As Donald Trump continues to make provocative and controversial comments with fewer than 100 days before the general election, Log Cabin Republicans continues to mull whether to endorse him for president.
Gregory Angelo, president of Log Cabin, said Monday he’s unable to predict whether Trump will receive an endorsement from the organization.
“Any inclinations I have right now would be pure conjecture at this point,” Angelo said. “I clearly have members around the country sharing their thoughts and opinions with me as I’ve traveled around on behalf of Log Cabin Republicans, especially over the course of the last three months, but that’s all just anecdotal at this point.”
The board of directors, Angelo said, will make the endorsement determination no earlier than during an upcoming meeting in late September in D.C. The exact date for the meeting isn’t yet decided, and as is customary for Log Cabin board meetings, the discussion won’t be open to the public, Angelo said.
Prior to the board meeting, Angelo said Log Cabin intends to solicit information from members on a potential Trump endorsement in two ways. The first will be a survey of the 48 local Log Cabin chapters throughout the country on whether an endorsement is appropriate. Second, the organization plans to seek comment from dues-paying members on Trump as part of a quadrennial survey set for distribution after Labor Day.
Additionally, Angelo said he will ask members about any concerns over Trump’s choice of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as the No. 2 person on the Republican presidential ticket as well as organizational policy on issues like employment non-discrimination protections and the Second Amendment.
Angelo said his request for a meeting with Trump or his senior advisers remains unresolved since November. Angelo said he or a Log Cabin staffer “haven’t had a meeting with the candidate as of yet,” but that would be a necessary thing for the organization to throw its support behind him.
“The precedent in the past has always been Log Cabin Republicans gets an audience with our nominee,” Angelo said. “That has been the case, I believe, every presidential election cycle since Log Cabin national headquarters was founded in 1992.”
In 2012, Log Cabin endorsed then-Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney after former Log Cabin chief R. Clarke Cooper and gay former Rep. Jim Kolbe held a secret 15-minute meeting with the candidate at a Virginia farmhouse. The focus of the meeting was the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, although principals wouldn’t say whether Romney made any commitments to support the measure during the meeting.
The options for Log Cabin in terms of the presidential election, Angelo said, are either to endorse Trump or withhold endorsement for the Republican presidential nominee. That means a potential endorsement for Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson is off the table, despite those turned off by Trump urging support for the candidate.
“We won’t do that because we can’t do that,” Angelo said. “Per our bylaws, we can only endorse or withhold an endorsement for Republican candidate for office, so the only decision this board will be making is to endorse Donald Trump or to withhold our endorsement from Donald Trump.”
The most famous instance in which Log Cabin withheld support from the Republican presidential nominee was in 2004 when the organization declined to endorse then-President George W. Bush for re-election. At the time, Log Cabin chief Patrick Guerriero cited Bush’s support for a U.S. constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage nationwide.
In the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, Trump has already distanced himself from a Federal Marriage Amendment, saying in an interview last year with The Hollywood Reporter passage of the measure is “not going to happen.”
“Some people have hopes of passing amendments, but it’s not going to happen,” Trump was quoted as saying. “Congress can’t pass simple things, let alone that. So anybody that’s making that an issue is doing it for political reasons. The Supreme Court ruled on it.”
In the aftermath of the mass shooting in Orlando, Fla., Trump in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention vowed to protect LGBT people from “the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.” It marked the first time a Republican presidential nominee mentioned LGBT people in a positive way during an acceptance speech.
Angelo said Trump’s acceptance speech “certainly isn’t something that hurts” the consideration to endorse him, but won’t be the only factor Log Cabin weighs when making an endorsement decision.
“I’m fond of saying that we do not have a litmus test here at Log Cabin Republicans, nor do we use necessarily the same criteria from election cycle to election cycle in determining those endorsement considerations, but most definitely Donald Trump’s proactive engagement with the LGBTQ community is something that I imagine will be a factor, if not a strong factor, in the endorsement consideration that we make,” Angelo said.
Despite his acceptance speech, Trump is running a presidential campaign largely in opposition to LGBT rights. Even though he doesn’t support a Federal Marriage Amendment, Trump told social conservatives to “trust” him to oppose same-sex marriage and said he’d “strongly consider” appointing justices to the Supreme Court who’d reverse the marriage equality decision.
