May 12, 2016 at 11:30 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Will gay Republicans back Trump?
Donald Trump, D.C. Republican straw poll, gay news, Washington Blade

Donald Trump (Photo by Andy Katz; courtesy Bigstock)

Some of the nation’s most prominent gay Republicans, including former U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) and former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, have said they are not supporting Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

But like big name Republican elected officials and party leaders across the country, an informal Washington Blade survey has found LGBT Republican activists are divided over whether Trump should become the next U.S. president.

A majority of the prominent LGBT Republicans contacted by the Blade say they are supporting Trump, who’s now considered the presumptive GOP nominee, although not all of them appear enthusiastic in their support.

“As chairman of the D.C. GOP, I will support the party’s nominee,” said Jose Cunningham, the gay chair of the D.C. Republican Party. “Mr. Trump is on a roll and Republicans across the country will support him in droves,” Cunningham told the Blade in a statement.

Longtime gay Republican activist Bob Kabel, an elected D.C. Republican Committeeman and, like Cunningham, a member of the Republican National Committee, said he too is supporting Trump.

“I’m in the position where I will back the Republican presidential and vice presidential nominees,” Kabel said. “I feel it’s important to take back the White House.”

Added Kabel, “In all candor, I think Trump will be fine on LGBT issues. I don’t agree with him on some other issues, but he will at least not do anything bad on gay issues.”

One of the nation’s most prominent gay Republicans, former U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona who served for 22 years in Congress before retiring in 2007, said he would not support Trump in the general election.

“He is manifestly unqualified to be president of the United States, having demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of policy issues or how he would work within the system to achieve his goals,” Kolbe said in a statement to the Blade.

“Moreover, he has repeatedly demonstrated an authoritarian streak that runs completely counter to the democratic values of this country,” Kolbe said.

Like most other LGBT Republicans contacted by the Blade who are opposing Trump, Kolbe did not say who, if anyone, he would support in the November presidential election.

Mehlman, who served as manager of President George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign and served as chair of the Republican National Committee from 2005 to 2007, became one of the nation’s most prominent gay Republicans when he came out in 2010.

He didn’t immediately respond to a call from the Blade to his New York City office at the international investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, where he works. But in a Facebook posting in March, Mehlman made it clear he was not supporting Trump.

Among other things, he criticized Trump for claiming he needed to do research to find out whom former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke was after rumors surfaced that Duke was supporting Trump for president. Leaders shouldn’t need research to reject support from the Klan, Mehlman wrote in his posting.

“They also don’t mock people with disabilities, insult war heroes, divide people by religion and nationality, and insult women. #NeverTrump,” Mehlman wrote in his Facebook posting.

Scott Evertz, a gay Republican activist from Wisconsin who President Bush named as director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, said he has voted for every Republican presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan.

He said he cannot support Trump because of strong differences he has over Trump’s stated positions on foreign policy and national security, many of which have been riddled with inconsistencies, Evertz said.

Although he is unsure of where Trump stands on LGBT issues, Evertz said he could not support Trump regardless of whether his positions on LGBT rights and foreign policy were consistent with his own due to Trump’s demeanor and temperament.

“I’m terribly troubled by the mean spiritedness that is the Trump campaign and has happened since the campaign began – the name calling, the suggestion about the behavior of immigrants, the attitude towards women,” Evertz told the Blade.

“My parents didn’t raise me to behave like Donald Trump,” he said. “So I have no intention of voting for someone that my parents would not have raised me to be like.”

Gregory Angelo, president of the national LGBT group Log Cabin Republicans, said the organization has a longstanding policy of not endorsing a presidential candidate until after the Republican National Convention, when the candidate is officially nominated.

One of Angelo’s predecessors, former Log Cabin head Rich Tafel, said he is not supporting Trump. Other Log Cabin activists, including one of the group’s founders in the 1980s, Frank Ricchiazzi of Nevada and his partner, longtime GOP activist Bordon Moller, are backing Trump.

Also supporting Trump is longtime gay Republican activist and former Log Cabin AIDS issues adviser Jim Driscoll, also of Nevada, and gay Massachusetts former GOP congressional candidate Richard Tisei.

“I plan to vote for Trump,” said Tisei. “I feel that Hillary Clinton clearly lacks the basic ethical standards that all in government must share,” he said. “Trump is also the best hope to change the national GOP’s position on social issues, as evidenced by his recent stand on the North Carolina law.”

Tisei was referring to Trump’s recent comment that he did not think North Carolina’s controversial, recently passed “bathroom bill” was needed. Critics of the law, including LGBT activists, say it singles out transgender people for discrimination.

Gay conservative GOP activist Richard Grenell, who served in the Bush administration as a foreign policy adviser at the United Nations and who worked briefly for former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012, told Fox News he hasn’t officially endorsed Trump. But in a Fox News interview last month Grenell praised a speech Trump delivered outlining his foreign policy positions.

