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by Bob Roehr
Patrick Sammon will be leaving Log Cabin Republican at the end of January after five years with the organization, the last half as its executive director. Earlier in the year he had informed the board of his intent to leave after the election, and they are moving to identify a successor.
Highlights of his tenure included securing 35 Republican members of the House to vote for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). While Democrats have a majority in that chamber, enough Democrats voted “no”that Republicans supplied the margin necessary for victory. The bill was not acted upon by the Senate.
During the presidential primary, Mitt Romney tried to use gay and lesbian families as a wedge issue. Log Cabin ran ads in Iowa and New Hampshire that highlighted Romney’s flip-flopping on a number of social issues. Many believe they contributed to the demise of his candidacy and the nomination of John McCain.
“If you look at where we were four years ago, we had an incumbent Republican President who used [antigay rhetoric] as a key part of his reelection strategy. Four years later, we had a candidate who was the most pro-gay Republican candidate ever to run,” said Sammon.
“He wasn’t perfect on all of the issues but I was proud of the progress we were able to make and the kind of campaign that he ran…We are making progress, though obviously there is more to be done.”
McCain received “more votes from gay and lesbian people than President Bush did four years ago [according to exit polls]. It was not a surprise to me; John McCain is no George Bush,” he said.
About a quarter of the GLBT community has voted for the Republican presidential nominee over the last several elections. Sammon was disappointed by “the real hatred and venom” that was directed at gay Republicans from within the community. “Those who talk the most about tolerance within the gay community are intolerant of those who take a different political view.”
For Sammon, “When you look at the exit poll results, 1.3 million gay and lesbian people (27%) voted for Sen. McCain. With the exception of Log Cabin, there is not a single gay rights group that represents those viewpoints. Our movement needs to do some soul-searching on that.”
“Not everyone in our movement is an upper West Side liberal. We have diverse viewpoints in our community and I think other organizations would be wise to understand that.”
Turning to the Republican Party, Sammon used the analogy of the market: “If you are not selling a product that people want to buy, then they are not going to vote for you. The question for Republicans is, how long will it take for them to get the right message from this election? Does it take them 2 years, 4 years, 10 years, 15 years?”
He sees an encouraging sign in that the Governor of South Carolina is talking about how the Party’s position on gay issues is driving young voters away. Another is that Texan Rep. Pete Session recently met with Log Cabin in Dallas; he is running to lead the Republican National Congressional Committee, which recruits and supports candidates running for Congress.
Sammon believes the community has to “hold the Democrats’ and President-elect Obama’s feet to the fire to actually deliver on the promises they have made.” With broad control of both houses of Congress and the White House “they now have no excuses for not delivering on all of their promises.”
He says that over the next four years the community should realistically expect enactment of hate crimes legislation, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, domestic partner tax equity, and federal domestic partner benefit.
“You have the votes now in both houses of Congress, and a President who is apparently committed to getting this done. If not now, when? Let’s move ahead and get this done.”
Sammon warns, “Over the last ten days, I’ve already heard some of my Democratic friends trying to lower expectations. I think that our community needs to be very aggressive in keeping pressure on the Democrats and Obama.”
“If you only ask to take three steps forward, then you are going to actually take one step forward; if you ask to take ten steps forward, then maybe you can take six or seven steps forward. It doesn’t benefit our community to play nice.”
Sammon’s parting words of advice to his successor are “to have a thick skin, and make decisions with principle and integrity.”