Former Log Cabin Republicans Lament Their Lack of Progress in Texas
Many longtime members have left the party, even as the number of Log Cabin Republicans in Texas continues to grow.
In June 1998, a group of gay and lesbian conservatives, pushing for greater representation at the Texas Republican Party convention in Fort Worth, found themselves in a frightening clash with members of their own party.
Members of the Log Cabin Republicans were protesting at the gathering of party faithful after a state GOP official made offensive comments comparing the group to the Ku Klux Klan and pedophiles. The group was also protesting the rejection of their request to host a booth at the convention — the second time in a row they’d been denied — where they hoped to share information about their organization.
Counterprotesters surrounded the Log Cabin members, wielding signs with homophobic slurs and phrases like “The Gay Life = AIDS Then Hell.” They pushed and spat and shoved their fingers in the faces of the gay Republicans.
Richard Tafel, the former executive director of the national Log Cabin Republicans which bills itself as the “nation’s largest Republican organization dedicated to representing LGBT conservatives and allies,” attended the Texas convention that year and recalls thinking he was in serious danger as they advocated for respect from members of their own party.
“We’re here to draw the line,” Tafel declared at the protest. “No more hatred, no more hatred in the name of God. And we won’t be silenced.”
A counterprotester threw a sign at his face.
“It was a tornado of emotion, volatile and dangerous, ready to touch down and sweep us all away at any moment. I was afraid for my own safety and that of others,” wrote Dale Carpenter, a former president of Log Cabin Republicans of Texas, in a newsletter later that year.
Ultimately, no one was injured that day. But it was a vivid display of homophobia within the party.
More than two decades later, this year’s Texas Republican convention made headlines again for its attitudes toward LGBTQ people. The party adopted a platform in June at its convention in Houston declaring that “homosexuality is an abnormal lifestyle choice.” That party position comes after similar language had been stripped from the platform just four years earlier, representing a backward step for Log Cabin members who have for years been fighting for acceptance within their ranks.
Gay Republicans who have fought for acceptance within the Texas GOP over the past three decades told The Texas Tribune progress has been excruciatingly slow. Many of them have left the party, even as the number of Log Cabin Republicans in Texas continues to grow.
“I do not believe that we made any progress. In fact, I think the party got worse,” Carpenter, who is no longer involved in party politics, said of his time as the state’s Log Cabin president.
Since the group’s inception in 1989, the Log Cabin Republicans of Texas have been denied a booth at the state convention. And this year’s convention was no different. Booths are granted to all sorts of conservative interest groups, advocating for issues related to gun rights, anti-abortion issues and freedom from vaccines. A booth, in many ways, is symbolic of a seat at the table.
“Getting a booth also became a signal of party approval,” Carpenter said. “You have ‘arrived’ and are accepted in the GOP.”
Beyond the official state party, which often represents the most hardline members and belief systems, mainstream conservatives in Texas have turned their attention in recent months toward anti-LGBTQ initiatives, oftentimes in the form of legislation related to school sports, curriculum and library books that address sexuality and gender identity.
Gov. Greg Abbott issued an order this year equating allowing minors to receive transgender care with child abuse. The Legislature also passed a bill last year banning transgender children from playing on public school sports teams that align with their gender identity.