TYLER: I remember in kindergarten, we had like a mock presidential election. And so this would have been 1992. And it was H.W. Bush and Ross Perot and Bill Clinton, and I distinctly remember voting for H.W. Bush.
TOBIN: Well, I’m wondering — and this might come off as a bizarre question, but … do you feel like you identified first as a Republican, or as gay?
TYLER: [LAUGHS] Well, outwardly? I dunno. I mean, I think I knew I was gay before I knew I was a Republican, because I knew I was gay since I was little.
TOBIN: This is Tyler Deaton.
TYLER: I grew up in Alabama. And I grew up in a very religious family. And you know I’m definitely one of the guys or one of the kids that grew up in a setting where I knew I was gay from almost, like, day one.
TYLER: So, I think I was gay first. Because I was born gay, I wasn’t born a Republican. I could’ve chosen to be a Democrat. I could still choose to be a Democrat … I won’t.
KATHY: So, can I just say -- Tobin, when I hear the phrase "gay Republicans," the image that comes to mind is ... a unicorn. Because they're like a rare creature that I don’t understand.
TOBIN: Yeah, yeah. I hate to admit it, but I kinda feel the same way, like, the overlap between gay and Republican -- I don't quite understand. Which is why we're doing some teamwork today. Nancy and Buzzfeed News are coming together to dive into the world of gay Republicans. And bringing us along for the ride is ... Dominic Holden!
KATHY: Hi, Dominic!
TOBIN: Hey, Dominic!
TOBIN: Dominic, you have a very fancy title.
DOMINIC: Very fancy title. [ALL LAUGH]
TOBIN: You are the National LGBT Reporter for Buzzfeed News.
TOBIN: And actually it was a piece of yours that got me thinking about all this in the first place. It was about who had access to Trump after the election, and you wrote about how folks like the ACLU, the Human Rights campaign -- they basically said, "We've had no contact!" But then these gay conservative groups, they were like, "Hello, we've been talking to Trump's team this whole time!"
DOMINIC: Yeah, they basically scoffed at me! [TOBIN AND DOMINIC LAUGH] They were like, "Uh, yeah, we've been talking to Trump's people! We've been talking to these people for weeks and prepping them with the policies that we wanna see them advance and -- also -- the Obama-era policies that they wanna see protected." And it was, like, this difference the left saying, "Ehh, we're not talking to them much." and the right saying, "Yeah, we have them on speed dial."
DOMINIC: And, even more than that, they were making this case that if you wanna see LGBT rights continue marching forward, that these gay conservatives, they're the ones who can actually get it done.
KATHY: I'm not gonna lie, that doesn't make a lot of sense to me.
TOBIN: [IN A BREATHY VOICE] Well, Kathy, that's what we're talking about today.
KATHY: I hate it when you do that voice.
[THEME MUSIC STARTS]
VOX 1: From WNYC Studios, this is Nancy.
VOX 2: With your hosts Tobin Low and Kathy Tu.
[THEME MUSIC ENDS]
KATHY: Okay. So, who are the big players here?
TOBIN: Well, the best known organization is probably the Log Cabin Republicans.
[TV CLICKS ON, DRONE]
DOMINIC: And if there’s one guy you know from Log Cabin Republicans these days … it’s this guy.
BILL O'REILLY: Joining us, Gregory Angelo.
DOMINIC: Gregory T Angelo.
MSNBC: President of Log Cabin Republicans, Gregory T Angelo.
TOBIN: You can generally catch him on cable news, talking about how LGBT people need to be able to defend themselves with guns.
GREGORY: ... constitutional right to keep and bear arms. That's something that …
TOBIN: ... or throwing around terms like ...
GREGORY: Those horrible terrorist attacks by a radical Islamist in Orlando ...
TOBIN: And again and again he just gets hammered by questions like:
MSNBC: As a member of the LGBT community, I think people might wonder ... Why you're not more outraged?
TOBIN: “Like, come on, dude.”
LARRY KING: Log Cabin Republicans have been fighting this fight for a long time ...
TOBIN: “What are you doing with these Republicans? Who are you kidding?”
LARRY KING: Are you fighting a losing fight?