“There are some issues I think he has to iron out,” Grenell said of Trump’s foreign policy positions. “But overall I thought that it was a speech that really challenges the elites in Washington, the status quo,” he said. “Some of these ideas are long overdue and good. And yet the status quo types, the elites in Washington, are going to have their hair on fire because they can’t control this guy.”

D.C. gay Libertarian Party activist Martin Moulton said he has joined a newly created group called Libertarians for Trump because he believes Trump is in a position to advance libertarian policies. Moulton told the Blade he also believes Trump would be supportive on LGBT issues.

Angelo, Log Cabin’s current president, said that while the group won’t make a presidential endorsement decision until after the Republican Convention in July, he said Log Cabin’s board won’t make a final decision on whether to endorse Trump at that time unless two conditions are met.

“Number one, we would need to survey our members around the country to determine whether they would personally support a Log Cabin Republicans endorsement of Donald Trump for president,” he said.

“The second, I would need to meet at the very least with the Trump campaign if not the man himself because I think at the very least we would need to discuss specifically where Trump stands on a whole host of issues,” said Angelo.

“I am on record as saying if Donald Trump won the Republican presidential nomination quantifiably he would be the most pro-gay nominee our party has ever had, not just because he has attended a same-sex wedding or believes that discrimination is wrong,” Angelo said.

Gregory Angelo, Log Cabin Republicans, gay news, Washington Blade

Log Cabin President Gregory Angelo (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

According to Angelo, Trump has distinguished himself by saying in the past that he supports amending the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include a provision banning sexual orientation discrimination and by giving “tens of thousands of dollars to gay charities,” including AIDS-related charities impacting gay men.

“But as with so many other things with Trump, he seems to have vacillated at times from the sympathetic tone that he’s exhibited to date to the LGBT community,” Angelo continued. “And all those things give me pause,” he said, especially Trump’s recent “chumminess” with anti-gay religious right figures Jerry Falwell Jr., Pat Robertson, and Tony Perkins.

“So until and unless we’re able to get some definitive answers to whether Donald Trump would do no harm to the progress we’ve seen in LGBT rights to date in this country or perhaps even be an ally, I’m not going to put the weight of our organization and its name or its brand behind his candidacy,” said Angelo.

Despite this cautionary note, Angelo said that in his travels throughout the country to meet with Log Cabin chapter members and rank and file LGBT Republicans he has found that most LGBT Republicans in all parts of the country except the Washington, D.C. to New York City corridor are supporting Trump.

“People who live in or between Washington, D.C. and New York City are almost to a man never for Trump and many are now considering supporting Hillary Clinton,” he said.

“LGBT Republicans I know who live outside that Acela corridor are 100 percent for Trump right now,” he said, referring to the Acela Amtrak train that connects D.C. to New York.

Angelo said he couldn’t predict how many LGBT Republicans would follow the path of those — including gay former GOP activist Charles Francis — who are supporting Hillary Clinton for president.

Francis, who led a gays-for-George W. Bush effort during the 2000 presidential campaign, left the Republican Party in 2004 after Bush and the GOP establishment came out in support of a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

“I am an ex-Republican for Hillary and a donor to her campaign,” Francis told the Blade.

“Trump is more than a horrendous demagogue,” he said. “He is a threat to our democracy itself.”

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

32 Comments
  • Hey Mr. Angelo, let me save you some time. Trump will say whatever you want to hear on Tuesday so that LCR endorses him on Wednesday, then retract it all on Thursday to make points with evangelicals, following up on Friday by disparaging you personally in time for the evening news cycle. In the end LCR’s endorsement of Trump will turn out as well as LCR’s leap of faith in endorsing McCain only to have him repay you by attempting to thwart repeal of DADT. The supposedly “new” LCR continues to follow the same old tired playbook.

    • They are like dogs wagging their tails at the GOP leadership hoping to get a bone of recognition thrown at them in return for allowing the GOP to appear as compassionate conservatives for photo opportunities and duping the masses!

      You know dogs are good for having fleas cling to them!

