October 27, 2016 at 11:41 am EDT | by Joey DiGuglielmo
He’s for Trump, he’s for Clinton
Jose Cunningham, gay news, Washington Blade

Jose Cunningham, on left, who supports Trump, and Greg Nelson, who backs Clinton, at home in Washington (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Jose Cunningham and Greg Nelson, partners of 20 years, have always been one of those “opposites-attract”-kind of couples.

Cunningham, 60, works by day in marketing and business development for a law firm but spends much of his free time working in politics. Nelson, 46, is a Minnesota native who came to D.C. in 1996 and works as a health care consultant, though his passion is for creativity and decorating. The 16th Street N.W. house they’ve shared since 2000 (next to Church of the Holy City) regularly attracts gawkers because it’s elaborately decorated for whatever is the next closest holiday. “My mantra is life is better with a theme,” Nelson deadpans.

Of course right now, it’s engulfed in ghosts and pumpkins as well as general fall staples like friendly scarecrows and mums. The decor continues indoors and while abundant, it never feels tacky. More Martha Stewart than Dollar General.

“The basement, the entire length of this house is decorations,” Cunningham says. “You should see Christmastime. It’s quite an extravaganza.”

“We’re very complementary to one another,” Nelson says. “I’m the disorganized, creative one. He’s the one who’s very organized and on track and helps me with things.”

Greg Nelson with his candidate for president, Hillary Clinton

Greg Nelson with his candidate for president, Hillary Clinton

The same bemusement and sense of goodwill Cunningham exhibits toward his partner’s passion for decor extends to their other main difference — Cunningham, chair of the D.C. Republican Party, is supporting Donald Trump for president; Nelson supports Hillary Clinton. And yet their home is not contentious. They simply agree to disagree.

It helps that Nelson is quick to admit Clinton’s flaws. He’s hardly a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat — he even voted for Mitt Romney in 2012.

“I’m pretty faithful to the party,” Cunningham says. “He votes the person.”

Numbers are hard to come by, but Cunningham is not alone in his support for Trump. The Log Cabin Republicans have declined to endorse him, but smatterings of LGBT Trump support have surfaced in news articles and social media and they’re not all of the Lucian Wintrick (of “Twinks4Trump” fame) or flamethrower (a la Milo Yiannopoulos) variety. Cunningham says all three of the D.C. members of the 168-member Republican National Committee are openly gay and all are supporting Trump.

“You can’t imagine how well received we are,” he says.

Cunningham voted for Jimmy Carter in 1980 and says the Carter presidency pushed him to register as a Republican in 1980, which he’s been ever since.

On local issues, a lot of his inspiration comes from Democrats having a stranglehold on local politics for many years. He says the trend of D.C. Democrats running as independents just to fulfill the dictates of the District charter is “just crazy” and “has to end.” Nelson agrees.

But when it comes to the presidency, Cunningham says it’s more complicated. He cites national security, foreign policy and his pro-life convictions as the main reasons he’s pro-Trump.

“I’ll be the first to admit, I’m as establishment as you can get,” Cunningham says. “But the reason I’m supporting this man is he wants change. If we want change, it’s not going to happen with Hillary Clinton, it’s with Donald Trump. Now I know, that comes with a lot of unknowns, but I know of an awful lot of people here in town who are not bashing Trump, not saying they’re not going to support him and are quietly signaling in the background that they’re ready to serve when he wins. If we wake up on November 9th and Donald Trump is our next president, we will only have a very short amount of time to get this government up and running.”

Nelson admits he’s the far less politically involved of the two. Heretofore, his biggest political endeavors have been creating a “Labradoodles for Obama” campaign inspired by their dog, Arbo, when the Obamas were debating between that breed and a Portuguese Water Dog (they went with the latter) and his creation of “the Combover,” a Trump-inspired cocktail with comb garnishment he serves at GOP functions at their home.

But even so, Nelson has strong words against Trump.

“If there had been a stronger Republican candidate who wasn’t this extreme, I would have considered voting Republican,” Nelson says. “This really is the first election where I just don’t understand how he could support the candidate. … I think Donald Trump is an irresponsible choice for anyone to pick because of his poor choices, poor temperament and lack of accountability.”

And to what degree do LGBT issues factor in their choices? Both say very little.

“I don’t think gay issues are very high on the totem poll for either one of us,” Nelson says. “I don’t think that just because you’re gay, you should be pressured into believing that should be one of your top three criteria in voting.”

Cunningham says the official GOP platform, which is anti-LGBT, is of little practical concern.

“Nobody reads it, nobody talks about it, nobody cares about it,” he says.

He was much more impressed with the way Trump spoke about LGBT people at the Republican National Convention and the speech by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, the first time in 16 years an openly gay person has spoken there. Cunningham and Nelson were there — they point out that Nelson was given the same courtesies any straight spouse would have been afforded even though he and Cunningham are not married — and also attended the second presidential debate on Oct. 9 in St. Louis.