Trump has said he’s “with the state” on the anti-trans House Bill 2 recently enacted in North Carolina and given conditional support to the First Amendment Defense Act, a federal “religious freedom” bill that would enable anti-LGBT discrimination. The candidate has also selected a running mate who has a long anti-LGBT record and is reviled by LGBT people for signing an anti-LGBT “religious freedom” bill into law.
Trump is an outsider to the Republican Party who holds positions contrary to many conservative beliefs, such as opposition to trade deals like NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Many Republicans, including Romney, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and writers at the conservative National Review, openly reject the candidate.
Moreover, Trump continues to make controversial comments on the campaign trail. In past few days alone, Trump has lashed out at a Gold Star family that criticized him at the Democratic National Convention, suggested he’s unaware Russia had annexed Crimea and ejected a baby from a campaign rally.
Angelo said he can’t imagine withholding an endorsement from Trump on the basis he isn’t conservative enough, but said many Log Cabin members expressed concern about Trump outside of LGBT issues.
“What I will say is that we don’t view any candidates that we provide with endorsement considerations for any single issue, and I will say that there are members around the country, and even members on our national board of directors who have strong reservations about Donald Trump outside of any considerations that he might have in regards to LGBT issues,” Angelo said.
One U.S. House Republican who is known for supporting LGBT rights, Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), announced in an op-ed in the Syracuse-based Post-Standard on Tuesday he plans to vote for Hillary Clinton.
“While I disagree with her on many issues, I will vote for Mrs. Clinton,” Hanna wrote. “I will be hopeful and resolute in my belief that being a good American who loves his country is far more important than parties or winning and losing. I trust she can lead. All Republicans may not like the direction, but they can live to win or lose another day with a real candidate.”
Hanna was one of the first House Republicans to declare support for same-sex marriage, a co-sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, signed legal briefs urging the Supreme Court to rule for marriage equality and championed amendments to rid the defense spending legislation pending before Congress of anti-LGBT language.
Also denigrating Trump is Paul Singer, a GOP billionaire hedge-fund manager and philanthropist who supports LGBT rights and groups like Log Cabin. Singer contributed thousands of dollars to the Human Rights Campaign and co-founded the pro-LGBT American Unity Fund.
Singer, who in 2012 was a bundler for Romney, said in June during a panel discussion at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado that the election of Trump would lead to economic catastrophe.
“The most impactful of the economic policies that I recall him coming out for are these anti-trade policies,” Singer said. “And I think if he actually stuck to those policies and gets elected president, it’s close to a guarantee of a global depression, widespread global depression.”
Singer said he wouldn’t vote for either Clinton or Trump in November and half-jokingly said he was considering writing in himself as president.
Angelo initially wouldn’t comment when asked if Singer’s comments would influence Log Cabin, but acknowledged many members share the GOP hedge-fund manager’s views.
“Paul Singer is not alone in the way he feels about Donald Trump,” Angelo said. “There are members that we have whose feelings for Mr. Trump align very much with Paul Singer’s views. Like I said, we’re going to be taking all those into account.”
Two individuals who had widely different takes on whether Log Cabin should endorse Trump are former Log Cabin staffers and former heads of GOProud, the now defunct group for gay conservatives.
Jimmy LaSalvia, former president of GOProud who has since left the Republican Party and now supports Hillary Clinton, said a Log Cabin endorsement of Trump would “demonstrate that they value party loyalty over what’s good for our country.”
“There is no good and decent American, gay or straight, who should support Donald Trump for president,” LaSalvia said. “He is unfit to serve in that office. In our two-party system, where being a team player is often the priority, too many let partisanship cloud their judgement. I hope that Log Cabin’s board will remove their ‘partisan glasses’ and take an objective look at Donald Trump. If they do that, I just can’t see how they can endorse him.”
Chris Barron, former board chair of GOProud who now heads the group “LGBT for Trump,” said he “can’t imagine any reason” for Log Cabin to withhold its endorsement.
“I would assume that they would,” Barron said. “Donald Trump is the most gay-friendly nominee of the Republican Party ever. Donald Trump, unlike previous nominees that they have endorsed, has actually made a concerted and significant outreach to the LGBT community.”