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RNC 2012: Florida gay Republicans welcome GOP convention

CHRIS JOHNSON | Washington Blade
Sunday, August 26, 2012
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TAMPA, Fla. — Undaunted by an impeding hurricane that led to the cancellation of the first day of the Republican National Convention, gay GOP leaders in Florida hosted a welcoming event Sunday for convention participants interested in a more LGBT-inclusive Republican Party.

Heads of three chapters of the National Log Cabin Republicans — those from Tampa Bay, Miami and Broward County — held the event at the Rusty Pelican in Tampa, along with leaders from the national organization — including Log Cabin executive director R. Clarke Cooper — as a prelude to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., leading to the anointment of Mitt Romney as the Republican Party’s presidential nominee.

Attendees expressed support for Romney as the Republican standard-bearer in the presidential election despite the candidate’s lack of support for LGBT rights and positions such as support for a Federal Marriage Amendment banning same-sex marriage throughout the country.

Michael Key, Washington Blade

Jim Pease, president of Log Cabin Republicans of Tampa Bay.

Jim Pease, president of Log Cabin Republicans Tampa Bay, was among those who professed support for Romney because of the candidate’s business experience and conservative fiscal policies.

“I’m glad to see someone who has a good business background and I think this is what we need,” Pease said. “In my opinion, we’re headed toward a cliff with the accelerator on the floor. We need to slam on the brakes, do something, make a right-hand turn because we’re headed toward a cliff the way it is.”

Asked whether Romney’s opposition to LGBT rights was troublesome, Pease replied, “If we go over the cliff economically, gay rights is going to be the least of our problems.”

Mimi Planas, co-chair of Log Cabin Republicans of Miami, said she’s voting for Romney because she isn’t happy with the economy and thinks he will manage the country’s economy better than the Obama administration.

“I’m gay and get that whole thing, but I also have other things in my life,” Planas said. “There are one-issue voters that only care about that. I’m not one of those people. There are many issues that we got to look at. We got to look at national defense, we got to look at the economy, the spending, so many different things. Yes, that’s one issue and we’d like that to be different, and one day it will be.”

Attendees came from across the country. Rich Weissman, 58 and a gay Portland, Ore., Republican activist, said he came to the Republican convention for the first time to generate support for marriage equality within the Republican Party.

“I feel that the times are such today that people like me who are conservative, who believe in Republican values when it comes to things like the economy, when it comes to things like health care, jobs and those issues — but who are gay — need to speak up and become part of the party and change the way in which the party looks at critical, critical LGBT issues, and that’s why I’m here,” Weissman said.

Among the ways that Weissman he’s speaking out is “simply being” at the convention while talking to lots of other attendees to “assure that organizations like Log Cabin have a significant, significant presence.”

Weissman, who’s Jewish, married his partner one-and-a-half years ago in Portland, Ore., in a ceremony officiated by a conservative rabbi. Weissman said he considers himself married, even though Oregon doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage.

Event attendees were as dismissive of the party platform as they were of Romney’s lack of support for LGBT rights. The document was recently revealed to include language that limits marriage to one man, one woman; attacks the Obama administration for failing to defend DOMA; criticizes judges who rule in favor of marriage equality; and endorses a Federal Marriage Amendment.

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