The Log Cabin Republicans, a lobbying group for gay Republicans, is regrouping after an election proved a national consensus against gay marriage has broadened its legislative goals this year. The group is reaching out to conservative organizations and vowing to be a partner with the Bush administration.
The group, which claims thousands of dues-paying members, paid $3,000 to co-sponsor the Conservative Political Action Conference, marking the first time a gay rights group has been officially recognized by the nation's annual gathering of conservative activists. They've also begun to lobby members of Congress about Social Security reform, changes to the tax code and immigration.
Both Vice President Dick Cheney and White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove addressed the conservative conference last week.
Last year, the Log Cabin Republicans declined to endorse Bush's re-election because the president had campaigned to amend the Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriages. They lobbied hard to have the GOP remove the amendment from its platform before the Republican National Convention, but lost that battle as well.
The group formed an informal public affairs partnership with the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's leading liberal gay rights group, and spent heavily on advertisements criticizing the administration's position on the amendment.
"Now the election of 2004 is over," said Christopher Barron, the Log Cabin Republicans' political director. "And we think there are opportunities to work with this president. The fact is the gay and lesbian community has to realize that the president won."
At CPAC, Barron was a featured speaker on a panel promoting personal retirement accounts for Social Security.
Barron said the Log Cabin members are "incredibly conservative" about taxes, national defense and Social Security. The group's Washington office keeps in close contact with the White House and the Republican National Committee.
On Friday, the Log Cabin Republicans sent out a press statement praising Sens. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and Bill Nelson, D-Fla., for introducing a proposal to permanently rescind estate taxes. In the release, Barron wrote that "[a] majority of Americans support permanent repeal of the economically unsound death tax which unfairly penalizes gay and lesbian families." Both Kyl and Nelson oppose same-sex marriage.
The Log Cabins' liberal counterpart, the Human Rights Campaign, most recently condemned Bush for renominating conservative judge William Pryor to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and urged Democratic allies on the Hill to block his confirmation. On Thursday, the HRC called on Congress to investigate the Department of Health and Human Services for changing the name of a study panel on suicide among gay populations.
Unlike in previous years, however, when an ideological gulf and simmering acrimony between the two gay groups prevented them from cooperating, spokesmen for both groups use identical language to describe their relationship. The two groups say they will be close allies on legislation of mutual interest and respectful adversaries when necessary.
"Their approach is to work with Republicans to expand support for our issues within the Republican Party, and they are doing a very good job at that and should be supported 100 percent," said David Smith, the HRC's vice president for policy and strategy.