Gay Republicans for Trump confront 'most anti-LGBT platform' ever

The Grand Old Party is having a gay old time — so good a time, it seems, you’d hardly know that it just passed one of the most anti-LGBT platforms in the modern history of the Republican party.

'Deeply offensive' policy blueprint enrages Log Cabin Republicans, gay conservatives

Gregory T. Angelo, president of the conservative gay organization Log Cabin Republicans, placed a full-page ad in Tuesday's USA Today newspaper decrying the newly ratified Republican platform as anti-LGBT. (Matt Kwong/CBC)

The Grand Old Party is having a gay old time here at the Republican National Convention. So good a time, it seems, you'd hardly notice that it just passed one of the most anti-LGBT platforms in its history.

Consider, for instance, that the hottest ticket in town on Wednesday morning is a brunch supporting LGBT rights. Its co-headliner is Caitlyn Jenner, a transgender woman whose celebrity factor is so big it's expected to draw at least 500 Republicans to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Not far away in downtown Cleveland, the gay conservative group the Log Cabin Republicans helped organize "American Idol vs. The Voice," a concert featuring singers who regularly perform at Pride events.

And following Tuesday's roll call vote to nominate Donald Trump, self-described "gays for Trump" hosted a DJ night, boasting on the invite that "gays throw the best convention parties." Right-wing commentator Pamela Geller, wearing a rainbow-bedazzled shirt, opened the after-party with a joke: "So, a jihadi walks into a gay bar."

It may sound like a newer, more gay-friendly Republican Party. Squint hard enough, though, and a regressively heteronormative vision for America emerges, say critics. In fact, flip to the back of Tuesday's USA Today newspaper and you'll find the screaming indignation in black and white, printed in a full-page ad paid for by the Log Cabin Republicans.

"Losers! Morons! Sad!" it reads, mimicking the Twitter narrative style of Trump, the newly anointed Republican presidential nominee.

But "these aren't tweets from Donald Trump," the advert states. Rather, it's what "common-sense conservatives" are saying about what it sees as the RNC platform committee's rolling back of progress for queer America.

At a time when the party has elected a nominee who describes himself as a "friend to the gays," Log Cabin Republicans president Gregory T. Angelo says the new Republican blueprint guiding the next four years of policy doesn't reflect the party he so admires. Nor does Angelo feel it reflects the personal views of a man he once extolled as "the best pro-gay" candidate the party has ever fielded.

'Embarrassed' by policy planks

"I'm mad as Hell," he says, clutching a copy of the morning's USA Today inside the Quicken Loans Arena, the venue for this year's RNC. "This is quantifiably the most anti-LGBT platform this party has ever passed."

Caitlyn Jenner is the co-headliner at a brunch during the Republican National Convention on Wednesday for LGBT rights. (Danny Moloshok/Reuters)

Angelo notes that former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani's rousing speech elicited huge applause when he implored the crowd of red-meat Republicans to thank law enforcement officers of "every race, every colour, every creed, every sexual orientation."

Later this week, PayPal billionaire Peter Thiel will be the first openly gay man to deliver a prominent keynote speech at a Republican National Convention.

Those are advances, but they're not nearly enough, says Tyler Deaton, senior adviser for the American Unity Fund, a conservative organization working to advance LGBT freedoms.

Tyler Deaton, a senior adviser with the American Unity Fund, is helping to organize a Big Tent Brunch featuring transgender reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner. (Matt Kwong/CBC)

Deaton takes exception to new anti-transgender language that's never existed in past platforms, such as a plank opposing transgender people's bathroom choices.

I'm still in this great party, despite the hurtful rhetoric and stance on these issues- Rachel Hoff, first openly gay member of Republican platform committee

"It's embarrassing to me to see that's in our party platform. I'm heartbroken over it," says Deaton, whose organization is co-hosting Wednesday's Big Tent Brunch with Jenner.

"It's the year 2016, and I think everybody expected that the platform could at least move forward with the times."

Formalized in the updated platform is a reaffirmation of the merits of "traditional marriage" and a denunciation of federal marriage-equality laws, as well as a plank describing "a married mom and dad" in a two-parent household as being an antidote to a child's potential life of crime and drug abuse.

Rachel Hoff, the first and only openly gay member of the 112-member platform committee at the Republican National Convention, fought back tears last week while requesting an amendment on the language. She wanted it to be more accepting of gays and lesbians, including explicit acknowledgment of LGBT people as targets of oppression and attacks such as this summer's mass shooting at a gay club in Orlando.

Leaving the party

Rachel Hoff, the first openly gay member of a Republican National Convention's platform committee, made an emotional appeal for softer language and greater inclusiveness of LGBT conservatives. She says she has considered switching parties, but likely won't. (Matt Kwong/CBC)

"We are your daughters, we are your sons, your friends, your neighbours, your colleagues, the couple that sits next to you in church," Hoff pleaded to her peers, her voice shaking with emotion.

"I'm still in this great party, despite the hurtful rhetoric and stance on these issues," she added.

The platform was ratified anyway this week. It contains what Hoff calls "horrifying language" objecting to gay couples adopting children as well as an endorsement of "conversion therapy," the widely discredited practice that claims to be able to change the sexual orientations of LGBT children.

"It was deeply offensive. It was the first time I ever thought about leaving the party," Hoff says, walking downtown past RNC police barricades and towards the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Traditionally conservative principles of limited government, individual liberties and equality still guide her political philosophy. Still, so much has changed since the last drafting of the platform at the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. For one, marriage equality is now the rule in all 50 states.

Meanwhile, public opinion has trended upwards in support of marriage equality, with 40 per cent of Republicans now supporting the freedom for same-sex couples to wed.

Gradually sinking in is the reality that in order for her to get the platform changes she seeks in terms of LGBT freedoms, she'll need to fight for it during the next convention. Hoff doesn't plan to leave the Republican Party in the meantime, though she sometimes muses about it.

"I very much think that if people like me just leave the party, then nothing gets better," she says.

For now, at least, she may just have to wait four more years.


Matt Kwong


Matt Kwong was the Washington-based correspondent for CBC News. He previously reported for CBC News as an online journalist in New York and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at: @matt_kwong