As part of GenFKD’s Oppression to Opportunity (#Op2Op) campaign, we spoke with Gregory T. Angelo, President of the Log Cabin Republicans, a Republican LGBT advocacy group.
The first part of our interview focuses on Angelo’s history with Log Cabin Republicans and the organization’s mission statement. This second part focuses more specifically on Log Cabin Republicans’ position within the ongoing legislative battle over LGBT rights.
The interview has been lightly edited for length and formatting purposes and should not be taken as GenFKD’s endorsement of the Log Cabin Republicans or its positions.
Is it hugely demoralizing when you see these anti-LGBT bills in North Carolina and Mississippi that were pushed by Republicans?
You have to have relatively thick skin to be a Log Cabin Republican (laughing).
That said, I feel far more welcome as a gay man in Republican circles than I do as a Republican in gay circles.
The LGBT rights movement has come incredibly far incredibly fast in this country but the challenges we face as Log Cabin Republicans today are nothing compared to what the founders of our organization faced in the ‘70s or the predecessors faced in the ‘50s and ‘60s.
There is still more work to be done but when I look back at the challenges then and now, it puts everything into context.
Now, there are definitely frustrations, I joke and say that my job as head of Log Cabin Republicans is often the most frustrating and often the most thrilling. It’s those thrilling moments, like the passage of marriage equality in 2011 in New York or the senate passage of ENDA in 2013, that make the struggle worthwhile.
Right, but I think it’s fair to say these recent bills work against your goals and are driven largely by Republicans –
– Right now people are slamming Gov. McRory over HB2 but it’s also important to point out that in the immediate aftermath of marriage equality in 2015, he was one of the first governors in the country saying that even though he disagreed with the ruling that it should stand.
To demonize someone like Gov. McRory, who I don’t think is an anti-gay person but who may just need more education on transgender issues in particular, is not something I think is useful to the moment. It’s not helpful to band people as bigots every time they disagree with you.
The gay left so often demonizes the right in this country but now if we’re going to entrench ourselves in polarized debate between people calling others bigots, you’ll never come to the table in good faith.
One of the most unreported stories of 2015 came from the deep red state of Utah, which passed LGBT anti-discrimination legislation. The line between church and state is never more blurred than in Utah, but the Republicans controlling the state and LGBT advocates came to the table in good faith with leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
They paired LGBT non-discrimination with reasonable religious exemptions, including churches, nonprofits and faith-based groups. And it passed and was signed into law.
If the gay left wants to get everything it wants without regard for churches and religious groups and people on the right, many of goodwill built up will be replaced by fear that there will be implications regarding their family and faith. They need a moment to digest these and I think they should be given that moment to digest before we just continue barreling ahead with legislation.
Do you think there is a contradiction between the conservative ideology of small government and Log Cabin Republicans’ support of non-discrimination legislation?
We do support [federal legislation] but I don’t think that pushes us away from Republican thinking. In 2013 my first year as president, I was heavily lobbying in the house and senate for non-discrimination in the workplace and it passed with plenty of conservative support from people like McCain, Flake, Pat Toomey, Orrin Hatch, and others.
This party at its core, at its founding was about equality for all. Log Cabin Republicans’ very founding is predicated upon opposition to anti-gay legislation in California that Ronald Reagan was very much against.
It wasn’t until the early ’90s – specifically ’92 following the collapse of the Soviet Union when individuals on the fringe right were devoid of a bogeyman external figure to focus on as an enemy – turned their sights inward on the gay rights movement.
So I want to circle back a bit just to be clear, you believe that non-discrimination legislation should include religious exemptions?
Yes. This is where the left is reminded that we’re Republicans; there is a balance that can be struck between religious liberty and LGBT equality. We’re uniquely situated to make the case for that and not the zero-sum game pushed by both sides.
Right now, the thinking among many on the right is that if a Republican voices any support for LGBT equality, let alone cosponsors or introduces legislation, they are de facto opposed to religious liberty.
Similarly, to the left, and the majority of the gay left, there is a code that religious liberty means anti-gay. And I know that’s not the case because my personal involvement shows there are people of good will on both sides.
If the left tries to push zero exemptions and turn this intentionally or unintentionally against a war on faith, you will lose America. You will lose allies who have been supportive of marriage equality who have helped political sentiment shift so quickly and so fast to pass the 2015 ruling.
The goodwill can evaporate very quickly.
As a Republican, are you excited to see the business community’s involvement protesting the anti-LGBT legislation?
Yes, definitely. As a group that promotes free markets and groups choosing their own values, seeing the leverage weighed by corporate America is welcome.
There is an inherent irony in the left’s demonizing of Wall Street and big business, until Wall Street and big business do something they agree with.
Well Log Cabin Republicans has supported this thinking long before the left celebrated them. That is the free market at work; corporations have the right to exert economic pressure just as much as individuals.
There is a study that came out in the last month or two months that showed the greatest increase in the LGBT population has actually been in red states like Texas, Georgia, Florida – places with far more economic freedom than traditionally blue states and deep blue states.
My takeaway from that largely is that whether LGBT people are on the left or right, Democrats or Republicans, economic freedom in many respects at the end of the day is the greatest driver of decisions people make in life.
Part one of discussion with Angelo focuses on his involvement with Log Cabin Republicans and the group’s mission.