Gay GOP Group Log Cabin Announces Relaunch
Log Cabin Republicans recently announced a relaunch of their organization, but it remains to be seen how much influence the predominately gay GOP group will have within the national Republican Party.
On the national level, a gay Republican is believed to be working on various outreach issues for the Republican National Committee, but no one would confirm if the man is reaching out to LGBT voters.
For Log Cabin, Executive Director Gregory T. Angelo unveiled a strategic vision for this year and beyond at the group’s meetings last month in Washington, D.C. About 100 people attended.
Angelo said Log Cabin will "fight within the GOP for equality and would place a greater focus on empowering local chapters."
Fred Schein, 72, is president of the Log Cabin San Francisco chapter. He said the relaunch was necessary because there was a "whole new national board of directors and a new national executive director."
The local Log Cabin chapter has 38 paid members, Schein said, adding that membership includes straight allies. He estimated 20 percent of their members were "non-LGBT."
At present Log Cabin chapters in California are in San Francisco, San Diego, and Los Angeles, according to Schein.
"With the relaunch we hope to establish more chapters," said the longtime Republican activist.
Chris Bowman, a longtime member of the San Francisco chapter and a political consultant, said the relaunch was needed because Log Cabin Republicans were "for a long time" considered as an "inside the Beltway" organization.
"All the focus was at the national level at the expense of chapters," Bowman said. Chapters demanded "more attention," he said.
One of Schein’s new goals for the chapter is to encourage and support club members to run for office. He mentioned that Jason Clark, a vice president of the chapter, ran for the California Assembly against longtime gay Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D) last year. Clark also is vice chair of the San Francisco Republican Party.
Another goal is for local members to become more involved with GOPers in Marin County and with the California Republican Central Committee, Schein said.
"We also want to increase our membership among the conservative LGBT community in San Francisco," he said. He could not estimate how large that community was.
Schein said San Francisco Log Cabin members were "disappointed" when the RNC held spring meetings in Los Angeles a few weeks ago and voted to continue its opposition to same-sex marriage.
"It was an unnecessary action," he said.
On marriage equality, Schein said California Republicans are largely supportive, "but we have problems." He said he hoped the GOP will come around and support marriage equality.
Harmeet Dhillon, a local business attorney and California Republican Party vice chair, recently addressed Schein’s group. According to him, she spoke on "the current status of the California Republican Party." She is the second highest ranking Republican in California, Schein said.
When the Bay Area Reporter asked Dhillon if it was accurate to describe her as an LGBT ally, she replied via email, "I am not a big fan of labels." She added: "I think it speaks for itself that my executive committee, who I helped recruit, has two openly gay members."
National Log Cabin officials pointed to changes in individual Republicans’ stances on same-sex marriage.
"Republicans no longer walk in lockstep on the issue of marriage equality," Angelo, who identifies as a conservative gay, said in an email. "We now have sitting Republicans in both the United States House and the Senate who have stated their support of marriage equality ..."
Ohio Senator Rob Portman came out in favor of same-sex marriage in late March, becoming the first sitting Republican senator to do so. He was later joined by Illinois Senator Mark Kirk.
"Now is the time to push the Republican Party toward the right side of history," Angelo said in the relaunch statement.
GOP outreach to LGBTs?
Schein, who considers himself a politically conservative gay man, said it was a "misperception" that the RNC opposed LGBT issues. He said the Bay Area’s Stephen Fong was working on LGBT outreach for the RNC.
An April 9 RNC press release at gop.com stated Fong was hired as Asian and Pacific Islander field director. It was silent on his SF Log Cabin Republican membership and his sexuality. The B.A.R. confirmed with Schein the paper had the right person.
When the B.A.R. asked Schein why the RNC said Fong is its Asian and Pacific Islander field director while he said Fong was working on LGBT outreach, Schein said in an email, "Because I thought we were talking about Log Cabin people and the RNC and somehow it must have become confused."
The B.A.R. contacted RNC Chairman Reince Priebus’s Washington office to reach Fong. Jason Chung, who said he is communications director for Asian and Pacific Islander Engagement, responded. According to Chung, Fong was "on a 36-hour retreat" and "unavailable" for comment. Chung would not confirm Fong’s membership with Log Cabin Republicans and his email reply was non-responsive to the B.A.R. ’s questions.
Schein later provided the B.A.R. with Fong’s zoominfo.com page that stated Fong was past president of San Francisco Log Cabin Republicans. An April 10 posting at the conservative Townhall.com said Fong and Chung "worked minority outreach" for Mitt Romney’s failed 2012 presidential campaign. The RNC press release was also silent on Fong’s work for Romney.
Schein emailed the B.A.R. a cached link to a 1996 article in the Advocate that reported Fong was gay and addressed the Republican National Convention that year but "didn’t mention it [his homosexuality] during his minute-long speech."
Twenty years ago Fong spoke to the Advocate on being silent about his sexuality as a Republican. "It’s unfortunate, but many of us have had to put aside that part of us which is gay - our concerns, our issues, our feelings about being gay - put it aside just for a moment. There’s a future battle ahead."
Fong did not respond to the B.A.R. ’s requests for clarification on his work. The RNC press release, however, indicated Fong had experience "at the grassroots level, which will be invaluable in building our new and unprecedented community-based field operation to engage with all voters."
Angelo said that Log Cabin did not issue a statement on Fong’s RNC appointment.
"Press releases are not required to mark every occasion," he said.
Angelo said Fong’s appointment was unrelated to the relaunch. It was a "complete coincidence," he said, that the two events occurred only days apart.
The basic core values of the San Francisco Log Cabin chapter will not change, Schein said. Those include a smaller, less intrusive government and a strong national defense, he explained. He said he could not understand how an LGBT person could not be a conservative.
"Politics is a complex business," Schein said. "Likeminded people will be comfortable with SF Log Cabin Republicans."
The San Francisco Log Cabin Republicans hold monthly meetings in the Castro.