WASHINGTON – Gay Republicans celebrated Donald Trump’s inauguration last weekend with a party featuring a keynote address by Rep. Chris Collins, a Clarence Republican with an anti-gay voting record who vowed that the new president will be a friend to the LGBT community.
“What I can tell you about Donald Trump – there is not a bone in his body that is discriminatory against anyone in this country,” Collins said at the event, according to an account by the Washington Blade, the capital’s gay newspaper. “He has said I am going to be the president for every and all Americans. And that was not a sound bite.”
Collins received a “warm, ecstatic” reception from the crowd of about 150 gay Republicans from across the country, said Gregory T. Angelo, president of the Log Cabin Republicans, the gay GOP group that sponsored the Inaugural “T” Party at the Capitol Hill Club on Saturday.
Collins was the first House member to endorse Trump for president and later served as a leading member of his transition team.
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Trump reached out to the gay community during his speech at the Republican National Convention and at other times during the presidential campaign. And shortly after his election, he told CBS News that he is “fine” with same-sex marriage, which he considers a settled issue.
But Trump’s position on other issues important to the gay community are less clear. For example, when asked on Monday about whether Trump would preserve an Obama-era executive order that bars discrimination against gays working for federal contractors, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said he didn’t know.
For his part, Collins opposes the national legalization of gay marriage and legislation aimed at preventing workplace discrimination against gays. And he was the only House member from New York State to score a zero on a legislative scorecard kept by the Human Rights Campaign, a leading gay group, throughout his first four years in Congress.
Asked why Collins agreed to speak to the gay Republican group, his spokesman, Michael McAdams said: “Congressman Collins was happy for the opportunity to take President Trump’s message of ‘Making America Great Again’ for all Americans to the Log Cabin Republicans. President Trump does not discriminate and has reiterated time and again his policies will serve all Americans. The Log Cabin Republicans are a key constituency of the Republican Party and Congressman Collins looks forward to working with them.”
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But that doesn’t mean Collins has changed his mind on issues such as gay marriage – which the Supreme Court made the law of the land in 2015 -- and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the proposed bill that would bar workplace discrimination against gays.
“Congressman Collins has always believed these issues and others like hydrofracking, minimum wage and marijuana laws should be left to the states to decide,” McAdams said.
The Log Cabin Republicans favor gay marriage and the bill that would ban employment discrimination against gays. But the group also takes a strong stand on other issues – such as toughening the fight against ISIS and tax reform – that Republicans generally agree upon, said Angelo, the group’s president.
Dismissing the Human Rights Campaign’s assessment of Collins’ record on gay issues as “arbitrary,” Angelo said he reached out to Collins to ask him to speak at the inaugural event, knowing the Clarence congressman was a strong surrogate who often speaks for the new president.
Collins quickly called back and accepted the invitation, Angelo said.
Other Republican lawmakers past and present who attended the party include Rep. Darrell Issa of California and former Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona, who is gay.
Together they heard Collins paint a positive picture of Trump, who, during his campaign, frequently bashed undocumented immigrants and mocked a disabled reporter.
“He is with you,” Collins said of the new president, according to the Washington Blade account. “He is with us. He’s with all Americans.”
Bryan Ball, president of the Stonewall Democrats of Western New York, said it was surprising that Collins appeared before a gay group, given his track record.
“I have never seen Chris Collins show any support, or any willingness to support, his LGBT constituents,” Ball said.
Angelo acknowledged that Collins has not supported gay marriage or other issues important to gays, but he said that was no reason not to invite the congressman to speak before the gay Republican group.
“This is how new allies are made,” he said. “The door is open to any Republican at Log Cabin Republican events.”