Gay GOP Leaders Welcomed

State Republicans accept presence of homosexual group without fuss at annual convention in Augusta

S. B. Crawford, Staff Writer, Augusta Chronicle
May 23, 1999 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Blogger Tumblr

Those looking for evidence of diverse influences within Georgia's Republican Party needed to look no further than the state GOP convention.

In the exhibition hall, along with booths selling "Impeach Hillary" bumper stickers, one could find members of a national organization of homosexuals dedicated to Republican ideals.

The Log Cabin Republicans chapter in Georgia was founded in 1994, said Tyllmann Wald, state vice president. But this is the first time the group has had an information booth at a state convention.

"We just can't be happier about the reception we have received," Mr. Wald said. "Everyone keeps saying, 'We're glad you are here.' We've heard that over and over."

Last June, the organization's Texas chapter was denied a similar booth at the state GOP convention in Fort Worth.

When Log Cabin members protested outside the [Texas] convention hall, they were countered by fellow Republicans shouting epithets and anti-homosexual slogans.

But a lot has changed in the past year, Mr. Wald said.

The group met no resistance from the Georgia GOP when it applied for the booth. "We were the fifth group to mail in a check, and here we are, table No. 5," Mr. Wald said.

While the organization's state membership is still relatively small – around 200 – the group still fielded 15 delegates and alternates for the state convention.

The Georgia GOP's apparent acceptance of the group is part of a growing trend of state parties reaching out to homosexuals, said state President Michael Brown. Recently, Florida's GOP recognized the Broward County Log Cabin Club as an official GOP organization, he said.

"If we want to become the majority party in Georgia and to recapture the White House, it's time we constructed a bigger tent," Mr. Brown said. "This is the party as it should exist."

Republican leaders agree there is room within the party for other views.

"I don't think we can afford to run anybody off," said U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood. "We don't have to agree with everybody 100 percent on everything."