Politics

Log Cabin Republicans move their annual gala to Florida to honor Melania Trump

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 26, 2019: First Lady Melania Trump stands in the Rose Garden of the White House as the President pardons the Thanksgiving Turkey, "Butter".
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 26, 2019: First Lady Melania Trump stands in the Rose Garden of the White House as the President pardons the Thanksgiving Turkey, "Butter".Photo: Shutterstock

Barely two years after they experienced a mass exodus of their leadership and membership over the group’s then-endorsement of Donald Trump, the Log Cabin Republicans (LCR) held their annual Spirit of Lincoln Gala at Trump’s Mar-A-Lago Club on Saturday — breaking the precedent set for the last several years of holding it in Washington, D.C. — so they could give a special award to their guest of honor, Melania Trump.

LCR gave an award to the former First Lady in addition to out former Trump appointee Ric Grenell, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, and Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT). While the organization denied that he was planning to attend the event, he would become the first President to attend a Log Cabin event if he did.

Related: Gay Republicans released a cringeworthy video praising Donald Trump for President’s Day

The event rivaled the Republican Jewish Coalition’s (RJC) Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas, usually a key event for potential Presidential candidates. Former Vice President Pence, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) were in attendance there, and Trump would have been expected to be there otherwise.

Instead, Trump was rumored to be a guest at the Log Cabin event, as the Washington Blade reported on November 5 — but officials denied his attendance, with Log Cabin Managing Director Charles Moran stating ahead of Saturday’s dinner that “Mrs. Trump will be the only member of the family speaking and scheduled to attend the Spirit of Lincoln Gala.”

Donald’s attendance would mark the first time any President would have attended a Log Cabin event. Social media footage did show him at an event with Melania, but his presence last night has not yet been confirmed.

Grenell, who received the Game Changer Award from LCR, shared a picture on social media that he says was taken during a donor lunch earlier on Saturday when Trump “comes by,” wearing golfing attire.

The LCR said they awarded Grenell for his “visible role in the Trump Administration,” which includes his role “as the first openly gay man to serve in a cabinet-level position,” when he was named the acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI), a position he was never confirmed to, as well as “his subsequent advocacy for the Log Cabin Republicans.”

McDaniel was recognized with the Majority Maker Award, which “is presented to an individual who has proven to be an ally of the Log Cabin Republicans while fighting for the broader cause of the Republican Party,” the LCR stated in a press announcement for the awards in October.

The GOP’s chief of staff Richard Walters accepted the award on her behalf.

Rep. Stewart was recognized with the Congressional Champion Award, which is given to “a member of Congress who has proven themselves to be a reliable leader for causes important to the conservative LGBT community.”

Stewart was specifically recognized for introducing the “Fairness for All Act,” which is a conservative “compromise” to the Equality Act that allows for religious exemptions to the law, and has no Democratic Party support. It is opposed by both pro-LGBTQ and anti-LGBTQ organizations — when Stewart first introduced the proposal in 2019, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) called the bill “an Affront to Existing Civil Rights Protections.” In February, when Stewart reintroduced it for the new Congressional session, the Family Research Council (FRC) said it “would leave many to suffer the consequences” from LGBTQ acceptance.

Still, LCR praises Stewart “for his introduction of and continued persistence” for the proposal.

Melania was the recipient of the event’s namesake Spirit of Lincoln Award, which LCR states is for her “historic” tenure as First Lady and her “vocal support of Log Cabin Republicans.”

Log Cabin Republicans were considerably close to a political victory had Trump attended the event, especially since the group has been shunned both in political communities and the queer community in recent years over their hard turn toward extremism and Trump worship under the current leadership.

While the organization once fought to end Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and pass nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people, it now opposes the Equality Act and spends most of its time trolling social media, largely through its propaganda arm, OutSpoken, which Melania has worked with.

In 2016, the group declined to endorse Trump. Then, in 2019, the LCR majority chose to endorse his reelection, leading most mainstream members of the group, including former Executive Director Jerri Ann Henry and group president Robert Turner, to leave the organization. Nearly a dozen other LCR staff members and officials departed once the dust had settled.

Since then, LCR has focused on its pro-Trump agenda and social media advocacy, producing bizaare videos featuring Melania decrying attacks on her husband and ticketed events featuring Grenell, other Trump family members, and rising stars of the right like “the Brokeback Patriot.”

They have also endorsed several proudly anti-gay and anti-LGBTQ politicians, including Reps. Michelle Steel (R-CA), Nancy Mace (R-SC), Nicole Maliotakis (R-NY), and Burgess Owens (R-UT).

Fittingly, their honorees this weekend have far from stellar records as pro-LGBTQ advocates. Grenell has tried to push for a more inclusive party, much to the disdain of many of the anti-LGBTQ candidates and leaders in the party he attempts to champion. He has only worked harder to promote Trump’s interest across conservative and far-right media, with regular appearances on FOX News and Newsmax, despite the fact that Trump and his family routinely attack or exclude trans people.

McDaniel, meanwhile, just spent the summer claiming that the White House was trying to erase “the m word” — mom — because officials there occasionally use gender-inclusive language. Meanwhile, the party under her leadership has committed to supporting anti-LGBTQ candidates, most notable as of late being Virginia Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin, who still opposes marriage equality.

Rep. Stewart, meanwhile, besides introducing unsupported legislation that supposedly champions LGBTQ equality, has not supported a single pro-LGBTQ policy position in this Congressional session according to HRC, and he received a 3 on HRC’s Congressional Scorecard for the last session.

Then, there’s Melania. While the LCR has touted their work with her and vice versa, the former First Lady reportedly did nothing when the Trump administration found out, and subsequently fired, a staffer of hers for using the gay dating app Grindr while working with her at the White House.

Still, she did at least try to make the Trump administration look more LGBTQ-supportive when she offered to light the White House in rainbow colors for Pride Month in 2020. Her husband’s staff refused, however, and didn’t even attempt to recognize Pride otherwise.

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