A group of LGBT Republicans who have repeatedly been ostracized from Texas GOP state conventions say they have found a more welcoming atmosphere at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas this week.
At the very least, they’ve found a place to set up a booth.
The Log Cabin Republicans, a conservative LGBT rights group, has been denied the opportunity to do the same at the state party conventions for decades. At the Texas GOP convention in Houston earlier this year, the party took a hardline stance against LGBT people, adding language to their official platform describing homosexuality as an “abnormal lifestyle choice.” The group was successful in attempts to strike similar language from the state platform in the past.
Even though speakers at CPAC this year have repeatedly ridiculed transgender and non-binary people from the stage (“My pronouns are ‘USA,’ CPAC chairman Matt Schlapp said Friday, while Ted Cruz said his were “Kiss my ass,”) members of LCR said the crowd generally has been accepting.
“I mean, you do have the occasional side-eye,” said James Moore, a LCR member who works in outreach. “But ain’t nobody trying to start no [expletive].”
The group’s booth was subdued, lacking many symbols that would indicate their purpose — aside from two red hats with “Make America Great Again” stitched in the colors of a rainbow. LCR has also been present at CPAC during past years.
At CPAC, “it’s just kind of a different crowd,” LCR member Leslie Read, 84, said.
“They’re both very good crowds — we’ve had good support at the [state GOP] convention,” he said. The platform got changed a little bit, but both political party platforms have their things I would take out.”
Opening CPAC on Thursday, Hungary’s far-right Prime Minister Viktor Orbán drew applause after mentioning his country’s constitution defines marriage as being between one man and one woman. While Read disagreed with Orbán’s take on same-sex marriage, he said the rest of the speech was “great.”
“He was trying to make Hungary like Texas,” Read said. “And I thought, ‘Yay,’ go ahead. I disagree with the guy on that [banning same-sex marriage] but I can see what he was trying to do.”
Jason Baldwin, the president of the Log Cabin Republicans of Fort Worth, said he believes politics is about “addition and not subtraction,” adding he thinks that sentiment is common among CPAC attendees.
“Adding guests to the party and welcoming us is all we’re asking for, and that’s what we’re seeing here,” he said. “We’re a Republican group with Republican values, and we’re just like any Republican here.”