With just two weeks before Election Day, Log Cabin Republicans have endorsed Mitt Romney for president.
The "qualified endorsement," which was announced this morning, credits the economy as the overriding issue of the campaign and the need for a Republican vision for the future. However, it notes that as a qualified endorsement, LCR will be more active in supporting the 22 House and four Senate candidates they have endorsed.
According to LCR Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper, the organization's 15-member National Board of Directors was almost unanimous in its decision to endorse Romney, with one dissenting member.
"We walked through things he could do as president and it's safe to say in a Romney presidency there are some tangibles there that he has experience on as governor that I believe we will see in place and practice," Cooper told Metro Weekly in a phone interview from the campaign trail.
Although Cooper did not want to speak about policy specifics on behalf of the Romney campaign, he did say LCR had extensive meetings with the Romney campaign in which "actual tangibles" were discussed. According to Cooper, workplace nondiscrimination was among those issues discussed.
In a statement released this morning, Cooper said LCR believes Romney "will move the ball forward compared to past Republican presidents" on issues important to the LGBT community.
In the past, Romney has said he opposes a federal Employment Nondiscrimination Act and such issues should be left up to the states. The Romney campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Metro Weekly.
According to LCR's endorsement, "There has been discussion about whether we, as members of Log Cabin Republicans, are LGBT first or Republican first. Ultimately, we believe the answer is neither. We are Americans first, and as such, must stand for what we believe is right for our country," adding that Romney may not be the first choice for voters who consider LGBT issues their highest priority.
"Mitt Romney is not Rick Santorum, and Paul Ryan is not Michele Bachmann," the endorsement states. "Otherwise, our decision would have been different."
Although the endorsement notes Romney's opposition to marriage equality and his decision to sign the National Organization for Marriage pledge against same-sex marriage during the Republican primaries, LCR labels such a pledge as an "empty promise made to a vocal but shrinking constituency."
"In our judgment, the NOM pledge is ultimately merely symbolic and thus should not be the basis of a decision to withhold an endorsement from an otherwise qualified candidate, particularly given the gravity of the economic and national security issues currently at stake," reads the endorsement.
While LCR acknowledges that the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would amend the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, has been voted on twice and failed, it does not mention the other aspects of the NOM Marriage Pledge signed by Romney.
Specifically, the pledge supports a federal marriage amendment and the Defense of Marriage Act, the nomination of judges opposed to same-sex marriage, a referendum on marriage equality in D.C., and the establishment of a presidential commission on religious liberty.
LCR's endorsement comes after weeks of speculation that the group of LGBT Republicans would not endorse Romney because of his hardline stances on key LGBT issues, including his support for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
Since the group's founding in 1977, only twice have they withheld their endorsement for the Republican presidential nominee. In 1992, LCR did not endorse George H. W. Bush, citing anti-gay rhetoric at the Republican National Convention. In 2004 LCR did not endorse George W. Bush because of his support for a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality.
Although LCR has often made their presidential endorsement known in early September, Cooper said speculation about their decision timeline was meaningless.
"There is no timeline required for endorsements in any organization in the Republican Party," Cooper said. While the endorsement has come later than in the past, Cooper credits this to time LCR spent in discussions with the Romney campaign.
"It's very easy to issue an endorsement without working with the campaign or candidate," Cooper said.
Prior to LCR's announcement, GOProud was the only group of gay conservatives to have endorsed Romney after a split decision in June.
LCR immediately faced criticism from LGBT supporters of President Barack Obama, who called LCR's Romney endorsement, among other things, "madness."
Speaking to Metro Weekly, out gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who equated gay Republicans to "Uncle Toms" last month, expressed disappointment in the group's endorsement.
"I've heard of lowering the bar, but that's burying it in about six feet of concrete," Frank said.
Although Frank "partially" congratulated LCR for their "intellectual honesty" in endorsing Romney because they agree with his fiscal policies, he said it was "absolute fantasy" to think Romney would be a friend of the LGBT community as LCR argued.
"That's what's so Uncle Tomish about it," Frank said. "The initial statement was honest, but these other issues and saying, 'He might be open to this,' that takes back the intellectual honesty."
"Clarke Cooper is a political leader. He should not consciously and deliberately mislead," Frank said.
"It's a disgrace," added Stonewall Democrats Executive Director Jerame Davis in a statement. "This is politics at its worst — when a community sells out its own people for the gain of a few individuals. There is little doubt that Clarke Cooper's position on the RNC finance committee played a major role in this decision. Of course, so did their blinding fear of GOProud nipping at their heels."
GOProud, which has been critical of LCR in the past, also found fault with the endorsement, albeit for different reasons. GOProud Executive Director Jimmy LaSalvia criticized LCR for issuing a "qualified" endorsement rather than expressing full support for Romney's candidacy.
"I'm disappointed that they have made it clear that they won't lift a finger to help Governor Romney," wrote LaSalvia in an email to Metro Weekly. "It's time for all of us to come together to work to defeat Barack Obama."
[Photos: Mitt Romney (Courtesy of Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons), R. Clarke Cooper (Courtesy of Log Cabin Republicans).]
[Editor's note: This post has been updated to incorporate statements from Rep. Barney Frank, Jerame Davis and Jimmy LaSalvia.]