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Log Cabin President Guerriero Speaks Out

This article shared 2188 times since Wed Dec 14, 2005
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The Log Cabin Republicans have taken a noticeably more aggressive stance within their party under the leadership of President Patrick Guerriero, a former mayor and state representative from Massachusetts. We sat down in San Diego recently to find out what makes him tick.

Rex Wockner: What's this about pies being flung at you?

Patrick Guerriero: I survived the pie incident in North Carolina, at the UNC campus. A student decided to chuck a pie at me. I think a Boston cream pie. One of the things you realize when you're the president of the Log Cabin Republicans is that each day you have a group of folks—some on the very far left and some on the far right—who want to drown out your voice, whether that's throwing a pie at you or telling you to leave the Republican Party ... or folks on the left who say gay conservatives are selling their souls by staying in the party. I'm used to being attacked from the far left and the far right, and that's OK. I was able to dodge the pie, as a former soccer player. I faked to the left and moved to the right, as I do sometimes in politics, and it worked.

RW: People say it's oxymoronic to be a gay Republican. A much larger percentage of Republican politicians oppose equality for gay people than Democratic politicians. The Republican Party has been hijacked by the religious right. This current administration is very beholden to that subgroup of Republicans, so it kind of puts all gay Republicans in a tighter bind than they might have been in under a less-religious-right-co-opted administration, like Bush number one, when it wasn't like this so much.

PG: It's never been more important that gay conservatives come out to themselves, come out to their families and come out to America, and take on that fight. It would be easy for folks to run away from the battle going on in the Republican Party right now—a party that is too often controlled by theocrats. ... That demands, like never before, a vocal, passionate and committed group of gay conservatives, and a Log Cabin Republican organization, who can take on the fight for equality within the GOP with integrity. The worst moments inspire me more to grow the organization.

A question I ask myself all the time ... when it's tough for me to stick it out is: Is there a way to realize full equality for LGBT Americans in my lifetime without the work that Log Cabin Republicans do? The answer I come up with is no. There's no alternative but to have some of us who happen to be conservative on the size of government and the role of free trade and taxation and a bunch of other things, stick it out and fight. Log Cabin's goal is to win over one-third of Republicans. By winning a third of Republican elected officials, we will ultimately see [ a ] federal hate crimes [ law ] , federal civil rights for our families, and the overturn of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' If we leave the party, I think we delay full equality for several decades.

RW: A lot of gay people say they were Republican in their early 20s or when they first came out. I myself voted for Ronald Reagan in 1980. And then they saw the light. Why are you a Republican at fortysomething?

PG: I became a Republican because of [ Gov. ] Bill Weld in Massachusetts, when I was choosing which political party I was going to invest my time in and run as a candidate under. He was a pro-choice, pro-gay-rights Republican—a breakthrough governor nationally on those issues. My entryway into politics was an invitation from Bill Weld. And he was part of a generation of Christie Todd Whitman and Mayor [ Richard ] Riordan and Mayor [ Rudy ] Giuliani and others across the country who were speaking out as libertarian Republicans on social issues.

Second, some people choose to stay in institutions that they're a part of when the going gets tough, and some choose to leave. I chose to stick it out.

RW: Which core aspects of the current incarnation of the Republican Party appeal to you?

PG: There's nothing that ticks me off more than our party's attempt to amend the Constitution [ to ban same-sex marriage ] . But, I am also ticked off that our party is spending like crazy, that it's not focusing on federal deficit spending, that it is not engaged in the most competent and strong foreign policy that I think it ought to, so I actually think the Republican Party has gotten away from its core goals and mission and philosophy. ... I think we're actually going to see a mini-civil war within the Republican Party during the tail-end of the second Bush administration. It's going to be a battle between theocrats, and moderates and traditional conservatives. Log Cabin is going stand with moderates and traditional conservatives, against theocrats, who, in my estimation, actually believe in a big government imposing their moral values on the American people. I don't recognize that Republican Party.

RW: Which aspects of the current Republican Party speak to you strongly, personally? Limited government? Lower taxes? What?

PG: I believe that the solutions to most problems in America are resolved by individuals and by liberty and opportunity, and not by big government programs. ... I believe in a safety net. I believe in a government that protects our streets, educating citizens, protecting us from terrorism and having a strong defense. But, I think our government has grown so large that there's a danger that we take away individual initiative and we take away individual enterprise, and that makes me, at my core, a Republican. I don't look to the government to solve my problems. I think that's the greatest distinction between Democrats and Republicans. Unfortunately, the issues that determine elections today are these sexy wedge issues that generally are short-sighted—and we're not having good debates about whether you resolve health care or the issues around public education or the issues around small business, and other matters.

