The Log Cabin Republicans (LCR), a group that says it aims to make the Republican Party more LGBT-inclusive, released its first ad of the 2016 election this weekend. It had nothing to do with Republicans, however.
Instead, the ad suggests that Hillary Clinton was “wrong on gay rights when it mattered.” After citing clips of Clinton from over ten years ago opposing same-sex marriage, the ad jumps to Bernie Sanders talking in 2015 about how “leadership counts.”
In an accompanying statement, LCR president Gregory T. Angelo added that “Democrats and members of the LGBT community have given Hillary Clinton a pass on past transgressions and even allowed her to rewrite the history of the gay rights movement.”
Other outlets were quick to point out that Clinton’s comments were taken out of context. It’s true that she didn’t support marriage equality back then, but as the Advocate pointed out, one of the clips from the ad is actually from her 2004 speech opposing a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
Angelo told the Blade that the ad was intended to influence the Iowa caucuses and other early primary elections. “We felt that urgency to do so now, obviously, with the Iowa caucuses looming, but also because other LGBT organizations have not done due diligence regarding Hillary Clinton’s past, and we felt we were in a unique position to step up in that regard,” he explained. He admitted that Sanders wasn’t perfect “out of the womb” on LGBT rights, but was “still leading at a time when Hillary Clinton was not.”
Sanders has been lauded for opposing the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, but his position at the time was to allow states to set their own marriage law. This would have allowed states to continue banning same-sex marriage, and the “states’ rights” talking point would be used by opponents of marriage equality well through the 2000s. The ad clarifies that LCR is not endorsing Sanders.
What seems more likely is that this ad has nothing to do with who is actually better on LGBT issues, but reflects Republicans’ not-so-secret preference to face Sanders over Clinton in the general election. It mirrors a similar ad run recently by conservative Joe Ricketts which was a fake attack on Sanders, lambasting him for supporting tuition-free college, single-payer health care, and taxing big businesses and the “super-rich” — qualities liberals love.
This would explain why Angelo has dodged questions as to what the ad has to do with LCR’s mission — especially given that the entire slate of Republican candidates opposes marriage equality and remains committed to working against the settled legal question. “Naming a ‘better’ Republican candidate for president on gay rights is unrelated to setting the record straight on Hillary Clinton’s real record on gay rights, which Democrats and the LGBT community seem to be ignoring,” he told BuzzFeed.
In an exchange with ThinkProgress on Twitter Saturday, Angelo took umbrage to the suggestion that his organization was not holding Republicans to the same standard. “We have great ‘perspective,’” he said, defending the ad. “Romney flip-flopped on issues; Clinton flip-flopped on #MarriageEquality. DEAL WITH IT.” Mitt Romney actually opposed marriage equality, but LCR endorsed him for president in 2012 anyway. In fact, LCR engaged in its own flip-flop, first running ads against Romney citing his anti-LGBT record in 2008, then endorsing him in spite of it in 2012.
LCR has actually consistently endorsed Republican candidates with abysmal records on LGBT issues, defending these endorsements by claiming, “We should never make the perfect the enemy of the good.” In 2012, many of their endorsed candidates lost to Democrats who were far better allies to the LGBT movement.
ThinkProgress repeatedly asked Angelo how Sanders would actually be better for LGBT people as president than Clinton given both candidates have fully endorsed LGBT equality in basically identical ways, but received only vague answers. “Because he’s been a leader,” Angelo offered. “Hillary has led from behind.” Asked what Sanders would specifically do for LGBT people as president that Clinton wouldn’t, Angelo simply replied, “Everything.”
LCR’s other recent foray into the 2016 election cycle was in December, when Angelo praised Donald Trump as “one of the best, if not the best, pro-gay Republican candidates to ever run for the presidency.” This weekend, Trump said he would strongly consider appointing Supreme Court justices who would overturn the marriage equality decision. He also has accepted the endorsements of prominent anti-LGBT evangelical leaders like Jerry Falwell, Jr.
Writing at the Huffington Post, Michelangelo Signorile similarly doubted that LCR actually favors one of the Democratic candidates over the other, suggesting instead that it’s no coincidence that the organization has “gone silent on Trump” and turned to attacking Clinton. “The Log Cabin Republicans really think LGBT people should support democratic socialist Bernie Sanders and want him to win the presidency, right?” he quipped. “Yeah, and Donald Trump is not a fascist.”