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Make America Straight Again? A Debate on What Could Be the Most Anti-LGBT Republican Platform Ever

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As the new Republican platform has been described as “the most anti-LGBT platform in the party’s 162-year history,” we get reaction from Charles Moran, board member with the Log Cabin Republicans, which represents LGBT conservatives and allies. He is a delegate to the Republican National Convention from California. We also speak with Alana Jochum, executive director of Equality Ohio, about how the platform opposes same-sex marriage, appears to endorse so-called conversion therapy and criticizes the Department of Education’s recommendation that schools allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. We are “Breaking with Convention: War, Peace and the Presidency,” broadcasting from the Republican and Democratic conventions for this two weeks with expanded two-hour broadcasts. If you miss any of them, you can go to democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman.

The new Republican platform has been described as the most anti-LGBT platform in the party’s 162-year history. That’s the conclusion of Log Cabin Republicans, a group of gay Republicans. The platform opposes same-sex marriage, appears to endorse so-called conversion therapy by stating, quote, “the right of parents to determine the proper treatment or therapy for their minor children,” unquote. The platform also criticizes the Department of Education’s recommendation that schools allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity.

We’re joined now by two guests. Charles Moran is a board member with Log Cabin Republicans, which represents LGBT conservatives and allies. He’s a delegate to the Republican National Convention from California. Alana Jochum is also with us. She’s not a delegate, but she’s executive director of Equality Ohio.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Charles Moran, let’s begin with you. Talk about your concerns at this convention.

CHARLES MORAN: Well, we really did have an opportunity at this convention, with the nomination of Donald Trump, to actually modernize the Republican Party platform. And it’s something that a number of us have been working on for several months now. But we saw, as the Republican nomination process started to shake out—and Donald Trump began basically admitting that he has no plans on investing any kind of capital into the Republican Party platform, because he simply doesn’t agree to follow it. It’s nonbinding. He’s probably never even read it, and admits to it as much. What I call the platform is the Ted Cruz consolation prize. The platform was—committee was run by a bunch of Ted Cruz supporters, who, again, were looking to create a firewall against what would be Donald Trump reshaping the party in terms of something that’s much more socially moderate, something that’s much more contemporary than Senator Cruz and his followers would tolerate.

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about how this platform was decided upon. Who influenced it? Where was the Log Cabin Republicans in all of this?

CHARLES MORAN: Well, again, this platform committee, which was made up of over 100 people, there were different groups and organizations that were invited to submit different languages. Groups like Log Cabin Republicans and American Unity Fund worked very closely to submit language. But again, it really is about the makeup of that committee. And we know that the Ted Cruz campaign had actually spent a lot of time and a lot of effort trying to seed all of these committees with their supporters, people who would believe, you know, in their agenda. And that’s—you know, there’s a lot more of them. Ted Cruz’s group of—his cadre of people, led by people like Kendal Unruh, the delegate from Colorado who single-handedly tried to lead a revolt, people like Ken Cuccinelli from Virginia, have been exercising their levers within the Republican Party. So, I mean, the platform committee is just an extension of that, them trying to whip the votes and count the heads and get their people placed on the platform committee to pass what is really a 19th century-style platform.

AMY GOODMAN: What did you make of the booing of Ted Cruz when he refused to endorse Donald Trump last night? Were you one of them.

CHARLES MORAN: Oh, I absolutely was. And one of the—one of the things that makes sense is, the bulk of the people on the floor this time around are all supporters of Donald Trump. That is what we came here for. And, once again, I think that the Ted Cruz supporters are—you know, again, they’re looking for their consolation prize. I think they almost want to see Donald Trump lose, so that Ted Cruz can run in 2020. I came to Cleveland to nominate Donald J. Trump and to ensure that he gets the victory in November. And I don’t know where Senator Cruz or the rest of his supporters are on that. Why did they even come here?

AMY GOODMAN: You came here to endorse Donald J. Trump and Mike Pence?

CHARLES MORAN: And Mike Pence. I think that, you know, clearly, as you described, there are some concerns with his advancement of RFRA, but part of what we—

AMY GOODMAN: The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, as it’s called.

