The ‘‘Log Cabin Republicans,’’ so named in honor of Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace, is an organization of gay and lesbian Republicans dedicated to working within the Republican Party for equal rights. Founded in California in 1978 in response to the anti-gay Briggs Initiative, which sought to ban gay teachers from public schools, the group has grown in size over the past thirty years to more than 12,000 members and is now the strongest voice for gay rights within the Republican Party.
The group is largely composed of gays and lesbians committed to traditional GOP principles—national defense, fiscal conservatism, and libertarian social policies—but who are dedicated to making the party more inclusive and to bucking its traditional anti-gay stance.
In the 1980s, the organization focused on educating GOP members about gay and lesbian issues while urging self-reliance and individual responsibility as part of the response to the AIDS epidemic. But what sparked the group’s rapid growth in the mid- 1990s was the anti-gay tone of the 1992 Republican Convention in Houston, Texas. The convention motivated gay Republicans to take a more active role in the party’s leadership, leading to the establishment of the national office of the Log Cabin Republicans in Washington, D.C. shortly thereafter. They received considerable media attention in 1996 when Republican Senator and presidential candidate Bob Dole, who eventually received the organization’s endorsement after accepting the contribution, initially returned a $500 campaign from the group. In that same year, the Log Cabin Republicans won a verdict in Texas District Court against the Texas GOP, which had excluded them from filling a booth at the state party convention.
Although the Log Cabin Republicans supported John McCain for President, they were initially pleased with George W. Bush’s positions on gay and lesbian issues, applauding his $15 billion plan to combat AIDS around the world, for example. However, the Log Cabin Republicans strongly opposed President Bush’s plan to enact a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The proposed language of the Federal Marriage Amendment, as the group interprets it, would also deny the legal benefits of same-sex civil unions. The organization points out that no constitutional amendment has even been used to ‘‘discriminate’’ against a class of people, and that the proposal ‘‘tramples’’ on federalism and represents an invasion of states’ rights. The group spent more than $1 million on radio and television advertisements to oppose the change, and pointedly voted against endorsing the President for a second term in office.
The Log Cabin Republicans have not focused solely on the Federal Marriage Amendment but are actively working within the Republican Party to reorient its position in respect of other legislative priorities. The organization has lobbied for the enactment of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would prohibit discrimination against gays or lesbians in the workplace. Another focus of the group has been eliminating the ‘‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’’ policy, which, the group contends, unfairly discriminates against homosexuals in the U.S. military.
References and Further Reading
See also Gay and Lesbian Rights