Many Republicans including Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) are staying away from the upcoming Republican National Convention, but transgender personality and Olympic decathlete Caitlyn Jenner isn’t among them.
As first reported by The Daily Beast, Jenner is set to appear July 20 — two days after the start of the convention — at a brunch in Cleveland hosted by the American Unity Fund, which seeks LGBT-inclusion in the Republican Party.
“The party conventions are like the political Olympics, and I’m excited to be headed to Cleveland to stand with my fellow LGBT Republicans and allies,” Jenner said in a statement to the Daily Beast. “As a proud Republican and transgender woman, I want to support courageous Republicans who advocate for LGBT freedom.”
Also in the statement, Jenner urged for congressional and state action to change non-discrimination laws. Federal law has no explicit prohibition on discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, although courts and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are beginning to apply bans on gender discrimination to LGBT people.
“Our country’s nondiscrimination laws must be updated and this cannot be achieved without bipartisan support,” Jenner said. “Congress needs to act, along with almost thirty Republican states, to update our non-discrimination laws. I want to do my part to persuade more Republicans to support freedom for millions of LGBT Americans.”
According to the Daily Beast, Jenner has no plans at this time to attend convention itself other than by making an appearance at the nearby brunch hosted by the American Unity Fund.
Jenner acknowledged her intent to attend the convention by posting the Daily Beast article on her Twitter account along with the message, “Can’t wait to hit the road to Cleveland!”
Last year in a coming out interview ABC’s Diane Sawyer, Jenner asserted she’s a Republican, saying “I believe in the Constitution.” She’s also urged support for LGBT rights within the Republican Party.
When Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) began to stoke fears about transgender bathroom in his bid for Republican presidential nomination, Jenner posted a video of herself in which she used the women’s bathroom at Trump Tower. After she left, she said, “And by the way, Ted. Nobody got molested.”
The “Big Tent Brunch” hosted by the American Unity Fund is set to take place on July 20 at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Also among the guests is conservative activist and TV personality Montel Williams.
“As a strong believer in individual liberty, I’m encouraged by the many Republicans who have come forward to support the liberty of LGBT Americans,” Williams said in a statement. “Unfortunately, there are a few misguided lawmakers who have lost sight of the fact that anything short of full freedom for our LGBT neighbors, friends, and co-workers is a threat to the freedom of all of us. Like Vice President Dick Cheney stated, ‘Freedom means freedom for everyone.’”
Tyler Deaton, senior adviser for the American Unity Fund, said in a statement support for LGBT rights among conservatives is increasing at a rapid pace.
“The world is a much different place than it was in 2012 during the last Republican National Convention — we have seen tremendous progress and acceptance for LGBT freedom, especially after the historic Supreme Court decision affirming the constitutional freedom to marry for same-sex couples,” Deaton said.
According a Pew Research Center report published in May, only 33 percent of the Republican Party supports same-sex marriage, but the GOP has gradually become supportive since 2001. Founded by GOP philanthropist and donor Paul Singer, the American Unity Fund seek to augment support for LGBT rights in the Republican Party and pass pro-LGBT initiatives with the help of Republicans.
Margaret Hoover, president of the American Unity Fund, also maintained in a statement Republicans are beginning to support LGBT rights, citing Republican governors who recently vetoed anti-LGBT bills.
“Republicans across the country have played a vital role in advancing LGBT freedom,” Hoover said. “Earlier this year, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard and Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed legislation that would have legalized discrimination against LGBT individuals in their respective states. They recognized that these policies were a divisive distraction and that as Republicans we need to adopt a more unifying approach to have a stronger, more viable and more inclusive party.”