Log Cabin Republicans’ False Hope That Romney Might Support LGBT Nondiscrimination Protections

Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper

After the Log Cabin Republicans’ disappointing endorsement of Mitt Romney yesterday, media outlets speculated as to what would inspire them to abandon their principles in such a way. Ben Adler at The Nation noticed that LCR claimed it could “work with a Romney administration to achieve a desirable outcome” on workplace nondiscrimination, so he followed up with executive director R. Clarke Cooper. Cooper claimed that he was confident that Romney would support anti-discrimination legislation, because he “has been adamant” in opposing discrimination. Adler concluded that Romney must have secretly promised LCR support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in exchange for its endorsement. (Demonstrating conservatives’ distrust for Romney’s integrity, Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association reacted quite negatively to the news.)

But BuzzFeed’s Chris Geidner double checked, and suddenly Cooper was not as enthusiastic about these claims, clarifying, “I did not say Romney would sign the current form of ENDA,” but that the group is confident that they could “achieve desirable tangible outcomes on workplace discrimination.” Herein lies the obvious flaw with LCR’s endorsement: completely false hope. Mitt Romney certainly proved in the debates that he’s capable of sounding moderate despite how conservative his principles — or at least his campaign platform — remain. Even if there was no ENDA promise, any hope conveyed to LCR by the Romney campaign in regards to federal employment protections was surely a ruse.

There is absolutely nothing in Romney’s history to warrant optimism that he has any concern for LGBT people. In May, he flat-out said that he would not support ENDA because he believes states should get to decide whether it’s okay to fire people just for being LGBT. As governor, he ostensibly fired two of his employees for just that reason, in addition to demonstrating galling insensitivity to LGBT families. Ryan’s record is no better; though at one point he did cast a vote in favor of ENDA, he then said he could no longer support it if included protections based on gender identity, and he has refused to answer questions on the matter since Romney tapped him as a running mate. Arguably, LCR only claims to support equality for “gay and lesbian Americans,” so perhaps they are prepared to abandon the transgender community to achieve “tangible outcomes” that include only protections based on sexual orientation.

What’s most telling is how incessant LCR has been about spinning the endorsement since it was announced yesterday, including this ENDA confusion. It is clearly a departure from its past integrity and the days when endorsements were withheld from candidates that did not adequately support LGBT (or at least LG) equality. In fact, GOProud splintered off from LCR specifically to be a group for gay conservatives whose priorities are unapologetically not concerned with LGBT rights at all. Perhaps LCR is jealous of the media attention GOProud has received from making waves at the Conservative Political Action Conference, but it’s clear that what lines once existed between the groups are quickly diminishing.

The Log Cabin Republicans claim that they are making a difference within the GOP by being present and swaying conservatives to better understand LGBT rights, and this may well be true on the individual level. However, the group accomplishes nothing — and abandons what principles its work is built upon — when it praises candidates like Romney who have nothing genuinely supportive to say at all. In fact, LCR’s effectiveness was very much drawn into question when it was revealed that party leaders developed a particularly anti-LGBT platform specifically to rebuke the group’s efforts to participate in the Republican National Convention. If a group no longer stands by its founding values and is creating a backlash anathema to its stated goals, it’s hard to understand what relevance it has at all.