Growing a gay old

Growing a gay old

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.

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

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

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.”

Guerriero showed
his bipartisan roots when he returned to Massachusetts
earlier this year to aid in the successful lobbying effort
to kill that state’s constitutional amendment
banning same-sex marriage.

was instrumental as a Republican, and as a gay Republican,
in talking with his former colleagues on this
issue,” says Marty Rouse, campaign director of
MassEquality, the group spearheading opposition to any
move to rescind marriage equality in the Bay State.
“As a former state legislator, he understands
that a lot of important work gets done behind closed
doors and not quoted in the press. In order to achieve
success, we need Republican support and behind-the-scenes
work, especially for Republicans, who are, generally
speaking, more opposed to gay equality and marriage

That said, Rouse
says that Log Cabin could be even more effective:
“They need to find pro–gay rights people
to run against homophobes in their party. They should
be proactive rather than just reactive. Yes, they have
to keep a foot in the door of the party, but they need to
keep moving forward as well.”

In truth, Log
Cabin has been moving forward under Guerriero’s
leadership, particularly in shifting the
group’s focus outside of the Beltway and
building the organization on the grassroots level.

The day after
Guerriero spoke with The Advocate, he was off to
North Carolina to help build new chapters in the Tar Heel
State. During the past three years, Log Cabin has
grown more in conservative “red states”
than in liberal “blue states.”

“For the
first time in history, young gay and lesbian conservatives
are meeting with elected officials,” he says.
“We are giving young gay and lesbian
conservatives a safe place to come out to themselves, their
families, and their legislators.” Guerriero says that
such discussions with Republican lawmakers in
conservative states is vital because they have largely
never taken place before. Guerriero is also hoping to mentor
the next generation of openly gay Republican lawmakers.

Under Guerriero,
the number of recognized Log Cabin chapters has nearly
doubled, from 29 in January 2003 to 50 in October 2005.
Total membership has increased almost fivefold,
growing from 3,750 in December 2002 to 18,462 in
October 2005. The annual budget has also ballooned from
$350,000 in 2002 to $1.9 million in 2004.

Bill Brownson of
Columbus, Ohio, who is serving his third year as chair
of Log Cabin’s board, gives Guerriero credit for
helping grow the organization. “He is a gifted
leader, and we are blessed to have him, not just as a
leader of our organization, but that extends to the greater
gay and lesbian community through collaborations with
other organizations,” Brownson says.

Brownson also
stands by his board’s decision not to back Bush last
year. “Our perspective and mission transcends
any single party leader or administration,” he
says. “That decision is in line with our mission over
the long term. The Federal Marriage Amendment restricts
liberty constitutionally and is the antithesis of
conservatism.” The Republican National
Committee did not respond to The Advocate’s
requests for comment.

But is taking
such a firm stand with fellow Republicans a winning
strategy? “Confrontation gets your group more
attention but less influence,” says Larry J.
Sabato, director of the University of
Virginia’s Center for Politics. “On the other
hand, Log Cabin has set a standard for the 2008
presidential contest, and it looks like they will have
a number of social moderates from which to choose.”

For Guerriero, it
all boils down to what kind of organization Log Cabin
wants to be. “The culture war exploded in 2000, and
Log Cabin had a choice to make,” says
Guerriero. “Are we first and foremost a Republican
organization, or are we first and foremost a gay
organization with a role to play inside the Republican
Party? The board and I made a conscious decision on
the second, and that has affected everything we have to do
and continue to do.”