Growing a gay old party

Patrick Guerriero has increased the Log Cabin Republicans’ membership and budget—as well as its standing among liberal national gay rights groups. Of course, that means fewer invites to White House parties.

BY Fred Kuhr

November 21 2005 12:00 AM ET

September 8,
2004, was a watershed moment for Log Cabin Republicans. On
that day the group for gay and lesbian members of the GOP
released an unusually long—five
pages—press release announcing that its board of
directors voted 22–2 not to endorse George W.
Bush’s reelection, largely because of his
support of a constitutional amendment seeking to bar
same-sex couples from marrying.

This was the
first time since Log Cabin opened its national office in
1993 that it had not endorsed the Republican nominee for
president, having backed Bush in 2000 and Bob Dole in
1996, moves that caused a strong backlash against Log
Cabin among many prominent gay and lesbian activists.
The charge at the time was that Log Cabin was more
interested in making nice with GOP muckety-mucks than
advancing gay equality.

But that all
changed in 2003 when Log Cabin hired Patrick
Guerriero—a Massachusetts native and moderate
Republican who had served as a state legislator as
well as mayor of his hometown of Melrose—to be the
group’s second executive director. Recently,
Guerriero’s title was changed to president.

Guerriero has
brought political skills as a former elected official, but
also a new philosophy, one that allows Log Cabin to speak
out against the antigay forces within its own party.
With Guerriero at the helm and a new, more diverse
board in place, the decision not to endorse Bush was
not wholly unexpected, despite fears of repercussions from
inside the GOP.

“There
remains a lot of anger inside the party from those who
wanted Log Cabin to give them cover for supporting the
Federal Marriage Amendment,” Guerriero tells
The Advocate. “There are some who consider
our decision to be a disloyal act, and that will take
some time to heal. But if you allow yourself to be
stepped on time and time again, you have no
credibility in Washington. Over time, in part because we
stood up for ourselves, feelings will flip back in our
direction. We want results. I don’t need to be
invited to every GOP cocktail party. And yes, I’ve
been invited to fewer GOP cocktail parties since the
decision. So be it.”

Guerriero goes so
far as to place Log Cabin clearly on one side of a
“battle” brewing inside the Republican Party,
pitting moderates and “traditional
conservatives” like U.S. senators Lincoln Chafee of
Rhode Island and Gordon Smith of Oregon against
“theocrats” like U.S. senators Rick
Santorum of Pennsylvania and Bill Frist of Tennessee.

“Log Cabin
used to be much too apologetic for bad Republican
behavior,” says Chuck Colbert, a freelance
journalist and activist who lives in Cambridge, Mass.
“But under Patrick, Log Cabin is much more willing to
take on fellow Republicans. Log Cabin was absolutely correct
in not endorsing Bush last year. If they had, they
would have been dead meat in the gay
community.”

One of
Guerriero’s first official acts when he assumed the
lead of Log Cabin was to reach out to other gay and
lesbian political groups. “I wanted these other
groups to know that Log Cabin was willing to carry its
weight. I also wanted to stop the infighting with other LGBT
groups,” says Guerriero, who also instituted a
new policy inside Log Cabin: “If you speak ill
of another LGBT group, that is grounds for
dismissal.”

Elizabeth
Birch—then–executive director of the Human
Rights Campaign—welcomed Guerriero’s
call on his first day on the job. “Patrick has
reached out extensively to Republicans and Democrats alike.
He has been among the most principled leaders of our
movement for equality,” Birch says.
“Patrick is a person of good character and does not
ever take the easy road. He stood up to the profound
failure of Bush with integrity. He takes the heat but
stays the course.”

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