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Republican Party (United States)  
 
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Established in the early 1850s, and running its first presidential candidate in 1856, the Republican Party (often referred to as the Grand Old Party or GOP) has been one of the two dominant political parties in the United States for nearly 150 years. The Party's key beliefs, as reflected in recent party platforms, revolve around a limited national government, protection of property rights and a free market economy, and upholding traditional values concerning the family, religious freedom, and the sanctity of life, among a broad array of other issues.

Early Activism in the Party

Given the Party's beliefs, perhaps it is not too surprising that glbtq activists have not always been welcome within the folds of the GOP. However, gay men and lesbians have been involved in Republican Party politics for a number of years. In 1972 San Francisco's Gay Activists Alliance disbanded and formed the Gay Voter's League, a group that campaigned for the reelection of Republican President Richard Nixon.

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Similarly, even non-Republican gay and lesbian activists began trying to influence the Party in 1976. During that year's presidential campaign, President Gerald Ford was "zapped" by activists in Ann Arbor, Michigan over federal immigration rules. The protests forced President Ford to admit that he was not aware that homosexuality was used as a basis for exclusion in immigration rulings.

Support for Traditional Values

Nevertheless, the Republican Party's focus on traditional family values has led many to believe that the Republican Party faithful oppose non-traditional gender roles and glbtq civil rights. Both elite and mass Republicans appear to hold these beliefs as public opinion polls show that Republicans are less likely to support glbtq civil rights than are Democrats.

Not surprisingly, gay and lesbian voters tend to vote for Democratic candidates and liberals rather than Republicans and conservatives. For example, in the 2000 presidential election, exit polls suggest that 70 percent of gay and lesbian voters chose Democrat Al Gore, 25 percent Republican George W. Bush, and four percent Green Party candidate Ralph Nader.

Log Cabin Republicans

But even without high levels of voting support for Republican candidates, glbtq Republicans have made their presence felt. The first organized and visible gay presence at a Republican National Convention occurred in 1984, when Ronald Reagan became his party's nominee for a second term. However, this presence did not prevent a conservative faction of the GOP from trying, but failing, to oust the newly formed Log Cabin Club, a gay Republican group, from the party in 1987.

The effort to oust the Log Cabin Club may have failed because of Reagan's ties to the group. The first chapter of what would become the national Log Cabin Republicans (LCR) formed in 1978 to fight California's Proposition 6, a ballot initiative that would have banned homosexuals from teaching in public schools. The chapter worked diligently and successfully to convince Governor Reagan to oppose the measure.

In the late 1980s local Log Cabin chapters began coordinating state and national efforts to influence moderates within the Republican Party through a group called United Republicans for Equality and Privacy. During the 1988 election cycle, Log Cabin activists joined with moderate forces within the Party to exert some influence during the presidential campaign, and the Party's nominee, Vice President George H. W. Bush, subsequently endorsed a plan to protect persons with AIDS from discrimination.

Once elected, the first President Bush helped push the plan (the Americans With Disabilities Act) through Congress, and even named a conservative lesbian, Anne-Imelda Radice, to serve as acting chair of the National Endowment for the Arts. Viewing these actions as progress, in 1990 Log Cabin chapters joined together under the Log Cabin Federation, and all Log Cabin groups merged in 1995 to become LCR with high hopes of moderating anti-gay views within the Republican Party.

Reactionary Politics

However, religious conservatives within the Party were becoming increasingly disenchanted with President Bush by the time he faced reelection in 1992. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party was heavily courting the glbtq vote and campaign contributions. The Bush campaign tried to appease both glbtq voters and religious conservatives and succeeded in alienating both groups.

In February 1992 the chairman of the Bush campaign met with representatives of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. The main issue that arose from the meeting was surprise in the Bush campaign that the NGLTF representatives believed that the administration had done little on glbtq issues, and in particular, had not done enough about the AIDS crisis. As reports on the meeting became public, conservative congressional Republicans made their displeasure clear, and religious conservatives increasingly turned towards President Bush's far-right challenger, Pat Buchanan.

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Congressman Jim Kolbe (right) greets the Dalai Lama. Kolbe (R, AZ) became the first openly gay elected offical to speak at a Republican convention in 2000.
  
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