RW: Well, look, you and I are not that different. I'm liberal on social issues and moderate on economic issues. I feel overtaxed. I haven't voted for a Republican since 1980, and why is that? I guess social issues matter.

PG: They certainly do. And it's one of reasons why Log Cabin chose not to endorse the President in the last election. Log Cabin does not write blank checks to the Republican National Committee, because we don't want a cent of our money to go to elect the Rick Santorums or Tom DeLays of America. ... We only endorsed those individuals who stood with us against the Federal Marriage Amendment and also supported us on other issues. ...

In the midst of this culture war, Log Cabin has really done some soul-searching and some gut-checks about who do we support and what is the threshold for that support? [ There was a time when ] we were more interested in getting invited to the White House cocktail party. I'm no longer interested in just being invited to a White House cocktail party. I want to be invited to the White House when a president ... signs federal legislation that increases equality for our families. And, to be honest, some of the mediocrity that we may have shown in the past was also reflected in our Democratic friends. ... The community as a whole needs to demand a whole lot more. We no longer can say if you come to our national dinner, or if you say some nice things about us at a fundraising event because we raised you millions of dollars, you become a hero of the LGBT community. I want results. ...

Yes, it's ugly. Yes, the theocrats control the party apparatus. Yes, the President has been a humongous disappointment, particularly his support for the Federal Marriage Amendment. But, I believe right underneath the surface of the marriage-equality issue that the whole country, including a lot of Republicans, are actually moving in our direction.

RW: I've been writing news for the gay press since 1988. It's clear, by any objective analysis, that you have been—I can't think of a better word—the ballsiest LCR executive director in the time that I've been around. You recently demanded that conservative closet-cases in Washington come out. We've never heard language like that from Log Cabin before.

PG: I'm at this reflective moment in my own life. ... When some politicians, and too many Republicans, decide to go after our families, we better grow a set of gonads [ he laughs ] and take them on and, if we don't, shame on us. And, at this particular moment ... with so much at stake, the reality is that 50 years from now, historians are going to look back at this moment and ask, what did the leadership of LGBT organizations do? What did individuals do? And shame on Log Cabin if it doesn't speak out against bigotry and intolerance within our own party, and shame on us if we don't call on our fellow gay and lesbian conservatives to find the courage to come out, particularly if they are in positions of power in Washington. ... If every gay and lesbian conservative came out tomorrow morning, the road to full equality would be a very short one. It would be over in two to five years. If that doesn't happen, it's more likely going to be 15 to 20 years.

RW: What kind of reaction did you get to that call?

PG: I lost some friends. I was speaking to some of my friends—smart, terrific professionals, and a lot of them have huge hearts, and some of them have done some amazing work, and they've quietly helped the movement—and so some of them were offended that, in such a public way, I challenged them to come out. There's a second group ... who have done nothing for the movement, and have criticized us for almost everything that we do ... and they also didn't like the message.

RW: What has been the reaction among your chapter presidents and the general membership to this less-kind, less-gentle version of Log Cabin?

PG: The aggressive stance of the organization is less a reflection about me than about where a new generation of gay and lesbian conservatives are. They have been paying taxes and serving in the military and raising beautiful children and, quite frankly, a lot of them are fed up, too. They have made the choice not to remain silent in a lot of red states. ... In a lot of ways, I'm merely a reflection of a more courageous, more gutsy generation of gay and lesbian Americans who happen to be conservative.

RW: Do you support the war in Iraq?

PG: I really believe ... that to leave Iraq today would be an American tragedy. Like most Americans, I think we need to figure out a timeline where we can allow the Iraqi people to control their own destiny. We should not be in nation-building experiments. The Middle East is a fundamentally critical place in the world. Stability and democracy in the Middle East is a critical component of a peaceful world. I supported the initial invasion. I'm concerned about the misinformation around weapons of mass destruction. I want us to figure out an exit strategy that doesn't leave Iraq in a civil war and leave terrorists to use that experience to bolster their activity around the world.

RW: Do you think the administration invented the weapons of mass destruction?

PG: President Clinton, President Bush, Madeleine Albright and Colin Powell saw the same information and believed, without a doubt, that there were weapons of mass destruction. ... We ought to learn some real lessons [ about ] the threshold to being certain about things. ... Both Democrats and Republicans, elected officials and citizens, and the press maybe didn't ask enough tough questions.

RW: Thank you, Patrick.

This article shared 2188 times since Wed Dec 14, 2005
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