Texas GOP Convention to Include First-Ever LGBT Booth

In 1998, Log Cabin Republicans protested their exclusion from the "big tent" of the Texas GOP. Nearly twenty years later, the group still hasn't been able to secure a booth at the state GOP convention, but another, less vocally pro-LGBT group, was admitted this year.
In 1998, Log Cabin Republicans protested their exclusion from the “big tent” of the Texas GOP. Nearly twenty years later, the group still hasn’t been able to secure a booth at the state GOP convention, but another, less vocally pro-LGBT group, was admitted this year.

The Republican Party of Texas’ 2016 convention is expected to include a booth sponsored by an LGBT group for the first time in state party history.

However, a party official told the Observer that the booth, sponsored by Metroplex Republicans of Dallas, was approved only because the group doesn’t openly advocate for LGBT rights.

“I don’t find that anywhere in their literature or their website,” said Jean McIver of Frisco, a State Republican Executive Committee member who also serves on the party’s Officials Committee, which considers booth applications.

“I’ve gone to Metroplex meetings in the past a couple of times,” McIver said. “I didn’t find that they were advocating for anything contrary to the principles of the party.”

Metroplex Republicans President Rob Schlein confirmed that the group’s application for a booth had been approved but declined further comment. Metroplex Republicans was founded in 2011 by former members of the Dallas chapter of the conservative LGBT group Log Cabin Republicans.

The Metroplex Republicans website includes a rainbow aesthetic.
The Metroplex Republicans website includes a rainbow aesthetic.

Metroplex Republicans’ website, which features the colors of the LGBT Pride flag and includes a graphic that appears to depict same-sex couples holding hands, indicates that the group supports free markets, limited government and confident foreign policy.

“We also believe in the ‘Big Tent’ and our club represents a diversity of viewpoints, ethnicities, gay and straight,” the site states.

According to the Texas GOP’s online convention floorplan, Metroplex Republicans will occupy a booth just steps away from one sponsored by the anti-LGBT group Texas Values.

Metroplex Republicans President Rob Schlein speaks at a 2015 kickoff event for the pro-LGBT business coalition Texas Competes in Austin.
John Wright
Metroplex Republicans President Rob Schlein speaks at a 2015 kickoff event for the pro-LGBT business coalition Texas Competes in Austin.

But the Texas GOP again rejected an application from Log Cabin Republicans, which has sought placement at the convention since at least 1998. That year, the group protested outside the convention in Fort Worth after a party spokesman compared Log Cabin members to pedophiles and the Ku Klux Klan.

Jeff Davis, president of Log Cabin Republicans of Texas, said the group was “upset” with this year’s denial, adding that it “shows that the state party does not care to uphold the basic big tent philosophy of the Republican Party, something that is always important, especially in a presidential election year.”

“However, LCR-Texas will still be at the convention in other capacities,” Davis said. “The most important activities at convention don’t take place in the exhibit hall.”

Davis said although he’s glad Metroplex Republicans will have a booth, he believes the party is “splitting hairs” and “trying to have it both ways.”

“Whether stated in black and white on their website or not, Metroplex’s stance on LGBT rights is extremely well known,” Davis said. “I think the party wants to be able to point to Metroplex and say, ‘See, we let gays in.’”

The Texas GOP didn’t respond to requests for comment.

In 2014, the state GOP denied booth applications from both Metroplex and Log Cabin, stating that the groups’ positions conflicted with the party’s anti-LGBT platform.

“It seems like to get a booth, you can believe anything you want,” said Davis. “You just can’t say it.”

John Wright is a freelance journalist based in Austin. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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Published at 4:15 pm CST
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