If the Log Cabin Republicans, a conservative LGBT political group, were just given a chance to speak with Texas Republicans about what they’re all about, the group’s state chairman Michael Baker said he believes many in his party would be more accepting.
But the State Republican Executive Committee, as it has since at least 1998, again voted Saturday to deny the group a booth at the state convention this summer. The measure was taken on a voice vote. No other group was denied a booth this year.
Texas Republican Party officials did not respond to requests for comment. Baker said Monday that he was “disappointed but not surprised” by the vote.
“Nothing happens overnight,” Baker said, referring to the paradigm shift he believes needs to happen within the Republican Party regarding gay rights. “I’d hoped by 2018 we could have been a lot further than we are, but here we are.”
The Log Cabin Republicans of Texas has about 5,000 members statewide with chapters in Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, Baker said.
If the group were given a booth, Baker said they would have explained that the group supports 90 percent of the party platform, from gun rights to fiscal conservatism, with the exception of issues relating to LGBT rights.
“They could have had a symbolic gesture to show the unity of the party by bringing us together for this convention,” Baker said. “They blew it.”
When the group’s booth was rejected in 1998, Log Cabin Republicans protested outside the convention in Fort Worth after a party spokesman said the group was as unwelcome as the Ku Klux Klan.
Throughout the course of a two-hour debate Saturday at the Wyndham Garden Hotel in Austin, committee members spoke almost evenly in support and opposition of the booth, though more were against.
Some representatives cited their religious views as the reason for their opposition. Many who spoke against the booth said they refused to accept any group with views in opposition to the anti-gay state party platform.
“I have to stand with what the delegates voted on,” said Melinda Fredricks of Senate District 4 in the Houston area. “Have this conversation at the (national) convention please.”
Tanya Robertson, of Senate District 11 of southeast Houston, turned around a phrase most often associated with the Democratic party and plead with members to keep the convention a “safe space.”
“With the hundreds of pages that we have working there, these children are hit with this lifestyle on every screen that they have: their phone, their computer, the TVs,” Robertson said. “I’ve heard the word safe spaces. We should be their safe space.”
Terry Holcomb, a pastor and representative for Senate District 3 of the Jacksonville area, urged other members to embrace the group for all that it does to support the party’s platform, rather than focusing on the single area where it differs.
“They’re working hard on conservative issues,” Holcomb said. “For us to tell them that we don’t want them is unwise and unprincipled.”
Morgan Graham, of Senate District 27 at the southern tip of Texas, said banning the group could put the GOP at risk of losing members to the Democratic party. Graham read from a Texas Democratic Party ad that invited Log Cabin members to join and called it disturbing that Democrats would be more accepting of conservatives than conservatives.
“These are the hounds of destruction snapping at our heels, and they’re lean, and they’re hungry,” Graham said. “And they’re hungrier and in this case more aggressive than the sword some of us are willing to fall on over a booth fee. … At the rate that we’re going, we’re going to run out of people to kick out of this party.”
The committee in 2016 did allow the gay-friendly group Metroplex Republicans to have a booth. Texas GOP Chairman James Dickey said Saturday he did not receive any other applications this year from gay rights groups aside from Log Cabin Republicans.
In past years, party leadership has said that Log Cabin Republicans are still welcome to attend as individuals.
“It’s like you’re invited, but you’re not,” Baker said. Still, he said, “we will be there to work for the unity of the party.”
Marco Roberts, secretary of the Log Cabin Republicans of Texas and president of the Houston chapter, said the relative show of support for the group was encouraging compared to previous years.
“Some (representatives) told me privately afterward in explaining their no votes that they felt that we … needed to do more to make our case at the state convention,” Roberts said. “We’re going to take this opportunity to educate folks more about what Log Cabin Republicans really do stand for and what is it we’re trying to do.”