Who Are the Log Cabin Republicans?

By, Ariell Branson

3D elephant a happy day outdoors

Log Cabin Republicans (LCR) are not a bunch of guys who live in log cabins, nor are they descendants of Paul Bunyan. They are members of the Republican Party who advocate for equal rights for queer people in the United States and are largely gay conservatives. They support “fairness, freedom, and equality for all Americans.” LCR act as a response to a common critique of the current Republican platform – that opposing gay rights is not consistent with the GOP’s core principals of small government and maintaining personal freedoms. They think that it’s important to educate rank-and-file Republicans about why it is necessary to promote legislation that preserves the rights of gay and lesbian Americans.

LCR have a close link to Ronald Reagan, who opposed the discriminatory Brigg’s Initiative. The Brigg’s Initiative attempted to prevent homosexuals from teaching in public schools and would make it legal to fire teachers who supported homosexuality. Reagan’s condemnation of the bill played a huge roll in its defeat and inspired gay conservatives to create the group. Abraham Lincoln, whom they believe promoted an inclusive Republican Party, inspired the name.

LCR also played a crucial role in challenging the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which excluded homosexuals from serving openly in the military. They argued that the policy violated the rights to free speech, due process and open association. It was eventually found that the policy violated the First and Fifth Amendments.

As of the time this article went to press, LCR have not endorsed a presidential candidate for the 2016 election. Their president, Gregory Angelo, has said, “Any inclinations I have right now would be pure conjecture at this point.” However, this summer Angelo wrote a letter which said, in part, “the Republican Party passed the most anti-LGBT Platform in the Party’s 162-year history. Opposition to marriage equality, nonsense about bathrooms, an endorsement of the debunked psychological practice of ‘pray the gay away’ — it’s all in there. This isn’t my GOP, and I know it’s not yours either.” The LCR plan to make (or withhold) their official endorsement sometime in September after a private meeting and a survey of 48 local chapters.

Donald Trump’s selection of Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his running mate for the GOP ticket has created some heated debates within the LCR. Pence has a history of anti-LGBT rhetoric. In fact, many call him the most openly anti-LGBT person to ever run on the GOP ticket. In recent history Pence has: supported a constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality, signed a bill to jail same-sex couples for applying for a marriage license and attempted to divert funding from HIV prevention to conversion therapy. This makes it extremely difficult for the LCR to endorse Trump. However, they are unable to endorse Gary Johnson or a different Trump alternative. “We won’t do that because we can’t do that,” Angelo said. “Per our bylaws, we can only endorse or withhold an endorsement for a Republican candidate for office, so the only decision this board will be making is to endorse Donald Trump or to withhold our endorsement from Donald Trump.”

Several prominent pro-LGBT rights Republicans, including Representative Richard Hanna, have denounced Trump and announced they will be voting for Hillary Clinton in November. The LCR are in a tough spot when it comes to endorsing Trump. Perhaps they will choose to withhold their endorsement altogether as they did for George W. Bush in 2004 when he supported a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Whatever the LCR do, this is certainly an interesting election cycle for LGBT Americans and the electorate at large.