The California Republican Party granted charter status to a gay Republican group on Sunday, after spirited – but ultimately minimal – opposition from within the party’s conservative flank.
The recognition comes years after Log Cabin California first sought to become an officially recognized volunteer group. Supporters called the measure an overdue sign of inclusiveness.
Delegates approved the charter by a 861-293 vote, touching off an emotional celebration in which members of the club hugged their supporters at the back of the convention hall.
Despite California’s liberal strains and the moderation of many members of the party’s professional and political classes, conservative activists remain a vocal force at conventions.
Party leaders in previous years sought to avoid public controversy by keeping the question of charter status from advancing to the convention floor.
But the biannual gathering that concluded Sunday came early in a nonelection year, offering beneficial timing to take up and ultimately settle the issue.
The move came despite language in the “Family” section of the state party’s platform: “We believe public policy and education should not be exploited to present or teach homosexuality as an acceptable ‘alternative’ lifestyle. We oppose same-sex partner benefits, child custody, and adoption.”
But noting that the Log Cabin group has supported Republican causes for years, Shawn Steel, the Republican National committeeman from California, said in a floor speech that the group’s members have “supported Republican candidates though good years and bad years.”
“They have been solid soldiers in their fight against leftist tyranny in California,” Steel said. “I would welcome them in our organization. ... I am proud to have them in the California Republican Party.”
Jim Brulte, the party chairman who won re-election Sunday, supported the measure.
Charles Moran, the outgoing chairman of Log Cabin California, said after the vote, “We are a Republican volunteer organization, so to have that affirmation come today from this body in such an overwhelming sense really helps us to be able to take that back to our community and say, ‘You do have a home here.’”
The party’s bylaws prohibit chartering organizations “based on special agendas,” including “Republicans for certain lifestyle preferences or orientations.”
Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, said the group did not meet the criteria, arguing that it advocates for a “certain lifestyle preference.”
Also opposed was Sen. Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga, who said the debate brought to mind a quote from Ronald Reagan amid calls to move to the political center. He said, “We must not compromise our political principles for political expediency.
“What we do here today, ladies and gentleman, matters,” he said. “Because as California goes, so goes the nation.”
Call David Siders, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1215. Follow him on Twitter @davidsiders.