The list of Republicans announcing their exits from leadership roles in Washington prior to Election Day expanded into LGBT circles Tuesday night when Gregory Angelo, president of Log Cabin Republicans, announced plans to step down after six years heading the organization.
Angelo announced “this will be my final Spirit of Lincoln dinner serving as your president” before the estimated 250 attendees at the annual event in D.C., which this year was held at the Mayflower Hotel.
“Now is the time to pass that baton to someone who will continue our stride toward a more equal America,” Angelo said.
Angelo cited as major milestones the commemoration of Log Cabin’s 40th anniversary, participation in the Conservative Political Action Conference, and recognition of the organization by the Republican National Committee. Angelo also cited “for the first time in history, formal recognition of Log Cabin Republicans from a sitting Republican president,” thanking President Trump for the honor.
Although many Republicans are heading for the exits ahead of the congressional mid-term elections, Angelo told the Blade his departure was planned for around this time when he first came on board six years ago.
“When I started at Log Cabin Republicans, I had stated to myself that what this organization needed more than anything was stability in its executive leadership — something Log Cabin Republicans had lacked for probably the better part of a decade,” Angelo said. “Having said that, I made a vow to head this organization for at least four, but no more than six years, and this is the sixth year. It’s time to grow.”
Angelo said Log Cabin’s board of directors has had a search process for a new president in place “for the better part of the year” and he’d stick around until new leadership is ready, “potentially” past Election Day. Angelo, however, kept his cards close to the vest on the timing for the announcement of the new president and his own plans post-Log Cabin.
Delivering the keynote address at the dinner was Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican who polls as the most popular governor in the United States and told attendees personal stories about people he knew who came out as gay, asserting the disclosure of their sexual orientation made no difference to him.
At the top of the list for Baker was his brother, whom Baker said came out in 1982 by asking him, “What would you say if I told you your brother was gay?”
“I’d say, ‘That’s OK,'” Baker said he responded, eliciting applause from the audience.
The response from his brother, Baker said, was “That’s actually great because I want you to tell Mom and Dad.”
In the aftermath of the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling for same-sex marriage in 2003, Baker recalled attending his brother’s wedding ceremony.
“I remember being at the wedding,” Baker said. “The thing I thought about the most, in addition to how happy our parents were, was how many opportunities have been missed, how many chances, friendships, partnerships, relationships were missed in that 20 years between the time my brother first [came out] to me…and got married.”
Baker also made the case for LGBT inclusion by insisting sexual orientation shouldn’t be a factor in decisions for businesses and organizations.
“We talk all the time about how important it is for us to always find the best people when you put together an organization or team or whatever it is,” Baker said. “Find the best people. How the hell are you going to find the best people if you don’t let everybody play?”
Baker said being willing to take on the best talent isn’t limited to disregarding sexual orientation in hiring practices, noting he picked Stephanie Pollack as Massachusetts transportation secretary even though he said she sued him “like 10 times” as an attorney.
Although Baker was introduced at the dinner as the governor who signed the update to Massachusetts civil rights law expanding protections for transgender people to public accommodations, neither he nor anyone on stage mentioned that law will come up as a referendum before state voters on Election Day.
(UPDATE: A Log Cabin spokesperson told the Blade after the publication of this article Baker as well as and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan spoke about the transgender public accommodation referendum during remarks at a separate cocktail reception where Ros-Lehtinen was presented with a lifetime achievement award.)
During the dinner, Angelo took the opportunity to hail LGBT victories he counted in the past year for Republicans, such as the U.S. ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, the highest-ranking openly gay official in the Trump administration. (Grenell attended the dinner, but declined to speak to the Blade, asserting he was there “socializing.”)
Angelo also hailed as a victory the lessening of anti-gay language in the 2018 Texas Republican Party platform. Log Cabin’s Houston delegation to the Texas Republican convention was brought on stage and presented with an award for the achievement.
“Treating gay individuals as peers rather than combatants is a necessary step in the road to equality,” Angelo said. “And if you can do it in Texas, then you can do it anywhere.”
(Although the document no longer contains language asserting God condemns homosexuality, the platform still endorses widely discredited “ex-gay” conversion therapy and anti-transgender bathroom legislation and condemns the U.S. Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage.)
At a time of continual anti-LGBT policy decisions from the Trump administration, including the implementation that day of a State Department policy cancelling visas for the unmarried same-sex parents of foreign diplomats, Angelo cited pro-LGBT developments in the Republican Party to the Blade when asked why LGBT people should back Republicans on Election Day.
“What did you see in this room tonight?” Angelo said. “What you saw at the Spirit of Lincoln dinner was LGBT Republicans who are energized to support allies, and we have a lot of them in the current Congress.”
Angelo pointed out more Republicans now co-sponsor the Fair & Equal Housing Act than the number of Republicans who voted for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in 2013 and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal in 2010.
Recognized at the dinner for attending the pre-reception, but not the dinner itself, were Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan as well as U.S. Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.). Retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), New Hampshire State Sen. Dan Innis D.C. Republican Party Chair Jose Cunningham and former Rep. Jim Kolbe attended the reception and stayed for the duration of the dinner.