TOBIN: And every time, Gregory does not even blink. He’s like a machine with a perfectly coiffed poof of blonde hair.
GREGORY: I don’t think so, Larry. Certainly, I joke with people. I say often, my job is the most frustrating -- but sometimes the most thrilling.
[TV CLICKS OFF]
GREGORY: My father was, and still is, a libertarian. My mother was a classic Reagan conservative.
TOBIN: Not that it mattered. Gregory says growing up, no one forced him to be a Republican.
GREGORY: In fact, if you want any proof that conservatism is not genetic, my sister is just about as liberal as you can get.
TOBIN: Anyway, Gregory graduates college, moves to New York. And one day in 2008, his friend writes him an email ...
GREGORY: With a simple five word message: “Check out Thirsty Thursday, bro.”
TOBIN: ... a bar mixer hosted by the Log Cabin Republicans.
GREGORY: I showed up and I was met by people who I quickly felt were family. And, remember, at the time, I wasn’t a registered Republican.
TOBIN: But for Gregory, it’s like he found his people.
GREGORY: After all these years of bugging boyfriends by insisting on watching the O’Reilly Factor every night at 8 o’clock sharp, I was finally able to talk with other people who also insisted on watching the O’Reilly Factor with their boyfriends at 8 o’clock sharp every night. I mean, it was like a relief, like, I was finally able, in many ways to, like, finally be my true self, both in terms of my sexual orientation ... and my political leanings.
TOBIN: That’s when Gregory says he joined the GOP, even with their track record of anti-LGBT policies.
GREGORY: I opted in of my own will to a party that -- I knew full well their positions on issues related to marriage equality, for example. But, you know what? I looked at both parties and thought, even despite those things, I agree with 95 percent -- maybe even more -- of what the GOP stands for. And I saw registering with the Democratic Party as a far greater betrayal to who Gregory T. Angelo is than registering with the Republican Party.
TOBIN: By the way, if you're curious: Gregory says that the 'T' stands for "Thunder" in Gregory T. Angelo. [KATHY LAUGHS] Anyway, he's been working his way up the ranks of Log Cabin ever since, from volunteer to chapter leader. And he was named president of the organization in 2015. So that means his first presidential election cycle as head of Log Cabin was Trump’s.
TRUMP: I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of the hateful foreign ideology. Believe me.
TOBIN: And even though Log Cabin never formally endorsed Trump, it’s clear Gregory was a fan. Here he is on Fox News:
GREGORY: Say what you may about Donald Trump -- and obviously he’s a very polarizing and divisive character -- but we have never had a Republican nominee for President that has reached out so overtly to the LGBTQ community.
DOMINIC: Gregory and other gay conservatives were basically like, look, Donald Trump is the best candidate we have ever had. So, they were stoked to keep cozying up to Trump’s people and, also, to make their pitch to Republicans in Congress.
GREGORY: This is the exclusive members-only Republican club on Capitol Hill. It’s adjacent to the Republican National Committee, which is right over there.
TOBIN: It’s a couple weeks after the inauguration, and we’re standing on a street corner in Washington D.C.
GREGORY: And we are about to meet with Congressman Scott Taylor, who is a freshman member of the House of Representatives. [He] was just sworn in a month ago.
DOMINIC: The goal is to pitch his organization to this new Congressman from Virginia, so that if he ever has any questions or needs guidance, maybe Log Cabin would be his first call. Plus, this guy, Scott Taylor, is of particular interest to Gregory, because ...
GREGORY: When he served in the Virginia State Legislature, he was on record supporting an LGBT Non-Discrimination Bill.
DOMINIC: And that thing he just mentioned -- "LGBT Non-Discrimination Bill." This is like the Holy Grail for LGBT activists, especially after winning marriage equality. Like, it doesn’t matter if you’re liberal or conservative LGBT activist, like, this is what you want. Federal non-discrimination protections. Because right now, a lot of the rights are established state-by-state, and it's all over the map. If you're a trans person and you live in California, you have certain protections in housing and public accommodations at your job, but if you moved to Florida, like, this trans person could be fired just for being trans. There’s no consistency at all.