“Everybody in that convention center in Cleveland stood up and cheered when Peter Thiel came out,” Cunningham says. “It was really amazing. Donald Trump has spoken a lot about equality. … I’ve never heard anyone say he’s anti-gay.”

Cunningham and Nelson agree that now that the Supreme Court has ruled on same-sex marriage, LGBT issues are considered largely settled and that’s why they’ve played so little role in the election this time.

The couple, who met at JR.’s the day Nelson arrived in town and have been together ever since, has also been impressed by how warmly GOP leaders have treated them. They commonly host events at their house and say nobody has ever batted an eye.

“We’ve had some really high-profile people here,” Cunningham says. “You would think it could be a potential PR nightmare that they’re having this event at a gay couple’s house, but it’s never been an issue. … I mean when [Republican National Committee Chair] Reince Priebus knows this gay Democrat from Minnesota by his first name, that’s really saying something.”

“People in the national Republican Party have been nothing but gracious, kind and welcoming to me,” Nelson says. “I’ve never had anyone say, ‘How could you vote for Hillary? You’re stupid, you’re crazy’ or any of that kind of blanket statement. Whereas Jose gets that all the time — he’s crazy, ‘How can you support Trump as a gay man?’ and all these terribly inappropriate remarks.”

But while Cunningham is pleasantly surprised by his party, Nelson says the Democrats have at times acted disgracefully. Three different times he’s caught people either trying to scrape the Trump for President sticker off Cunningham’s car or key it. One was even a gay couple.

“If that had been another person who targeted them for being gay and keyed their car, that’s a hate crime,” Nelson says. “But they felt justified because it was a Trump sticker. How is that not bullying and its own kind of hate crime?”

The vitriol Nelson encounters when telling other Democrats his partner supports Trump also galls Nelson. While waiting in line to have his photo taken with Clinton at the home of John Podesta recently, he says the incredulous looks and comments he got were rude.

“Well-educated Democrats can be incredibly close minded toward people who have other views,” he says. “I think it’s kind of funny that Jose is the chair of the D.C. Republican Party and I’m a Democrat. Like we’re some modern-day Matalin-Carville of D.C. or something. So we’re waiting there forever in line and I was making small talk with these two women and when I told them, one looked at me and said, ‘Have you no self respect? I guess you must have been really desperate when you were single.’ I mean, who says that to a stranger?”

Jose Cunningham with his candidate for president, Donald Trump

Jose Cunningham with his candidate for president, Donald Trump

Both say they find the vitriol that so often accompanies politics baffling.

“I don’t understand why it has to be so nasty,” Nelson says. “I might not agree with a lot of things Jose agrees with but the beauty of America is that we have a democracy that allows you to vote.”

Their gut feelings on the outcome of the election?

Cunningham says, “I actually believe Donald Trump will be our next president. It’s tough on the Electoral College side, but I think we’re going to get the numbers.”

“No way,” Nelson says.

While planning to vote for Clinton, Nelson admits some of the admiration he felt for her eight years ago has dimmed, citing a pattern of surrounding herself with people who “make terrible decisions” and “going to the edge of the cliff again and again.”

“There’s been a pattern of chaos that seems to follow wherever she goes,” Nelson says.

Cunningham says no matter who wins, the president will have his support.

“I have incredible respect and admiration for whomever the president is,” he says. “If Hillary Clinton wins, I’ll be there to support her and pray for her every single day. I still pray daily for Biden and Obama. It’s the United States of America and whoever wins will be my president.”

Joey DiGuglielmo is the Features Editor for the Washington Blade.

  • Yeah, you live in D.C., that’s why you get comments like that. If you went to a small, conservative town in Texas, you’d experience the reverse. I am from Texas and live in D.C. While some of those comments are way out of line, I find the Republican Party far scarier. Anyway, all these gay men are white and affluent. I have only ever met two Republican lesbians that I know of and both are white, too. I’m sorry, but you’re not gonna get much sympathy from me if you are supporting Trump even after the tapes came out about him bragging about sexually assaulting women.

    • It’s really irritating isn’t it when these GLBT conservatives tell you that you got marriage equality move on and vote conservative! Makes you just want to hit them so hard their heads spin like Linda Blair’s!

  • Imagine that. Two cisgender, economically stable white men who happen to be gay not sharing the kind of core values that literally affect the entire LGBTQ community (not to mention POC, women & other minorities).

    And that’s not even mentioning the fact that Trump promised to appoint SCOTUS judges that would overturn marriage equality (which appears to be the only civil rights issue affecting these two privileged men).

    • Thank you Tim, I concur.

    • You lost all credibility by using the current decade’s version of running dog lackey of the capitalist elite. Still wearing your Che shirt?

    • Such people must think they are somehow exempt from anything that Trump and his cronies can do to us. While all same gender marriages maybe nullified, for example, along with Roe V. Wade, their unions somehow get immunity. Anything to be a token and settle for a bone of recognition.

