to me we lost that already, obviously not in this room — but we’ll also lose a much larger community, the community of the younger generation,” Wolfowitz said.

But Wolfowitz, who was deputy secretary of defense at the Pentagon under the George W. Bush administration at the height of the Iraq war, also stressed that the United States needs to take a more active role in promoting “its ideals of freedom and equality” overseas.

“Those values are facing serious challenges on the world stage,” Wolfowitz said, adding if the United States fails to defend them, the country will be weaker.

Wolfowitz criticized President Obama for his foreign policy generally, citing the situation in Syria in which Russian planes have been defending President Bashar al-Assad. But Wolfowitz also indicated Obama hasn’t done enough for LGBT rights, taking Obama to task for meeting with Malaysia’s leader, but not a political prisoner in the country considered falsely held under an anti-sodomy law.

“Simply being recognized by the United States makes all the difference in the world,” Wolfowitz said.

Referencing acts by the Islamic State of Iraq & Syria of throwing men perceived as gay from rooftops, Wolfowitz referred to the group as “absolute barbaric people.” Upon pointing out Log Cabin was the only LGBT group to oppose the Iran deal, Wolfowitz received significant applause from the audience.

Wolfowitz delivered the keynote address at the dinner in place of Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, who was scheduled to speak but was unable to attend because of a medical issue; he instead spoke via video. In addition to touting his signature on the Republican marriage brief, Baker promoted the idea of a “big tent” Republican Party.

“This message of equal opportunity, choice and respect is a winning message,” Baker said. “I talked about it day after day on the campaign trail here in Massachusetts and it paid off. It also resonated in cities, where some people told me they never met a Republican before.”

Gregory Angelo, head of Log Cabin Republicans, delivered remarks intended to energize the crowd as opposed to making a political statement.

“So many members of Congress are here; so many who are allies,” Angelo said. “And so many who are not allies — yet. We don’t look at other Republicans as enemies; just future allies.”

Angelo promoted two pieces of internal news: His change in title from executive director to president; and the creation of new chapters in Arkansas and Massachusetts.

At one point during the dinner, a video was played portraying pro-LGBT congressional Republicans as “Super Friends” from the 1970s-era cartoon show of super heroes. Attendees erupted into their loudest applause when the image of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) in blue tights and a yellow cape appeared.

Not a single comment was made about any of the presidential candidates — Democratic or Republican — nor was anything said about the biggest news of the day for Republicans: the announcement from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy he was withdrawing his candidacy to become the U.S. House Speaker and the congressional vote on leadership would be postponed.

Among the high-profile attendees seen at the reception were Ros-Lehtinen, Rep. Joseph Heck (R-Nev.), Rep. Bob Dold (R-Ill.), Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), tax reform advocate Grover Norquist, gay former Rep. Jim Kolbe, American Conservative Union chair Matt Schlapp and gay former congressional candidate Richard Tisei.

Ana Navarro, a Republican political commentator who supports LGBT rights, underscored the importance of mutual support when asked why LGBT people should support the GOP.

“Because they pay taxes, too,” Navarro said. “Because they need jobs, too. Because they don’t like government intrusion either. I think it should be both ways. I think the Republican Party should be supporting LGBT and LGBT should be supporting the Republican Party. We need to broaden the tent, and we definitely need to find room in the tent for LGBT. The more LGBT, the merrier in the Republican Party.”

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

7 Comments
  • Don’t worry Log Cabin Republicans. Thirty or so years from now, when people have come to realize that marriage equality did not make the sky fall, the conservatives of the future will be reminding LBGT voters and their families about you and saying “See! This proves that it was we conservatives who were fighting for your right sand that it was the lib-tards who wanted to keep you in the closet!”

    The days when you will be used as a pawn by the people who despise you are coming, Just be patient.

    • How exactly have conservatives been fighting “FOR” LBGT rights as opposed to fighting against them? Liberals have kept the rights of the community on the forefront while gay republicans whine that they aren’t single issue voters (how many times did they vote to repeal Obamacare?) and thus gay issues don’t matter in the greater scheme of things!

      One conservative gay putz kept telling us “we” got marriage so we need to move on as if that’s all the GLBT movement is about. Talk about a clueless bloodsucker that lives of the blood, sweat and tears of gay activists who made it possible for gay republicans to have the rights they enjoy today!

      • That was my point. Conservatives have been fighting against LBGT rights. However, when it is no longer fashionable (and profitable) to do so, they will attempt to re-write history in order to make it seem like they were on the victor’s side all along.

        I base my prediction on historical precedent, I am old enough to remember when conservatives decried Martin Luther King Jr. as a communist. Today, however, we hear conservatives say “Well, you know, Dr. King was a Republican.” They do this to convey the false idea that conservatives were the real heroes of the civil rights movement.

  • How typical, the speaker wants to talk about whats going on with gays in other countries. Why? Easy, because if they talk about the U.S. they would have to acknowledge that the GOP has opposed every single gay rights law and advancement that has occurred AND the GOP has anti-gay language as part of their party platform.
    Why acknowledge the truth when they can stick their heads in the sand and talk about gays in Malaysia?

  • A gay republican fundamentally hates himself. He belongs to a party who’s mane constituents would happily make last to legalize killing him on sight. The republican party is nothing more than the American Nazi party, and anyone of any minority group who belongs to them may as well be writing their own death sentence. The major republican candidates spend the whole election process clamoring over themselves to show who is the biggest bigot.

  • It seems hypocritical to me that Wolfowitz claims to support LGBT equality yet is supporting Jeb Bush, a guy who thinks anti-discrimination policies should be left up to the states and has flipped flopped on whether or not he supports Kim Davis. And their arguments that the bigots of the GOP are “future allies” is total hogwash.

    WolfowitzW
    Wolfowitz

  • What? No Aaron Schock?

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