GREGORY: So, it seems to me that this could be an interesting opening for not only a conversation, but to specifically talk about ways that Log Cabin Republicans can collaborate with him in his office to advance LGBT Non-Discrimination Legislation on the federal level. Which is certainly one of our legislative priorities now.
TOBIN: Inside the Capitol Hill Club, we sit down in the formal dining room. There’s red velvet chairs and gold curtains ... portraits of many, many white men. It feels like a place your rich cousin might get married. And sitting across from Gregory is Congressman Scott Taylor, who at one point was as a sniper for the Navy Seals. Yeah.
SCOTT: And of course I knew a lot of gay and lesbian folks growing up and everything like that, and I’m from sort of a country-type place, and they couldn’t be out. They could not be out, you know? And I felt sorry for them, you know, that they couldn't just be themselves. And, you know, I guess I have a little libertarian in me in that way. You know, be happy. Be yourself. I don’t care. You know, gay marriage, you know, will come up of course. Look, you should be as happy or as miserable as anybody else.
GREGORY: [LAUGHS] I would say that. I would say that, right? Like, when we’re advocating for marriage equality, it includes rights, responsibilities, and burdens. Sometimes burdens are a part of that, right?
SCOTT: Sure. [LAUGHS]
DOMINIC: And then Gregory gets down to pitching. He goes through the whole Log Cabin platform.
GREGORY: We are the only LGBT organization in the country that supports preservation of our Second Amendment constitutional rights.
DOMINIC: Full repeal of Obamacare...
GREGORY: ... and a replacement, to be fair ...
DOMINIC: And what he always calls
GREGORY: ... radical Islamic terror.
DOMINIC: He's basically emphasizing the "Republican" in "Log Cabin Republican"
GREGORY: And there’s an LGBT case to be made for all of those things.
DOMINIC: To which Scott answers with his own experience going to a local pride celebration in his home state. Like, not just going ... speaking.
SCOTT: You know, I -- and I'm in the crowd, man. There was a speaking engagement and then there was a stage and it had, like, a catwalk and you had all these Democrats that were sort of before me, and with not really – you can tell they hadn’t practiced their speech, or anything like that. They just assumed, you know? Just took it for granted, you know, they’re going to vote for me. You know what I mean? I thought it was crazy. So I walked down the catwalk and I had a pink shirt on and I said "fabulous" in my speech.
DOMINIC: It was a little bit that move of saying, “Let me tell you about my gay friend.”
TOBIN: It's absolutely that. [LAUGHS]
DOMINIC: But you know, he’s trying.
GREGORY: And I say this. You know, Log Cabin Republicans. I don’t mind rolling up our sleeves and ... going white knuckle for hardcore defenders of anyone who's standing on the right side of history, who supports Log Cabin Republicans and the principles we stand for. So think of us as friends in that regard.
SCOTT: Thank you. I appreciate it.
GREGORY: Alright, questions for me?
[SCENE TAPE OUT]
DOMINIC: They shook hands and then Representative Taylor took off for his next meeting
KATHY: I'm not gonna lie, that meeting kinda just sounded like a gay pride story and a handshake.
DOMINIC: To be fair, like, Representative Taylor, like, he casually mentioned during the interview that he wanted to introduce a bill to protect LGBT people in housing. And, I mean, I guess the fact that it's kinda boring, and that they agree on everything ... like, that's the impression that Gregory wants to leave.
TOBIN: Right, and even more than that, he wants them to feel like, y'know, “Where we don’t agree, we can probably meet somewhere in the middle.”
DOMINIC: But where Gregory is willing to meet in the middle, like, let's be real -- that would horrify some gay activists.
GREGORY: I think what our movement needs right now is points on the board.
DOMINIC: Basically, he believes that any federal nondiscrimination bill needs to include protections for religious liberty, for people who oppose same-sex marriage and LGBT rights.
TOBIN: He's also said compromising on things like protections for trans people could be acceptable.
GREGORY: We need to pass something, something substantive, something that maybe doesn’t cover everyone in the United States.
