• Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to the crowd at a rally in South Carolina. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Why is a conservative firebrand like Donald Trump being courted by members of the LGBTI community?
By
Drew Sheldrick

18 Dec 2015 - 2:45 PM  UPDATED 18 Dec 2015 - 2:45 PM

While it's been a big year for gay conservatives in Australian politics, the list of LGBTI-supportive US Republicans (let alone openly gay ones) remains stubbornly small. 

Those both same sex-attracted and right-of-centre have no Republican candidates currently running for president with anything close to inclusive LGBTI credentials. So when the gay Republican organisation known as the Log Cabin Republicans seemed to align itself with outspoken conservative Donald Trump this month, it led many to question whether he was legitimately in favour of some form of equality or simply the best of an LGBTI-unfriendly bunch.

The organisation is an interesting beast. Made up of (mostly) gay men committed to a "more inclusive" Republican Party, its membership finds itself in the rather thankless position of being on the outer with both the gay community and many Republicans.

Its rejection this year from both the Western Conservative Summit and the sponsorship of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) were the latest in a long line of snubs by the very conservatives it seeks to court.

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On December 9, Log Cabin president Gregory T. Angelo appeared on the US cable news network MSNBC to defend Trump's record on gay rights. Angelo called him the most "pro-gay" candidate in the running for the Republican nomination.

“Donald Trump – your viewers might not believe it – is actually the most pro-gay," Angelo said.

"He supports amending the Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation non-discrimination. He’s been to a gay wedding, he’s friends with [gay actor] George Takei. His record doesn’t bear out that that would be an enemy to the gay community.”

Trump has indeed been quoted backing those changes to the US Civil Rights Act, but that was back in an interview with The Advocate in 2000 - and 15 years is a long time in politics.

Angelo didn't go so far as to defend Trump's calls to ban Muslim immigration into the US however. He admitted Trump was "playing to people's fears" which, at this point in the campaign, doesn't include the LGBTI community.  

“I’m not being an apologist for Trump in that regard, but I would just point out that if we Log Cabin Republicans are for a more inclusive Republican Party, it doesn’t begin and end with members of the gay community," he said.

"In fact one of the most challenging things, if you’re fighting for equal rights, it’s easy to fight for your own equal rights, right. Fighting for others is more difficult.”

Trump's thoughts on broader LGBTI rights issues are either murky or completely unknown. The US-based Human Rights Campaign defines his approach to the community in its 2016 Republican candidate factsheet as in the "Mixed Messages" category.

The few quotes he's issued on gay rights are contained in the aforementioned 2000 Q&A in The Advocate and an interview with The New York Times in 2011, where he sets out his opposition to the issue of same-sex marriage.

“It’s like in golf. A lot of people - I don’t want this to sound trivial - but a lot of people are switching to these really long putters, very unattractive,” he said.

“It’s weird. You see these great players with these really long putters, because they can’t sink three-footers anymore. And, I hate it. I am a traditionalist. I have so many fabulous friends who happen to be gay, but I am a traditionalist.”

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At this point, Trump's future as the Republican candidate for president is as uncertain as the future viability of the Log Cabin Republicans. There's been speculation this year that the group may be on its last legs following the US Supreme Court's nationwide legalisation of same-sex marriage - despite the objection of the majority of Republican politicians - and the demise of a similar right-wing gay group, GOProud, in 2014.

Angelo denied that the Log Cabin Republicans face an uncertain future when questioned by The Advocate in August, despite the organisation facing many of the challenges with Republican inclusion that led to the collapse of GOProud.

"[Since 2013] our rolls have grown, donations have increased, and our finances are in the best shape they’ve been in nearly a decade," he said.

The Log Cabin Republicans are currently seeking an audience with Trump and are expected to officially endorse a Republican candidate for president early next year.