Gay Republicans to Hold National Convention in Dallas

Conservative Activists Arianna Huffington and Ward Connerly Headline Event; Log Cabin to Map Out Strategies to Combat Extreme Right

July 6, 1998 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Blogger Tumblr

(WASHINGTON, DC) – Only weeks after a heated confrontation with the Texas Republican Party in Fort Worth and a spate of anti-gay moves within the GOP, the nation's largest gay and lesbian Republican organization will hold its ninth annual national convention in Dallas beginning August 14, 1998.

In June at the Texas state GOP convention, over fifty openly gay delegates and alternates were denied a Log Cabin exhibit booth – the only Republican organization barred from the exhibit hall – and state GOP spokesman Robert Black publicly attacked Log Cabin, comparing the organization to pedophiles and the Ku Klux Klan, and labeling it a "hate group." Governor George W. Bush (R-TX) criticized the state GOP by saying that "all individuals should be treated with dignity and respect" and that he "does not condone name-calling." The Log Cabin delegates held a rally outside the convention hall on June 13, where anti-gay activists, several of whom were Republican delegates themselves, staged an ugly and disruptive counter-demonstration before scores of television cameras from local and national news organizations. State GOP chairwoman Susan Weddington, who had previously authorized her spokesman to refer to Log Cabin as "moral deviants," scrambled to denounce the counter-demonstrators from the podium of the convention.

At least 200 local, state and national leaders of Log Cabin Republicans from over fifty chapters around the country will gather in Dallas to map out a long-term strategy for combatting the growing wave of aggressive, anti-gay attacks from within the Republican Party in the 1998 and 2000 elections. Since the confrontation in Forth Worth, the rift within the national GOP on the gay issue has intensified. Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) compared gays to kleptomaniacs and drug addicts in a television interview, and a small group of Senators vowed to torpedo the nomination of an openly gay man to be Ambassador to Luxembourg. A number of GOP Senators, such as Senator Alfonse D'Amato (R-NY), Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), have spoken out publicly against both actions. A measure was introduced in the House of Representatives to roll back federal non-discrimination policies in the federal government that include gays and lesbians, and the measure would be attached to an appropriations bill floor managed by openly gay Representative Jim Kolbe (R-AZ), who has vowed to fight it along with a growing number of moderate and conservative House Republicans.

"The Republican Party is reaching a turning point," said Richard Tafel, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans. "The statements and behavior of the last few weeks by the leadership has awakened a lot of Republicans across the country who are incensed at the direction of the party and are determined to fight back. This issue will not go away. At this moment, it's up to the leadership to either end this conflict by reaching out to Log Cabin and the moderates, or to let it spiral out of control as we head into the general election campaign."

Headlining the convention will be conservative columnist and activist Arianna Huffington, who has stepped up her criticism of the GOP leadership in recent weeks, particularly on the gay issue. Receiving the organization's highest honor, the Spirit of Lincoln Award, will be Ward Connerly, founder of the California Civil Rights Initiative (Proposition 209) and leading proponent of ending race and sex-based preferences nationwide. Connerly has been a leading supporter of Log Cabin, and recently stood against pressure from GOP leaders in California when he voted, as a member of the University of California Board of Regents, to grant domestic partner benefits to gay and lesbian couples in the UC system.

At the Dallas convention, Log Cabin will also debut a documentary video on the confrontation in Forth Worth last June, with footage of the clash between the openly gay delegates and religious right delegates and activists who disrupted their rally. The video, entitled "On the Front Lines," will be distributed to every GOP Member of Congress, every GOP governor and the entire Republican National Committee following its debut in Dallas.