      As I said following the marriage equality ruling, it was a narrow decision in favor. All dissenting opinions said there was no constitutional right. Why is it that if the court once ruled Sodomy laws were constitutional then reversed itself about 20 years later, can’t a more conservative court makeup conclude the same about marriage equality? They are gunning or Roe V. Wade which had a wider margin of favorable votes and has been recognized as settled law since 1973! What can be given can be taken away. Never take any rights you have for granted. They aren’t spelled out in the US constitution and for right-wing conservatives if it isn’t written in black and white clearly then the right isn’t so!

    • Did you notice that they are NOT married? Perhaps marriage equality is not important to Mr. Cunningham.

      • The article stated the couple both agreed that marriage equality was a vital LGBTQ issue:

        “Cunningham and Nelson agree that now that the Supreme Court has ruled on same-sex marriage, LGBT issues are considered largely settled and that’s why they’ve played so little role in the election this time.”

  • Mr. Cunningham, you need to have your “gay card” pulled and torn up. You do realize that Trump has pledged to have “marriage equality” over turned once he is in office, and sworn many other things to destroy all the marriages that have taken place since the beginning. He does not deserve any gay man’s or woman’s vote and you don’t deserve to have the privilege to be in the gay community. Get Out!!!

  • You truly wonder why someone would question you voting for someone who’s anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-Latino, anti-black, anti-Muslim, anti-freedom-of-the-press, anti-Native American, and anti-Semitic? With those attitudes, how do you even get past them? Those demonstrate the huge disconnect that can’t be overcome. How do you justify your stance? And besides building a huuuuge wall on the border (that could never happen), what are his other policy proposals? Oh yeah, getting Saturday Night Live cancelled.

    It’s hard to understand how any person with a shred of decency could support him. Even GOP’ers are jumping ship like cockroaches on the Titanic.

    • Sadly, within the community it’s not uncommon to find people that are racist and all those other isms. One might expect great empathy and greater understanding when your in a minority group but that’s not reality,

      After all there were gays that supported Hitler before he came to power. We have some that supported Ted Cruz or other extremists despite their agendas to destroy us.

  • The thing I find most disturbing is that LGBT issues matter so little to either of them. It’s taking the sacrifices of LGBT pioneers not only for granted, but to almost spit on these sacrifices with an exceptionally tone-deaf ingratitude. As an LGBT liberal, I do decry the incivility of the people on my side–everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, is deserving of some respect, especially out in the public. This is how society functions and how one prevents a descent into politicized violence, which can easily happen.

    At the same time, though, all LGBT people should be ever vigilant that these hard-fought rights could be easily taken away from us, Supreme Court ruling be damned. And that very basic rights, like non-discrimination in the workplace on the basis of LGBT status, is still not a universal right in this nation. These guys are lucky to live in a bubble of privilege where the laws protect them–D.C. prohibits discrimination in the workplace on the basis of LGBT status. But the fight for full LGBT rights is still not won, not by a long shot, and these guys–affluent, well-educated, highly informed–should know better.

  • I wish I could say I find this shocking. Sadly every culture has its own idiots, and these are ours.

  • Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are. Trump’s friends include Jerry Fallwell, Jr, Pat Robertson, Rick Santorum and Tony Perkins head of the Family Research Council. Pence has stated he’s a Christian first before anything else and that tells you what his public policy will be. Trump would just be a figure head, bobbing his head, and rubber stamping everything that Pence or the rest of our enemies tell him to do!

    What kind of AG do you think you will get under a Trump Presidency? Not someone like Eric Holder or our current AG. You won’t see that person fighting for our rights.

    The sad thing is that Trump makes no secret of his agenda when it comes to our issues yet you have people who call themselves GLBT making excuses for him and telling us otherwise! Live in denial if you will but don’t expect the rest of us to aid and abet you. All the rights you have now are not cast in stone and can easily be targeted for reversal and will be with the adoption of religious freedom laws!

    Why shouldn’t these people be nice to your face? You are giving them the votes they need to get into power. You are giving them money. Hitler was nice to gay people who gave him money before he achieved power, too. As I said, this election is not about supporting Hillary as it is about opposing Trump.

    I would rather have Hillary in office doing NOTHING for me than Trump in office doing EVERYTHING against me!!!!

  • This is an Onion spoof, no?

  • This is satire, right?

    I don’t know what the WashingtonBlade is, but I’m just going to assume it’s like the Onion. Because otherwise I would be getting a massive headache right now.

  • Cunningham is to Donny for the LGBT community what Omarosa is for “The African Americans”. A token that he can point to and say, “See- they support me.” But in reality, the moment either one of them becomes inconvenient to his end game, they’ll be tossed out with the trash. And the danger with Donny’s end game is that it usually comes about halfway through when nobody’s expecting it. The man changes goal posts more often than these two queens switch out their gracious home decor.

  • Wow…just when you think we as a community have reached the rock bottom of stupidity and utter foolishness, you bring out these self-absorbed, politically and socially irresponsible bozos , a couple of true representatives of some of the worst of what our community has to bring to the table. How disappointing…how embarrassing… ?

  • Homosexual Mary Matalin/James Carville games that are deadly serious for real LGBT Americans. Painful to behold their intoxication with the media coverage and front yard extravaganza.

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