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Whither the Log Cabin Republicans

A whole lot of words about a group of people that make no sense to me.

In June 1998, a group of gay and lesbian conservatives, pushing for greater representation at the Texas Republican Party convention in Fort Worth, found themselves in a frightening clash with members of their own party.

Members of the Log Cabin Republicans were protesting at the gathering of party faithful after a state GOP official made offensive comments comparing the group to the Ku Klux Klan and pedophiles. The group was also protesting the rejection of their request to host a booth at the convention — the second time in a row they’d been denied — where they hoped to share information about their organization.

Counterprotesters surrounded the Log Cabin members, wielding signs with homophobic slurs and phrases like “The Gay Life = AIDS Then Hell.” They pushed and spat and shoved their fingers in the faces of the gay Republicans.

Richard Tafel, the former executive director of the national Log Cabin Republicans which bills itself as the “nation’s largest Republican organization dedicated to representing LGBT conservatives and allies,” attended the Texas convention that year and recalls thinking he was in serious danger as they advocated for respect from members of their own party.

“We’re here to draw the line,” Tafel declared at the protest. “No more hatred, no more hatred in the name of God. And we won’t be silenced.”

A counterprotester threw a sign at his face.

“It was a tornado of emotion, volatile and dangerous, ready to touch down and sweep us all away at any moment. I was afraid for my own safety and that of others,” wrote Dale Carpenter, a former president of Log Cabin Republicans of Texas, in a newsletter later that year.

Ultimately, no one was injured that day. But it was a vivid display of homophobia within the party.

More than two decades later, this year’s Texas Republican convention made headlines again for its attitudes toward LGBTQ people. The party adopted a platform in June at its convention in Houston declaring that “homosexuality is an abnormal lifestyle choice.” That party position comes after similar language had been stripped from the platform just four years earlier, representing a backward step for Log Cabin members who have for years been fighting for acceptance within their ranks.

Gay Republicans who have fought for acceptance within the Texas GOP over the past three decades told The Texas Tribune progress has been excruciatingly slow. Many of them have left the party, even as the number of Log Cabin Republicans in Texas continues to grow.

“I do not believe that we made any progress. In fact, I think the party got worse,” Carpenter, who is no longer involved in party politics, said of his time as the state’s Log Cabin president.

I won’t argue with that. I can understand being gay and conservative, in the old-school business-friendly Republican sense of that word. Lower taxes, fewer regulations, less government – not my cup of chamomile, but I can see the argument. I can’t understand why any LGBTQ person today would want to associate themselves with the Republican Party, given not just the platform of the deranged Texas GOP but the legislative and legal actions being taken by Republican politicians and candidates and supporters around the country. It’s not a matter of worldviews, it’s a matter of the party not wanting you to exist. Read on for more of where these folks, many of whom like Dale Carpenter no longer identify as Republican, came from and where they are now.

(NB: The story has some quotes from Marco Roberts, the former state chair for Log Cabin. I’ve been on “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” on Houston Matters with Marco a number of times, including last month and earlier this month. He’s an affable and thoughtful person and I enjoy being on those segments with him. I hadn’t actually realized he was former Log Cabin until I read this story, even though the intro line that host Craig Cohen uses for him changed – it used to credit him with that association. I was thinking about him as I started reading this story and just wanted to mention that here.)

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