The bartender at Cathedral Station, a gay sports bar in the South End, is not happy that he has to mute the Bruins game. He motions to a table of young men with gelled hair and plaid shirts picking at a single order of french fries.
“Those guys are here for the primaries, so we gotta put the sound on CNN.”
The four men at the table are all beardless, white, clean-cut patrons dutifully watching the presidential primary results. Their main focus: the Republican race.
“I take pride in just existing,” says Ryan Egan, Vice Chairman of Log Cabin Republicans of Massachusetts. “Just to exist is to make a statement. We come in and say ‘we have values that are contradictory to the Republican party, and we are still sticking with them.’”
The Log Cabin Republicans (LCR)— taking its name from the home of the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln—is an LGBT-friendly, national organization that grew out of gay and lesbian discrimination in the late 1970s. Today, the LCR has 34 chapters in 26 states and thousands of members advocating for LGBT rights in the Republican party.
In Massachusetts, Egan and Chapter Leader Dylan Kelly man the chapter. Both are twenty-something, college-educated gay men who remain devoted to the values of the Republican party despite the candidates’ public stances against marriage equality.
“It is possible to be gay and believe in republican values,” Kelly says. “We believe in the same things like fiscal responsibility and strong national defense, but we also believe in LGBT equality.”
After graduating from Roger Williams University in Rhode Island where he first got involved with the LCR, Kelly, a Middleton native, started a Massachusetts chapter, which he says has been successful but difficult to get off the ground. “It’s easier to be gay in Massachusetts than to be a Republican,” Kelly says. “We have to get people to be more confident, to kind of ‘come out’ as Republican.”
As the results of the presidential primary trickle in and Ted Cruz—who has consistently opposed equality for LGBT Americans—is pronounced winner in Texas, the young men visibly cringe. They pause to stare at the TV screens above the bar. “My Humps” by the Black Eyed Peas plays quietly over the speakers in the adjoining room.
“I feel a little less hopeful after tonight’s results,” Egan says. “I think its one of those things where you kind of hold your nose sometimes.” He says he’ll vote for whoever the GOP chooses as nominee, but personally he’s a fan of Marco Rubio, despite the fact that the candidate has vowed to repeal all of President Obama’s executive orders, including those that protect LGBT people from discrimination. “Other than coming out against LBGT rights, I think [Rubio] really represents everything else that we stand for, for the most part.”
Kelly prefers John Kasich as a candidate, but says that he too will vote for whoever is on the ballot. Whether it’s Kasich, Rubio, Trump, or even Cruz, Kelly says that the members of LCR aren’t one issue voters. He says that LGBT rights are clearly important to them, but no more important than the other traditionally conservative values like small federal government and powerful state legislature.
“It comes down to, ‘what does it mean to be a Republican,’” Egan says. “Yes we associate with a party, but we’re trying to make a statement. We need to make sure people are being taken care of, make sure our economy thrives, make sure that our democratic republic is strong and make sure that people’s views are represented.”
With Donald Trump claiming 319 delegates on Super Tuesday—the most of any Republican candidate—Egan and Kelly are coming to terms with the fact that neither of their favorite candidates are doing as well as they hoped.
“We will support the nominee,” Kelly says “I’m not sure how vocal we’ll be—it depends who it is—but as Republicans we will support them. We will support the party.”