Conservative, Republican and Gay

GW College Republicans invite Log Cabin Republicans and LGBT conservatives to talk about what it means to be gay and conservative.

GW College GOP Log Cabin Forum
Panelists from left to right: Edith Jorge-Tunon, Dave McCulloch, Brad Polumbo. (Harrison Jones/GW Today)
January 31, 2020

By B.L. Wilson

Kicking off a discussion on the inclusion of LGBT people in the Republican Party, Charles Moran, the managing director of the conservative gay group the Log Cabin Republicans, told George Washington University students that they “don’t have to be a Democrat because you’re gay.”

The forum at the Marvin Center Amphitheater Tuesday night, hosted by GW College Republicans, brought together what Josh Kutner, director of political affairs for the group, described as an all-star panel of Republican and conservative political and media consultants: Dave McCulloch, managing partner at Capitol Media Partners; Brad Polumbo, an editor and columnist at The Washington Examiner; and Edith Jorge-Tunon, political director for the Republican State Leadership Committee.

Mr. Moran, who has 14 years of experience managing local and national Republican political races, started the discussion by asking panelists to explain how they came out as conservative and where they fit on the conservative spectrum.

Mr. Polumbo said he realized he was a conservative when he was dropped into “the liberal bastion of the University of Massachusetts” and wound up persona non grata in the gay community.

A Rand Paul libertarian and “technically not a Republican,” he said, “I definitely have a very right-wing philosophy. I am more than willing to punch at both sides.”

Mr. McCullough grew up in San Diego as a Democrat who didn’t “identify as a Republican because of the gay issue,” he said. “I was so scared of Christian conservative family values type of Republicans spouting hate on TV.”

A friend got him a job with the Republican Party where he said he met “a Catholic conservative, family values type of guy who became an ally” and came to realize that his core beliefs, particularly on fiscal issues, aligned more with conservatives.

“Gay rights is an important thing for me personally. I’m gay,” Mr. McCulloch said. “But I’m not a gay activist… I believe I can be part of the movement to change things by simply existing.”

Ms. Jorge-Tunon also registered and voted as a Democrat until she accepted an internship in the office of Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and came to like it. For a long time, she said, she kept quiet about her sexual orientation.

She recalled people talking about “marriage being between a man and a woman” and “having to stand there, hear them out and try to talk some sense into them without being disrespectful knowing that [she was] being disrespected.”

Now married to a woman, she said, “I make it a point to make those distinctions because I think that’s how people learn.” She found that people are “more open” than she thought they would be.

Mr. Moran and the other panelists defended President Donald Trump on LGBT policy for being the first president elected in a first term to office that supported same-sex marriage, and for his support for ending HIV/AIDS in 10 years and calling for the decriminalization of homosexuality in the 69 countries where it is still illegal at the United Nations General Assembly.

Mr. Polumbo, who has reported on and written about gay issues, said he has concluded, “that the biggest thing Donald Trump has done to be a friend to the LGBT community is nothing at all.” With the exception of the ban on transgenders serving in the military, he said, “he’s created an environment where it is easier to be a gay conservative or a gay Republican because these issues just aren’t raised.”

Mr. Moran said that there was an opening when Mr. Trump was first elected for gay advocacy organizations to engage with the president that they didn’t take advantage of.

“They just decided to not do their mission [advocate for their LGBT constituency], to be partisan Democrats first and just resist, slamming the door on the very thing they were fighting for, which was access and equity,” he said.

As for improvements the Republican Party could make, Ms. Jorge-Tunon recommended among other things something simple like changing party platform language that supports the sanctity of marriage while “removing the words between a man and woman.”

For that to happen, she said, young gay people need to be involved at the local level where the delegates to the convention who vote for the platform are selected.

“We can be at the table,” Mr. McCulloch concurred, “showing up and not screaming at the top of your lungs, ‘Why do you hate me?’ The less of that kind of thing and the more actual conversations we have, that’s when things change over time.”

During a Q & A, a number of students expressed concern and fear for a push by some conservatives for conversion therapy, including one who said he was a conversion survivor whose parents no longer accepted him.

“Live your life honestly,” Mr. Moran advised. “Be present. Share and be aware. Accept them for who they are and who they are not.”

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