CHARLES MORAN: RFRA, yeah. And part of that was, you know, again, him understanding that this country has moved forward, business has moved forward, and him actually having to step back and make amendments to his existing law that would take out some of that discriminatory language. I think that there’s going to be a very quick correction for Mike Pence, realizing that now he’s not just the governor of his one state or representing his one belief system. He has to represent all Americans, and that includes so many Americans who have really progressed quickly on the LGBT equality issue.

AMY GOODMAN: Alana Jochum, your thoughts?

ALANA JOCHUM: You know, the hats say “Make America Great Again,” but I think the policies we are seeing really say “Make America Straight Again.” And this has been really disappointing to see the platform just be very hostile to the LGBTQ community. As you said, it implies that conversion therapy is acceptable. It condemns the Obergefell decision and same-sex marriage.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain that.

ALANA JOCHUM: Sure. This was a major Supreme Court case that we saw last year. Ohio has successfully implemented marriage equality for all couples. It is law. And this tries to reverse that. I think that what we are seeing here with the advisers that Trump has put around him, this platform, and his choice of Mike Pence as his vice president, we are going to halt, or at least not see any advancements, in the LGBTQ equality rights battles.

AMY GOODMAN: Charles Moran says it’s not Donald Trump who’s anti-gay.

ALANA JOCHUM: Well, I think that the policies here are clear, and he will be working with that. He also had a choice as to what vice-presidential candidate he would pick, and Mike Pence is no friend to the LGBTQ community. He has a strong record of anti-LGBTQ equality. He opposed LGBT people in the military. He doesn’t think that even basic nondiscrimination protections are acceptable for LGBTQ people. We know that, federally, there are no protections in housing, employment and in public accommodations. And in the same vein, there are 28 states, Ohio being one of them, that does not have statewide nondiscrimination protections in place. And he also put forward the RFRA, which caused huge economic devastation to Indiana.

AMY GOODMAN: Charles Moran?

ALANA JOCHUM: I’m happy that Donald Trump has said that he has not either read the platform, he has no plans on following the platform, he is not bound by the platform. Every state in this country has their own Republican Party platform, and there are a number of states that have actually removed all of the anti-LGBT language—places like California, Nevada, Washington.

AMY GOODMAN: Every state has their own, but then the Republican Party—

CHARLES MORAN: Correct, and it is nonbinding. And if you talk to any elected official and ask them, “Have you actually read the Republican Party platform?” generally, the answer is going to be no. I don’t know why we have a platform. I don’t know why we continue to go through this drill, when it is nonbinding, and our candidates, which are truly the representation of the party, openly say that they don’t know what the party platform is, and they have no plans on saying it—or, or following it. But I—

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let me ask Alana Jochum, what you feel about that? Donald Trump says he hasn’t read it, and he—where did he say he doesn’t plan to follow it, Charles?

CHARLES MORAN: His consistent messaging has been: “I am the candidate. I am not going to bend to the party; the party will come and follow me.”


ALANA JOCHUM: Well, we’re a nonpartisan organization, and we’ve been watching this very closely. But it’s clear that there is a strong anti-LGBTQ sentiment emerging here. And the platform does have the strongest language that we’ve seen condemning LGBTQ people and marriage equality, which is essentially established law. I just don’t think that this is a step in the right direction, and I don’t expect that this entire presidential candidacy is going to embrace LGBTQ equality, based on the platform that has been put forth.

CHARLES MORAN: One of the things that I’m heartened by is, tonight, Peter Thiel, who is quite visibly—or, is quite noticeably one of the most visible LGBT, open LGBT business members in our community, a founder of PayPal, one of the initial investors in Facebook, is going to be giving a speech. The Washington Post is reporting that he is going to use the words somewhere along the lines of “I am an openly proud gay man.” That is going to be prime-time tonight—for the first time, an openly gay Republican speaker at the Republican National Convention prime-time. I think it shows, if you—even if you look at the speeches, Ted Cruz last night actually recognizing, you know, the gay versus straight, acknowledged it in a positive way. No other speakers brought up any kind of anti-LGBT rhetoric. We have not seen family values mentioned from the stage at all. And then having somebody like Peter Thiel speaking tonight during prime-time, I think, shows that there is definitely a disconnect between the Ted Cruz consolation prize platform versus what America is seeing on the stage, which has been, generally, steering away from the divisive social battles.

