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The nation’s top LGBT Republican group will be withholding its endorsement from GOP nominee Donald Trump this election cycle, choosing to instead focus on growing the ranks of pro-LGBT members of Congress.
In a press release on Saturday, the Log Cabin Republicans announced that they would not be issuing an endorsement of Trump, despite expressing pleasure with Trump’s attempts at reaching out to the LGBT community. Quoting former President Ronald Reagan’s line of ‘Trust, but verify,’ the organization said there was just too much uncertainty surrounding what Trump might do as president to issue a full-throated endorsement.
“Mr. Trump is perhaps the most pro-LGBT presidential nominee in the history of the Republican Party. His unprecedented overtures to the ‘LGBTQ community’ — a first for any major-party candidate in our nation’s history — are worthy of praise, and should serve as a clarion call to the GOP that the days of needing to toe an anti-LGBT line are now a thing of the past,” the organization said in the press release.
“But Log Cabin Republicans have long emphasized that we are not a single-issue organization, nor are our members single-issue voters. Even if we were, rhetoric alone regarding LGBT issues does not equate to doctrine,” the release continues. “As Mr. Trump spoke positively about the LGBT community in the United States, he concurrently surrounded himself with senior advisors with a record of opposing LGBT equality, and committed himself to supporting legislation such as the so-called ‘First Amendment Defense Act’ that Log Cabin Republicans opposes.”
The last — and only other — time in the organization’s 40-year history that it has not endorsed a candidate for president was in 2004, when it withheld its endorsement of President George W. Bush. The reason for not endorsing the incumbent president was his support for and campaigning on behalf of a Federal Marriage Amendment that would have enshrined a countrywide ban on same-sex marriage into the U.S. Constitution.
But Gregory T. Angelo, president of the Log Cabin Republicans, notes that just because the organization has withheld its endorsement does not mean its members are not personally supporting Trump as he seeks the presidency.
“The overreaching reason our board reached the consensus they did was that there is so much uncertainty about what a Trump presidency would look like. There have been vacillations that he has made on not only LGBT issues, but other issues that lead one to wonder what a Trump administration would look like in practice,” says Angelo. “And, as he’s someone who has never held elective office in his life, any trust you put into the candidate would be a blind trust.
“If Donald Trump becomes president, would he become the president who took a hands-off approach in the drafting of the GOP platform that led to the passage of the most anti-LGBT platform in the Party’s history? Or would he be the Donald Trump that we say during the convention, who presided over the most pro-LGBT GOP convention in history? Any answer to that question would be pure conjecture,” Angelo adds. “Log Cabin Republicans has been around for 40 years. We’re going to be around for many more. And it didn’t seem shrewd at this time to put the organization as a whole behind a candidate around whom there is so much uncertainty.”
Angelo acknowledges that there was a diversity of opinion even among Log Cabin board members about whether the organization should back Trump. For instance, he says, there were some members who were concerned about the composition of the U.S. Supreme Court in a future presidential administration. Those individuals were not so concerned with the specter (raised by the Left) of overturning the court’s Obergefell marriage equality decision — which the group views as “settled law” that will not be reversed — but issues such as preserving Second Amendment rights, and had argued on behalf of a Trump endorsement.
Angelo adds that, should Trump win the presidency, Log Cabin will continue to extend an olive branch and work with his administration to ensure that progress continues to be made on LGBT issues. To ensure that, the group has decided to focus its efforts on electing and re-electing pro-LGBT Republican candidates to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. The organization has previously issued three “waves” of endorsements for 22 down-ballot candidates, including six Senate incumbents and seven House incumbents.
When asked if he is concerned about coattails from the presidential race — where Democrat Hillary Clinton currently enjoys a sizable lead — making it more difficult for Republican candidates this cycle, Angelo says he doesn’t see attempts by Democrats to link Trump to down-ballot candidates as being particularly effective.
“I think most voters assume Donald Trump is a unique phenomenon in politics, and is, in many respects, advocating his own brand of conservatism,” he says. “So when you try to connect Republicans, particularly Republicans who have tried to distance themselves from the nominee, like [Sen.] Mark Kirk in Illinois, I don’t necessarily see any reverberations from Trump.
“The unknown is how well are Democrats going to be able to push turnout this year. The reason that is such an unknown is because there is a decided lack of enthusiasm behind Hillary Clinton’s candidacy,” Angelo adds. “So I don’t think we’re going to see the kind of numbers we saw in 2008 with Barack Obama and the wave that he ushered in, in terms of dragging along down-ballot Democrats into the House and Senate. But we’re certainly not taking anything for granted, and it’s important to make sure we’re supporting those pro-LGBT senators, congressmen, and candidates.”
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