Gay GOP Group Splinters: Conservatives Exit Log Cabin

by Steve Weinstein

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday April 15, 2009

The medieval academics are famous for arguing how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. A more pressing political question is how many national organizations can be formed from the ranks of gay Republicans.

The current answer is two, as a group of conservatives break off from the venerable Log Cabin Republicans to form GOProud. The new group's leaders complain that the Log Cabins are too liberal, which will probably come as a surprise to many observers.

As reported by the Washington Times, the group's head, Jimmy LaSalvia, was the Log Cabin policy director. He praises Log Cabin's work on the local level, but believes it has lost its way on the national front.

"Our country is in transition, our party certainly is in transition, and there is no place at the table at the moment for gay conservatives," LaSalvia said. "We are seeking to fill that void."

Also joining the nascent group is Chris Barron, who is well known on the national stage as the long-time political director for Log Cabin. The group is announcing its formation just as the Log Cabins descend on Washington for a convention.

The meeting comes at a critical time for the older group. Former head Patrick Sammon left back in January, and, according to the Washington Blade, the group has had no paid staffers since then. The Blade had a scoop when it earlier reported that Democratic donor Tim Gill was the real power behind the scenes, with a $250,000 annual gift each of the past two years--fully one-third of the operating budget.

Log Cabin has had a rocky relationship with the party it embraces. Bob Dole famously gave back a small donation to his campaign--and later expressed regrets for having done so. George W. Bush met with gay Republicans in Texas. And more recently, a group of GOP honchos headed by Sen. Arlen Spector of Pennsylvania have openly courted gay Republicans.

George W. Bush's vice-president, Dick Chaney, has an openly lesbian daughter. He refused any suggestions that he disavow her relationship with her partner. When the couple had a child, he and his wife proudly posed with their grandchild.

More recently, Meghan McCain, the daughter of the 2008 candidate for president, has made gay rights and specifically gay marriage a personal cause. Citing the widening generation gap between older and younger Republicans, McCain has been very vocal in insisting that the GOP will go the way of the Whigs if it doesn't modify positions on social issues.

McCain was scheduled to address the Log Cabins. Her position is bolstered by a report on that shows a huge rift between the two great social issues of the day.

On the subject of abortion, young conservatives pretty much agree with their parents. But when it comes to gay marriage, there's a gap of 20 percent between them--a gap that's growing, according to pollsters.

"Whether the Republican Party amends its actual policy stance on gay marriage or whether it simply makes efforts to be more tolerant and inclusive of homosexuals generally, the Republican Party cannot ignore the vast differences in public opinion between young and old voters on the issue," the article concludes. "This difference certainly presents a serious challenge to the party's long-term ability to swell its ranks among young voters."

The authors of "Culture War?: The Myth of a Polarized America" put it even more starkly: "If the commandants on the 'orthodox' side hope to win a culture war over homosexuality, they had better do it soon; their potential ranks are being thinned by mortality."

Steve Weinstein has been a regular correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, the Advocate, the Village Voice and Out. He has been covering the AIDS crisis since the early '80s, when he began his career. He is the author of "The Q Guide to Fire Island" (Alyson, 2007).