Like GOP, Gay Republicans Also Adrift
Like the Republican Party at large, the gay conservative lobby these days finds itself at a crossroads, unsure about its direction in the new Democratic regime and bogged down in internal dissent that appears to be sidelining the once-influential movement.
Since historic Democratic victories last November, Log Cabin Republicans — once the most prominent gay and lesbian conservative group in the country — has effectively shut its doors in Washington, D.C.
The organization, which once had a downtown staff of a half-dozen, now has one full-time consultant on its payroll. Its top executive position has remained unfilled for more than six months.
“We’re examining what the Log Cabin Republicans needs to look like two years from now, five years from now versus what we’ve just done in the past,— spokesman Charles Moran said.
Moran also said his group is in the process of ceding more control to local Log Cabin chapters and shifting the group’s grass-roots and fundraising activities onto the Internet.
The organization also is facing competition from GOProud, a splinter group recently started by disgruntled former Log Cabin employees who are raising money at a brisk clip.
Jimmy LaSalvia, executive director of GOProud, said his group could bring in $1 million before Jan. 1, double what the group had originally expected to raise during its first 12 months.
LaSalvia also said his former employer has abandoned its role as a national representative for gay and lesbian conservative issues, saying the Log Cabin Republicans has veered “off track on the national level.— LaSalvia and GOProud Chairman Christopher Barron both left the organization after they were passed over for the executive director position last year.
LaSalvia declined to predict Log Cabin’s demise, saying that the group will likely always have some presence in communities around the country. LaSalvia also declined to respond to media reports highlighting the GOP group’s relationship with a Democratic donor.
“We’ll just have to wait and see what happens with their national organization,— he said. “We are an independent voice.—
Log Cabin spokesman Moran had harsher words for his former colleagues. He predicted that his organization will emerge from its current soul-searching process stronger. And despite all the initial splash GOProud made when it debuted months ago, Moran said the new competition has yet to deliver.
“They’ve made it clear that they just want to add a voice to the echo chamber. … They’ve already said they don’t want to be a people organization and have members and clubs,— Moran said. “Log Cabin has thousands of members across the country, and when we’re in campaign season, we’re out knocking on doors for candidates across the country. In the spring, Log Cabin Republicans is at gay pride parades registering disaffected Democrats and independents.—
“If you’re not a people-based organization, then what are you?— Moran continued. “Log Cabin is making a difference in helping move the Republican Party forward. We’re part of the solution and getting things done. Anyone else who’s not is just adding voices to the echo chamber.—
LaSalvia said GOProud is trying to expand the issue set of gay and lesbian conservatives “beyond the traditional half a dozen issues that all of the other gay rights organizations work on.— LaSalvia also pointed to a July 8 letter sent by his group and others — but not the Log Cabin Republicans — asking Members to support legislation that would give same-sex partners of federal employees health care and retirement benefits. He suggested it represents how marginalized the group has become.
The letter was signed by GOProud, the Service Employees International Union, Human Rights Campaign, the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.
Civil rights lobbyists agreed that the demise of the Log Cabin Republicans has created “a real gap— at a time when gay and lesbians should be making progress on Capitol Hill.
The group, which was founded in the late 1970s, was once assigned with buttonholing potentially sympathetic GOP Members on issues such as repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell— for military personnel.
These days, lobbyists say, those calls just don’t get made.
“If they don’t have any staff here anymore, that’s not good at this critical juncture,— a civil rights lobbyist said of the Log Cabin Republicans.
But by pushing a mainstream GOP agenda like lower taxes, civil rights lobbyists also wonder whether LaSalvia’s group is biting off more than it can chew.
“I’m not sure what the value added is having a [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] group focused on cutting taxes?— the lobbyist asked.
Correction: July 13, 2009
The article noted an incorrect date for the founding of Log Cabin Republicans. The group started in California in the late 1970s; it opened its D.C. office in the early 1990s.