Why the Log Cabin Republicans Didn't Endorse Donald Trump

Trump and Pence

The Log Cabin Republicans’ decision not to endorse Donald Trump for president was based largely on something others have cited about him as well: unpredictability.

“The overarching reason … was the high degree of uncertainty about what a Trump administration would look like for Log Cabin Republicans and LGBT Americans in general,” said Gregory T. Angelo, the organization’s president.

Log Cabin’s political action committee announced last weekend that it was not endorsing Trump, and Angelo spoke with The Advocate a few days later. The group has no particular litmus test, he said, and it has noted that Trump has eschewed anti-LGBT rhetoric.

Its press release on the lack of an endorsement even called him “perhaps the most pro-LGBT presidential nominee in the history of the Republican Party.” In his Republican National Convention speech accepting the presidential nomination, he cited the June mass shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub and promised, “As your president I will do everything in my power to protect LGBTQ citizens.”

That may ring hollow to many, given that Trump has pledged to appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn marriage equality if they have the opportunity, and indeed, many on the list from which he says he will draw nominees have anti-LGBT records. He also supports the First Amendment Defense Act, proposed in Congress, which would give legal cover to discrimination against LGBT people and anyone else if it’s done in the name of religious freedom.

Log Cabin did mention those factors in its press release, along with the fact that Trump is surrounded by anti-LGBT types, including members of various advisory committees and his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who signed state-level legislation similar to the First Amendment Defense Act. (After public outcry, the Indiana law was amended so that it ostensibly could not be used to justify discrimination.)

Angelo mentioned these factors in speaking with The Advocate too. But he said there’s little chance the Supreme Court will get a case that would challenge marriage equality — it would take someone bringing a case claiming they were somehow harmed by the right of same-sex couples to marry, and Angelo called that an impossibility.

And the First Amendment Defense Act will probably go nowhere, he said, as some on the religious right have withdrawn support for it. Since new language in the bill offers protection to those whose religious or moral convictions lead them to believe in the recognition of opposite-sex or same-sex marriages, the anti-LGBT Family Research Council, for one, no longer supports the bill, saying it should not protect multiple views of marriage.

So on the lack of an endorsement, Angelo said, “If there’s one thing this decision boiled down to, it’s uncertainty.” There is precedent for Log Cabin not endorsing the Republican nominee; in 2004 it did not endorse George W. Bush for reelection as president — at the time, Angelo noted, Bush was pushing for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

Angelo also noted that in a 2000 interview with The Advocate, when Trump was considering a presidential bid on the Reform Party ticket, the businessman expressed support for antidiscrimination protections for gay people (transgender issues didn’t come up at the time). But it’s uncertain that Trump still does support that, he said, or if he would leave in place President Obama’s executive orders banning anti-LGBT discrimination against federal workers or those employed by companies with federal contracts. Trump has said he would undo many of Obama’s executive orders.

The lack of a Trump endorsement, however, doesn’t mean Log Cabin wants to see Hillary Clinton become president — indeed, members should do everything in their power to defeat the Democratic nominee, Angelo said. “Withholding endorsement is not the same thing as opposing our nominee,” he said.

Unlike a lot of observers, he doesn’t think Trump has damaged the Republican Party’s brand. “If anything, Trump has shown you can speak about LGBT concerns positively and win the nomination,” Angelo said. If being strongly anti-LGBT were the key to winning the nomination, he said, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum would have been the finalists. Cruz did come in second to Trump in delegates won during the primaries, but the other two dropped out of the race early.

While not engaging in explicitly anti-LGBT rhetoric, Trump has made deeply offensive statements about other groups of people — women, Mexican immigrants, Muslims. Log Cabin, Angelo said, has spoken out against Trump when it was merited — for instance, on his proposal to bar all Muslims from entering the U.S.

He added that Log Cabin voters aren’t single-issue — they support many of the same causes other Republicans do, such as strengthening national security, preserving the Second Amendment, and repealing the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare.

Speaking of the Second Amendment, The Advocate recently received a letter from a man who was angered that Log Cabin’s Los Angeles chapter (which, by the way, has endorsed Trump, even though the national group hasn’t) was promoting an event called A Day at the Range, where participants will receive instruction on gun use and safety. He thought it was inappropriate for Log Cabin to be promoting such an event, especially since an officer of the L.A. chapter, Ben Coleman, is a member of West Hollywood’s Public Safety Commission.

But Angelo said several Log Cabin chapters have held such events, and that given the group’s support for gun rights, “this is not unexpected.” He added, “I would never say there’s anything wrong with exercising your Second Amendment rights in this country.”

And he remains optimistic that the Republican Party can become supportive of LGBT equality, even though his group has denounced this year’s party platform as the most anti-LGBT in history. “If anything positive has come out of [Trump’s] winning the nomination,” he said, it’s in showing that Republicans “no longer need to toe the anti-LGBT line.”

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