AMY GOODMAN: Alana Jochum?

ALANA JOCHUM: I do think that there is a disconnect between where Americans are on LGBTQ equality issues and what the platform is showing. And as a nonpartisan organization, we are always encouraging this dialogue, and that is something that we take heart in. People like Rachel Hoff, who fought really vigorously in the platform committees to try to have inclusive language put forth—

AMY GOODMAN: Explain who she is.

ALANA JOCHUM: Rachel Hoff is—she describes herself as the first openly gay delegate on the Republican platform committee. And she had a beautiful and impassioned speech advocating for inclusive language. And then what we got was very hostile language. But those conversations, that is what is ultimately going to change the dialogue. And we are pleased to be seeing these issues spoken about and LGBT individuals who identify as Republican coming forth.

AMY GOODMAN: Earlier this week, Democracy Now!'s Deena Guzder spoke with New Jersey Republican County Committeewoman Jennifer Williams, who recently wrote a piece for The Washington Post headlined “I'm a Transgender Republican. My Party Has Betrayed Me.”

JENNIFER WILLIAMS: My name is Jennifer Williams, and I’m here at the RNC as an honorary delegate. And I’m here as a transgender woman who’s trying to, hopefully, bridge some gaps between the Republican Party and transgender people and LGBT community.

DEENA GUZDER: Do you feel the Republican Party has betrayed you as a transgender delegate?

JENNIFER WILLIAMS: In some ways they have, because what they’ve done in the past year at the state party level is have these bathroom bills, which really are full discrimination bills, because once you discriminate people for using a bathroom, it really hurts them economically of finding jobs to applying for housing, because if you put it out there that a transgender person, particularly if a transgender woman, is dangerous, who’s going to want to hire someone or work with someone who’s transgender, let alone maybe rent an apartment or sell a home to one? So, it’s something the party really needs to look at themselves and realize that they’re really hurting a minority community, a small community. And at the same time, when they put it in a party platform about restroom usage, locker room usage, and even with Title IX, trying to go after kids in schools, you’re really hurting the future of the party.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s New Jersey Republican County Committeemember Jennifer Williams. She wrote this piece in The Washington Post, which is headlined “I’m a Transgender Republican. My Party Has Betrayed Me.” Charles Moran?

CHARLES MORAN: Once again, I say that—you know, look at the lines of Donald Trump from just two months ago, saying that Caitlyn Jenner could use whatever bathroom she wanted in any of his properties. There is a disconnect here between the platform committee, the Ted Cruz activists who want to see the platform steered hard to the right, and then the forces of moderation and progress, people like Donald J. Trump, who have a business record of being inclusive. And that speaks directly to Ms. Williams’ concerns about the economic issues.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let’s go to Caitlyn Jenner. On Wednesday, the transgender celebrity athlete met with members of the American Unity Fund as part of her support for the Republican National Convention.

CAITLYN JENNER: It was easy to come out as trans. It was harder to come out as a Republican. Now, as far as social issues, because when I came out as being Republican, the community—I get it. The Democratic Party does a better job when it comes to LGBT community, the trans community, all that kind of stuff. And Obama actually has been very good from that standpoint, with just recently letting trans people serve openly in the military. They’re already there. Finally, they can serve openly. I think that’s a very good step for our community, for equal rights.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Caitlyn Jenner. Alana Jochum?

ALANA JOCHUM: You know, that may have been her experience that it was easier to come out as trans than as Republican. I don’t think that many transgender individuals would say that it is easy to come out as transgender. The disparities facing the transgender community are significant—twice the rate of unemployment, 41 percent higher suicide rate. A recent study by the U.S. Trans Survey 2015 says that 59 percent of transgender individuals avoid bathrooms altogether just to avoid conflict and hostile—and any situation they might face there. These are real disparities. This is why federal and state nondiscrimination protections, including gender identity and expression, are so needed.

