This month marks the 39th anniversary of the founding of the Log Cabin Republicans. Hard to believe they’ve been around for almost 40 years — and even harder to believe that in all that time their party’s unending opposition to their very existence hasn’t made them give up in frustration.
LCR was founded back in 1977, spurred by a crazily homophobic ballot measure sponsored by — surprise! — a Republican. It was called the Briggs Initiative, and it could have banned anyone even suspected of being gay from working in a school. It was a rallying cry for civil rights leaders, including Harvey Milk.
At the time, state leaders were able to persuade soon-to-be presidential candidate Ronald Reagan to oppose the bill. That helped diminish support among Republican voters, who were otherwise staunchly opposed to LGBTQ equality. Reagan would go on to become president, and was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of gay men with his indifference to the HIV epidemic.
Following Briggs, the put-upon California queers who identified as Republicans decided to organize. They founded a group initially called the Lincoln Club — but that name was taken by another group of Republicans who almost certainly wanted nothing to do with them. They then switched their name to refer to Lincoln’s fabled home. They chose Lincoln to remind fellow Republicans that the former president was a champion of liberty and equality — and to this day they continue to wait for their party to embrace those values.
The LCR’s initial accomplishments include watching their party denigrate the victims of HIV through the ’80s, then then espouse anti-gay rhetoric at conventions in the ’90s. The group refused to endorse the first President Bush due to his acceptance of homophobia at the 1992 Republican National Convention. Their withholding of support went virtually unnoticed by their fellow Republicans, and Bush was easily voted into office.
Speaking of impotence, Bob Dole made headlines in 1995 when he refused to accept a donation from the organization — even after his campaign had initially begged them for money. This double-cross was somehow a surprise to LCR leadership, which had earlier spoken to Dole about AIDS legislation. The Dole campaign asked LCR leaders to remain silent on the issue, even going so far as to suggest a level of bribery: “Steadfastness and statesmanship at this moment will be handsomely appreciated in the long run.”
LCR’s executive director Rich Tafel refused, and went to the press about the GOP’s hypocrisy. Eventually Republicans allowed a gay man to speak at the convention that year, under the condition that he not be publicly identified as gay.
That was followed by further mistreatment by the party: In 2004, the group voted to withhold an endorsement for the second President Bush, due to his endorsement of a constitutional marriage ban.
All in all, the LCR has enjoyed 39 jam-packed years. It’s hard to count all that they have accomplished in that time — mainly because it’s hard to count to zero.
(Featured image via Tim Eytan/Flickr)