    • Well at one time Florida passed a Constitutional Amendment #2 against Marriage fairness/equality and Candidate Obama campaigned in churches of color saying he believed marriage was between “one man and one woman.” Anti-Gay Constitutional Amendment #2 subsequently passed in Florida.
      Earlier we had Federal legislation codified by President William Clinton referred to as DADT and DOMA. At one point in time Rep. Barney Frank blurted out to the media that DADT was the best thing to ever happen to gays. Yah, I know he like all the other Democrats these politicians “evolved” but after the damaged was done. Even President Clinton, at one pointe in time, went on Religious Radio and talked about how he addressed the marriage issue successfully with the introduction of DOMA.
      The agenda of bashing only Republicans is nothing more than whitewashing the historical past of Democrats and completely demonizing the GOP rather than educating and outreaching to the moderates of the “Party of Lincoln” thereby enabling change.
      Right now our nation has more credit debt than all the cash in circulation and all our Beltway Politicians keep spending with our credit cards, the Socialist Left of Party of Jefferson wants more freebees for just about everything, and its been claimed that 1/2 the population seeming doesn’t pay income taxes. Our infrastructure is in trouble and corporation after corporation is move out of the country taking $$$ abroad. How long can this hemorrhaging go on before a day of reckoning becomes a reality?
      I think we have enough lawyers in control of the seats of power responsible for creating and passing legislation. It’s time for us to get a moderate businessman like Trump into politics so we can to put this nation back onto the path of sustainable solvency. If we refuse to address this dilemma and stick our heads in the sand neither heterosexuals nor homosexuals nor bisexual will have the income and jobs to survive a lifestyles they have become accustomed to once the camouflaged-credit-market bubble bursts.
      While I too, at times, may not appreciate Trump’s New York in-your-face personality I’m tired of the gentrified and polished politicians talking the talk that makes voters only hear what they want to believe and not deal with the reality what’s actually being said, done, and legislated into law by those nursed by lobbyiest.

  • Trump will be terrific for EVERYONE’s rights. Mst of the complaints about trump from people in the above article reference what THE MEDIA HAS SAID ABOUT TRUMP, not what trump actually said or did. I have been a gay rights advocate out publicly for 42 years. Trump is going to be great for gay people.

    • Are you on dope or just glazing through those times that Trump says he will appointment judges that will reverse marriage equality and support religious liberty bills? He praise Jerry Fallwell, Jr. and Liberty University for their support and has appointed people like Ben Carson for his VP election committee who are very vocal about opposing our rights.

      Don’t try and scam us. We’ve heard it comes straight out of Trump’s mouth. It’s not hearsay!

  • You need an article on Gay Democrats that are supporting Trump.

  • No surprise that brain-dead GLBT will still support Trump despite his clear agenda to support our enemies’ agenda against us. They’ve done it before. They supported Reagan and Bush and Cheney. McCain and Romney.

    They take for granted the rights they have gained thanks to the struggles of liberal activists before them and care more about their tax cuts than their civil rights. Somehow they think they are immune.They have no shame or sense of community responsibility. Just enjoy the benefits we achieve for them despite them! Talk about living off welfare!

    • Do you really think gays will run out and get married and lose their place in the bread line? Can’t have much of a wedding when you’re unemployed and lack of growth keeps wages down.

      • Wtf are you babbling about? Many gays work hard to earn a living just like many liberals do!

        Having a job or not hasn’t kept heterosexuals from marrying each other in the past. Doesn’t really cost much unless you want it to be a costly affair.

        As for keeping wages down, that’s something the GOP loves to do. More profits for them. They don’t want to raise the minimum wage and like to keep raises below inflation assuming any are given!

  • Any LGBTQ
    Who votes for a republican much less DONALD USED TOO MANY DRUGS growing up. The most important thing to All LGBTQ
    IS OUR CIVIL RIGHTS. I want to see that day in my lifetime. Republicans will never make that happen. Please avoid the republican party at all costs, most of all DONALD. He is the American version of the president of N Korea.

    • You don’t speak for me. The most important thing is the complete lack of economic growth due to “progressive” hostility towards it. We know damn well it will continue with a liberal President. I have always had my civil rights just like you and anyone else.

      • And you don’t speak for us!

        We know damn well that wages won’t increase under a GOP President. You oppose minimum wage increases. You also promote low raise increase that often don’t keep up with inflation if any. Profits first over people getting ahead!

        Social Security COLAS aren’t going anywhere either for the elderly poor.

        Just hide who you are and you’ll always have your civil rights and have your back street quickies in between through hookup sites online!!

  • I will never for the life of me understand how gays can support republicans at this time. Now maybe someday, if their party stops being so incredibly anti-gay, I could see some sense to it. But that time is not here, and until it is, I think the safety and security of this nation depends on Democrats and it pains me that there are so many gays who care more about their personal bottom line than the health of their nation.

  • YES! We will!

  • If Log Cabin endorses Trump, it will prove once and for all that they are traitors to the LGBT community. Gay Republicans who support Trump because they claim he’s pro LGBT or whatever are ignoring his history of flip flopping based on who his audience is. He’s already now flip flopping on his position on HB2 and claiming individual states should be allowed to make their own decisions on discriminating against LGBT employees. I’m not sure how Richard Tisei can claim with a straight face that Clinton has no ethical standards while supporting Trump who wants to ban all Muslims from America and criminalize abortion while also absurdly claiming the minimum wage is too high.

  • I don’t have much interest in Trump, but I have even less interest in making sure President Catastrophe gets a third term and calling it “principle”. Also fairly disappointed that so many seem bent on making “authoritarian” as meaningless as “racist”.

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