AMY GOODMAN: Charles Moran?

CHARLES MORAN: I’m heartened the fact that we’re even having this conversation, on the fact that you’ve got somebody like Caitlyn Jenner, who has brought so much visibility to this community. You know, 20 years ago, we weren’t talking about these issues. Ten years ago, we weren’t. I’m proud of Caitlyn Jenner as a proud Republican from California. She has stood up to a lot of criticism within her own community and from within the party and conservative circles. I talked to a lot of people this week who had heard that Caitlyn Jenner was coming, who really asked the question, “How can I get a ticket? I really want to hear what she has to say.” I’m hoping at the next Republican convention, in four years from now, somebody like Caitlyn Jenner can actually take the stage and speak authentically to her experience.

AMY GOODMAN: Charles, were you disappointed by Donald Trump’s selection of Governor Pence, given his long-standing criticism of the LGBTQ community and his support for the so-called Religious Restoration Reform—the Religious [Freedom] Restoration Act?

CHARLES MORAN: It’s something that weighs heavily on me, and it’s something that I—that’s my first impression of Governor Pence. But Donald J. Trump needs to, you know, take a lot of things into account, more than just this one issue, in selecting a vice-presidential nominee. I didn’t know about John Kasich being the first call. I think that would have made a lot more—it would have made for a lot more excitement. But at the end of the day, he needed to find somebody who could bring a skill set, and that’s what he needed. He needed somebody with legislative experience, as a legislative leader, and somebody with the executive experience of being a governor. Governor Pence fits that description very well. His temperament is much more low-key. He’s going to be the yin to Donald Trump’s yang. And unfortunately, one of the drawbacks is this anti-LGBT sentiment that he’s harbored for a number of years. But I’m looking forward to us having an opportunity to be able to work with Governor Pence. He is now not going to be just the governor of a state; he’s going to be the vice-presidential nominee. He’s going to have to toe Donald Trump’s line.


ALANA JOCHUM: We’re very disappointed in Governor Pence’s selection. He’s just not a friend at all to the LGBTQ community. One of the things that Equality Ohio has to do is try to serve as a bridge among all ideologies. LGBTQ equality is a human issue that everyone can get behind. I think this is just a reminder of how much education we have to go.

AMY GOODMAN: On a lighter note, though it’s not light for people who have it, the norovirus. Charles, you’re from the California delegation. It’s been a big thing here. Staffers of the California Republican Party, how many of them came down with norovirus?

CHARLES MORAN: Slightly under a dozen. So, it was—


CHARLES MORAN: I’m fine. None of the delegation was impacted, none of the delegates, none of the alternates or our guests. You know, the County Health Department has been super-supportive working with the hotel and then our staff, as well. The situation’s contained. We quarantined a few people for a while. You know, just continuing to add the fuel to the fire, we’re staying in a lovely city called Sandusky, 60 miles west of the convention. That was—

AMY GOODMAN: Sandusky?

ALANA JOCHUM: Lovely city, it is.

CHARLES MORAN: Sandusky, Ohio. So, every day, the California delegation has been taking a 12-bus convoy the 60 miles into the city with a police escort. But I’ve seen a lot of wonderful, beautiful Ohio landscape.

ALANA JOCHUM: Jim Obergefell is actually from Sandusky originally. It’s a nice city for you to be visiting.


AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re going to leave it there. I want to thank Charles Moran, board member with the Log Cabin Republicans, which represents LGBT conservatives and allies, delegate to the Republican National Convention from California, and Alana Jochum, who is executive director of Equality Ohio.

This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. We are “Breaking with Convention: War, Peace, and the Presidency.” Where are the African-American delegates? The lowest number of black delegates in a century. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: “I’m an Alien” by Rebel Diaz. Democracy Now! interviewed the Bronx-based duo protesting outside of the Republican National Convention earlier this week.

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