A senior GOP congressman has reportedly attempted to stop the party from backing gay candidates. Now he’s getting blowback from fellow Republicans who support gay rights.
Rep. Randy Forbes (Va.), a high-ranking member on the Armed Services Committee, has waged a “lengthy crusade” to convince the campaign arm of House Republicans to deny financial help to some gay candidates, Politico reported this week.
Republican gay-rights supporters shot back that if the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) chose to cut off funds to gay candidates, that would hamper the GOP’s chances of winning some key House races in 2014.
"You either want Republicans to win, or you don't — it's as simple as that,” Gregory T. Angelo, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, said in a statement. “Apparently, Congressman Forbes does not.”
At least two gay Republicans are running in potentially competitive races against incumbent Democrats next year: Richard Tisei of Massachusetts and Carl DeMaio of California. Democrats need to win back 17 seats to retake the majority in the House.
“#FF: @carldemaio, @Richard_Tisei. GOP candidates, caveman @randy_forbes wants @nrcc to deny $ to b/c they're gay. Better, send them $. I did,” she wrote.
Forbes told Politico that he believes GOP leaders should feel free to donate to candidates as they choose. But he is concerned about members being asked to donate to the campaigns of gay candidates.
“There would be a different situation if they tried to force other members to give money,” Forbes said.
Forbes’ office did not reply to a request for comment from Fusion.
When it comes to campaign funds, GOP leaders have not based their decisions on sexual orientation in the recent past. House Speaker John Boehner and the NRCC contributed to Tisei’s campaign when he ran for a House seat in 2012, Politico reported.
Asked by a reporter on Thursday whether he could support the party’s efforts to back gay candidates, Boehner replied, “I do. I do.”
"Qualified candidates should not face a special hurdle because of their sexual orientation or gender identity," Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.), who backs same-sex marriage, said in an email to Fusion. "The NRCC doesn't discriminate and will continue to help great people like Richard and Carl."
“Thankfully, the real GOP leaders in the House know how to pick winners, and their money is on Richard Tisei and Carl DeMaio,” the Log Cabin Republicans’ Angelo added.
More broadly, Forbes’ comments could complicate the Republican Party’s efforts to reach out to the LGBT community and other voters who have been alienated from the party.
Americans’ attitudes have rapidly changed on gay marriage. A July Gallup poll found that 52 percent of Americans support legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states. Just three years ago, more than half said that gay marriages should not be recognized by law.
Several Republicans have moderated their views on the issue. Ohio Sen. Rob Portman (R) came out in favor of same-sex marriage this summer. Earlier this year, over 100 Republicans signed an amicus brief to the Supreme Court endorsing marriage equality.
But the GOP has seen internal disputes over same-sex marriage spill out into public. Mary Cheney, a lesbian and daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, has openly feuded with her sister Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Senate candidate, over her opposition to gay marriage.
When it comes to campaign donations, Navarro downplayed the notion that there is a real dispute among Republicans.
“No fighting. 1 guy's crazy crusade,” she wrote on Twitter. “Not happening.”
Jordan Fabian is Fusion's politics editor, writing about campaigns, Congress, immigration, and more. When he's not working, you can find him at the ice rink or at home with his wife, Melissa.