GOP takes a small step toward equality

The California Republican Party’s decision to charter Log Cabin Republicans as one of its volunteer organizations won’t rank near the top of the great civil rights achievements of the 21st century.

But by voting 861-293, delegates attending the state party convention over the weekend in Sacramento removed one more obstacle to equality. The barrier may seem small. But the action ends an ongoing insult to people who have endured far too many indignities.

Log Cabin Republicans, a club founded more than three decades ago by gay Republicans in California, had been seeking the party’s recognition for 18 years.

As a practical matter, the action doesn’t mean a great deal. Log Cabin will be guaranteed two of the party’s 1,600-plus delegates, although elected officials and candidates can select additional Log Cabin members as delegates.

In the years to come, those delegates can work to remove antiquated planks from the party platform – the GOP opposes adoption by gay couples – and perhaps add other positions in favor of equality.

Party Chairman Jim Brulte downplayed the significance of the vote, although he supported inclusion and the vote was in keeping with his goal of broadening the party’s base.

The GOP can hardly afford to be exclusionary. Only 28 percent of California’s voters are registered as Republicans. A party teetering on irrelevancy can ill afford to denigrate Republicans who want to volunteer.

Assemblywoman Shannon Grove of Bakersfield and Sen. Mike Morrell, who represents Rancho Cucamonga, the same city Brulte represented during his years in the Legislature, spoke at the convention against inclusion.

Sounding as if he were warning delegates against the action, Morrell said that “as goes California, so goes the nation.” It seems unlikely that many states will follow California’s lead any time soon.

The Conservative Political Action Committee turned down Log Cabin’s offer to be a sponsor of its gathering in Maryland last week. The Texas GOP barred two gay Republican groups from setting up booths at a party convention last year, the Los Angeles Times noted.

The vote suggests that California Republicans are trying to chart a course different from Republicans nationally. No state party has embraced Log Cabin Republicans in the same manner.

Assemblyman Rocky Chávez, a San Diego County Republican who may run for the U.S. Senate in 2016, supports same-sex marriage and voted to include Log Cabin.

Assemblyman James Gallagher, R-Yuba City, calls himself a conservative but voted to admit the Log Cabin Republicans.

“They support Republicans. We don’t agree on marriage, but they support Republicans,” he said after the vote.

Sunday’s vote won’t change the political equation in California. Democrats will dominate California for years to come. But if the Republican Party is going to be relevant, it cannot be exclusionary.

More to the point, the party of Lincoln had no business excluding any group because of who they are.