Log Cabin Republicans, the largest national group representing gay Republicans, announced its endorsement of Mitt Romney for president Tuesday, saying the decision shows, "We are Americans first."
In a separate explanatory statement, however, the group also said its endorsement of the former Massachusetts governor was "qualified" and that it planned to be "most active" in working for its endorsed House and Senate candidates. And it dismissed Romney's signed pledge to ban same-sex marriage via an amendment to the U.S. Constitution as an "empty promise."
The group's national board of directors said the decision to endorse came "after careful consideration and consultation with our members and chapters, as well as communication with Mitt Romney and his campaign team." Questions about whether the Log Cabin Republicans would endorse the Romney-Ryan ticket have surrounded the group for months.
"The decision to endorse is the right one for our members, our community, and for the nation as a whole," said Log Cabin Republicans executive director, R. Clarke Cooper in the general news release. "Despite our disagreement with Governor Romney on the issue of marriage, on balance it is clear that in today's economic climate, concern for the future of our country must be the highest priority. We are Republicans, and we agree with Governor Romney's vision for America in which success is a virtue, equal opportunity is ensured, and leaders recognize that it is the American people, not government, that build our nation and fuel its prosperity."
Cooper added, "On issues of particular concern to the LGBT community, we believe Governor Romney will move the ball forward compared to past Republican presidents. No matter who is in the White House, it is crucial our community always has a credible voice speaking out on behalf of LGBT Americans. Log Cabin Republicans will be that voice to President Mitt Romney."
Romney opposes allowing same-sex couples to marry. This week his campaign reaffirmed the candidate's support for a federal marriage amendment, which would prohibit states from recognizing same-sex marriages.
In 2004 the Log Cabin Republicans declined to endorse President George W. Bush for reelection because of his support for a federal marriage amendment.
Support for the federal marriage amendment and the Defense of Marriage Act are pillars of the National Organization for Marriage pledge Romney signed during the Republican presidential primaries. Log Cabin Republicans addressed the issue of the NOM pledge in a fuller statement that described its endorsement as "qualified," saying, "From the day Governor Romney signed this pledge, Log Cabin has been outspoken in our opposition to this exercise in an outdated politics of division."
"However, 2012 is not 2004," said the group. "The Federal Marriage Amendment has been voted on twice, and each time has failed with bipartisan opposition. Marriage equality is now the law in six states and the District of Columbia, and polls consistently show a slim but growing majority of Americans supporting the freedom to marry. Even among Republicans, support for the freedom to marry is growing. Particularly in today's economic climate, there is simply no appetite to pass or even seriously consider any such amendment."
The statement added, "While even the suggestion of enshrining discrimination in our nation's most precious document is deeply offensive, there is a significant difference between a valid threat and an empty promise made to a vocal but shrinking constituency. In our judgment, the NOM pledge is ultimately merely symbolic and thus should not be the basis of a decision to withhold an endorsement from an otherwise qualified candidate, particularly given the gravity of the economic and national security issues currently at stake."
While acknowledging that Romney might not be the choice for voters for whom LGBT issues are the "highest or only priority," Log Cabin Republicans said it was confident that under a Romney administration there would be "no retreat from the significant gains" of recent years, particularly repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
"With regard to the LGBT issue most likely to reach the president's desk and most vital to many in our community today -- workplace nondiscrimination -- we are persuaded that we can work with a Romney administration to achieve a desirable outcome," said the fuller statement. "And for those people who point fearfully to potential vacancies on the United States Supreme Court, we offer a reminder: five of the eight federal court rulings against DOMA were written by Republican-appointed judges. Mitt Romney is not Rick Santorum, and Paul Ryan is not Michele Bachmann. Otherwise, our decision would have been different."
Log Cabin included statements from two Republicans who support marriage equality in its Romney announcement.
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, the first and only Republican to support legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, said, "Our country is at a crossroad in its history, and the election of our next President will determine what course it will take. Our nation needs common sense solutions to fixing our economy and creating private sector jobs and Governor Romney will provide us with the strong leadership we need at this critical time. Governor Romney understands that businesses need less government regulation and lower taxes. Romney is the right man for our time. I am pleased that Log Cabin Republicans is endorsing Governor Romney. I know that all of us together will fight for equality for all Americans, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation."
Former George W. Bush administration solicitor general and Romney campaign adviser Theodore Olson, who is co-leading the federal lawsuit against Proposition 8, said, "Like the Log Cabin Republicans, I am proud to support Governor Romney for president, and I am proud to be an advocate for the freedom to marry. This endorsement speaks to Log Cabin's principled belief in equality for all Americans, and the pragmatic recognition that our nation is in need of new leadership. Getting our fiscal house in order is more than an economic imperative -- it's a moral imperative. Gay or straight, Americans deserve a president who will secure a future for our children that doesn't leave them buried in debt."
GOProud, a group representing gay conservatives and their allies, endorsed Romney in June. A spokesman for the group expressed "disappointment" about the "qualified" nature of Log Cabin's support in a statement to The Advocate.
"We are disappointed that they have offered only a qualified endorsement and made it clear they won't work to elect Governor Romney," said cofounder Chris Barron. "We need all hands on deck and every vote we can get right now to help defeat Barack Obama."