In another sign of how the political landscape has changed in Washington, the gay GOP group Log Cabin Republicans appears to have emerged as the lead LGBT organization expected to have access to the administration of President Donald Trump.
With most of the longstanding national LGBT advocacy groups, including the Human Rights Campaign, strongly supporting or tilting toward Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in the November election, many political observers expect them to have little if any access to the Trump White House and federal agencies that oversee LGBT-related issues.
Log Cabin President Gregory Angelo points to an email message from HRC to its supporters shortly before the Trump inauguration calling on the LGBT community to “defy” Trump.
The HRC message said the group had created a new “defy” logo and encouraged supporters to “resist” action by Trump that would harm LGBT people or roll back LGBT supportive policies put in place by President Barack Obama.
“While I can be sympathetic to any efforts to oppose the rollback of LGBT protections – and I don’t anticipate that in a Trump administration – an organization as prominent as the Human Rights Campaign that is committed to defying anti-LGBT actions should also be committed to praising pro-LGBT action, which I fully anticipate the Trump administration to take on short order,” Angelo said.
“But I’m seeing no such promises from the Human Rights Campaign or any other LGBT advocacy organization on the gay left,” he said.
“I would just add that Log Cabin Republicans is the only LGBT advocacy organization that is committed to working with Donald Trump that has been invited to advise the president on LGBT issues and that has had an ongoing dialogue with his transition team and the incoming administration,” Angelo told the Washington Blade.
Log Cabin officials said the Trump administration’s overtures to Log Cabin during the transition period were backed up on Jan. 21 when a high-level transition team official, David Blair, and two Republican U.S. House members who served as Trump campaign officials attended a Log Cabin Inaugural ‘T’ Party held at the Capitol Hill Club, which is part of the Republican National Committee headquarters.
Angelo told the more than 150 LGBT Republicans attending the Log Cabin event that he expected Log Cabin to play an important role in advising the Trump administration on LGBT issues from a conservative Republican perspective in 2017, as the group celebrates its 40th anniversary.
He noted that Log Cabin, at the invitation of the transition team, submitted a white paper calling on Trump to retain an executive order issued by Obama banning discrimination against LGBT employees of federal contractors.
Earlier this week, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told Washington Blade White House correspondent Chris Johnson, that he wasn’t sure of Trump’s position on the executive order and would seek to find out where the new administration stands on that order.
“Beyond that we are going to be working toward federal LGBT non-discrimination legislation that includes responsible protections and exemptions for churches and religiously affiliated organizations,” Angelo said.
In a break with nearly all other LGBT advocacy groups, Angelo said Log Cabin doesn’t support the Equality Act, the latest version of a federal LGBT non-discrimination bill pending in Congress. He said the group would soon push for a different version of an LGBT non-discrimination bill that would likely gain more support among GOP lawmakers in Congress.
“And then there is a greater agenda we are pursuing together with the Trump administration involving making a case as LGBT conservatives for traditional conservative issues,” Angelo said, emphasizing further Log Cabin’s differences from most other LGBT advocacy groups.
Log Cabin would be speaking out, he said, for gun owners’ rights through “preservation of the Second Amendment, to repeal Obamacare and to replace it with a common sense conservative solution, repeal of the death tax, which is a tax that Log Cabin Republicans has fought against since time immemorial, and eradication of the threat of Islamic terrorism that poses an existential threat to the LGBT community as the Orlando terrorist event showed us.”
He noted that at the request of the Trump transition team earlier this month, Log Cabin wrote letters to wavering U.S. senators expressing support for Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos to be the Department of Education Secretary and in support of the nomination of the controversial former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson to become Secretary of State.
Angelo’s remarks come at a time when a newly formed New York City-based LGBT group called Rise and Resist has called on the LGBT community to oppose the Trump administration on all issues. In a statement on its website, the group has threatened to work for the defeat of Democratic members of Congress, including Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), a longtime LGBT rights supporter, if they take any action making them “collaborators” with the Trump administration.
With that as a backdrop, some LGBT activists have expressed concern that national LGBT groups like HRC could face pressure to avoid having any interaction with the Trump administration, even if a situation arises where those groups could push for LGBT supportive policies.
JoDee Winterhof, HRC’s senior vice president for policy and political affairs, told the Blade this week that while HRC plans to speak out against any effort by the new administration to reverse existing LGBT rights protections, it has already made contact with the administration.
“To be clear, we’ve already started doing that,” said Winterhof. “That’s already been started.”
Although she didn’t say with whom within the Trump administration HRC has been in touch, she noted that HRC, the nation’s largest LGBT advocacy group, doesn’t plan to discontinue its longtime practice of lobbying for LGBT equality before both Democratic and Republican presidents.
“There are nominees at agencies that could impact our issues,” she said. “For us not to communicate with those folks would not be the best approach,” Winterhof said, adding, “So of course we do those sorts of things. That’s what we do.”
At the same time, Winterhof said, HRC isn’t naïve and knows a large number of Trump appointees, including cabinet appointees, have records hostile to LGBT rights.
In an apparent reference to Log Cabin, she added, “If others in the movement have information where we should all rest easy, that our protections and gains are in place and they’re solid, then that’s fabulous news. But so far we don’t have information that tells us that.”
The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which helps elect LGBT people to public office on the local, state and national levels and also lobbies for presidential appointments of LGBT people, issued a strongly worded statement on the day following the election leaving no doubt about its opposition to Trump.
“Today I am heartbroken that racist, xenophobic, sexist and transphobic demagoguery won last night’s presidential election,” said Aisha Moodie-Mills, the Victory Fund’s president and CEO.
“The devastating results hit the LGBT community particularly hard because we are unique in spanning all the demographic groups targeted by the president-elect throughout his campaign,” she said.
In a separate statement to the Blade this week, Moodie-Mills said Victory Fund and its affiliated group, the Victory Institute, would continue to push hard for LGBT rights advances through the large number of openly LGBT elected officials it regularly works with. But she said she was doubtful that the Victory Institute’s Presidential Appointments Initiative would continue in a meaningful way during the Trump administration.
The Presidential Appointments Initiative “exists to advance equality for the entire LGBT community – including LGBT immigrants, women and people of color,” she said. “We will not use resources to secure LGBT appointments just for the sake of there being LGBT appointments,” she continued.
“If President Trump appoints an LGBT person supportive of the entire community, that is welcome,” she said. “But we are clear-eyed and realistic about the influence such an appointee may have on LGBT issues.”
D.C. gay public affairs and communications company executives Robert Raben, who heads the Raben Group, and Jeff Trammell, who heads Trammell & Company, each said LGBT groups whenever possible should attempt to advocate for LGBT-related issues within the Trump administration.
“It’s the wrong question – engage or not,” Raben told the Blade. “People should engage when they need to, fight when they need to, and be somewhere in between when they need to,” he said. “It’s an enormous waste of people’s energy to fight among ourselves about whether to engage or not.”
Added Raben, “We have one president at a time, one government at a time. Abdicating the responsibility to get in there and fight for what you want just turns your power over to those who will, to your detriment.”
Trammell, who has also been a longtime Democratic Party activist, said he is skeptical about Log Cabin Republicans’ ability to sway either the Republican Party or the Trump administration on LGBT issues based on what he says has been the group’s record.
“My point is I will applaud any LGBT Republican and any LGBT-supportive Republican who does things on behalf of the LGBT community,” said Trammell. “But the burden is on them at this time because there has been so much talk before and very little delivery,” he said. “So if they will do it, more power to them.”