TOBIN: So what I hear you talking about a lot is essentially, like, patience, and playing the long game, and sort of getting something on the board now. So, we as gay men, patience doesn’t sort of touch our general rights, whereas for transgender people ... patience possibly has much worse consequences for them. What -- what do you say to that?
GREGORY: Oh, I don’t know about that. I’d respectfully disagree in that, like, there were ... uh ... there were same-sex couples during the marriage equality fight who had been together for 50 years, 60 years. We in the gay community were telling them to be patient as we were pushing for marriage equality. But -- but I think just pushing urgency for urgency’s sake is not something that ultimately will achieve those -- and in fact it could actually postpone any sort of reasonable legislation from passing in the short term.
TOBIN: But the fact that Gregory is even willing to talk about trans issues -- it makes him kind of a moderate in the gay conservative movement.
DOMINIC: Right. And there's a whole community of gay dudes who came out hot and heavy for Trump.
TOBIN: Groups which, you know, we have to say, are mostly led by white guys, and very against making trans issues a priority.
DOMINIC: One of the loudest of them was Chris Barron. He ran LGBT for Trump during the campaign. He was on Fox just in late March talking to Tucker Carlson and saying, "We need to forget about the 'Bathroom War.'"
CHRIS: The left has completely and totally ignored the fact that Islam has a serious problem with gay people. We're not just talking about, y'know, won't let people use the bathrooms that they identify with, we're talking about ...
TOBIN: Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, Human Rights Campaign calls bullshit.
OLIVIA: It’s something that we as an organization have been really clear that we are not going to go down that road.
Tobin: This is HRC spokeswoman Olivia Alair Dalton. She says protections for trans people are not a bargaining chip.
OLIVIA: We continue to be an advocacy organization that is going to fight for every single member of the community, and I think it’s really important that we can’t have this splicing off of some of the most vulnerable members of the community.
DOMINIC: The Human Rights Campaign, which definitely swung for the fences for Clinton, you know, they’re huge. They have connections with lawmakers, they have a massive constituency, they can work to stop or advance bills still.
TOBIN: And just to give you a sense of scope, the most recently available tax forms from 2014 put HRC’s revenue at $38.5 million. Compare that with a group like, say, Log Cabin Republicans? They took in less than 1 percent of that -- $290,000. But even with HRC totally dwarfing them, gay conservatives are asking, "Where does that get you if you don’t have access?"
TYLER: Like, when I’m talking about working with Republicans, it’s because we need to. Like, if we’re not at the table, if we’re not making the case for LGBT freedom, I don’t know who will.
TOBIN: This is Tyler Deaton. He’s the guy who voted for Bush in kindergarten. He lives with his husband in Maine, but he works in D.C. for a group called the American Unity Fund. He spends his days lobbying conservatives to support LGBT rights.
DOMINIC: So what happens, you call these people up who are in the administration ... You go meet with them?
TYLER: Yeah, we call, we text, we email. We basically do everything except fax.
TOBIN: We reached out to the White House numerous times for this story. No response.
TOBIN: Anyway, unlike Gregory, Tyler doesn’t see trans rights as negotiable. But he’s still pretty adamant that an all-or-nothing approach is a losing game.
TYLER: For the LGBT community, for these next 4 years -- like, again, we won't have success, we won’t see progress, unless we work with Republicans.
TOBIN: He says if you’re looking to get Federal Non-Discrimination Legislation passed, you go to war with the army you have.
TYLER: And I think it could be done in the next four years, and I think that that’s something that this president would absolutely sign. I think that the bigger problem is Congress. Um, the bigger challenge is Congress. To get that done there is harder than having the president sign it. If we get it on his desk, he signs it.
DOMINIC: And, like I've said to Tyler before, that's bonkers. Republicans aren't about to go for this. At least, not anytime soon. But, Tyler's a Republican. He can’t align himself with the other guys.
TYLER: Yeah, I mean look, it’s hard. I get it. And I agree with it. Democrats have been better on LGBT issues. Democrats also signed the rotten nuclear deal with Iran. I also think Democrats are worse at spending my taxpayer money. So, it’s complicated, right? I have a lot of issues I’m concerned about.
DOMINIC: To be a GAY and a Republican is to be constantly hopeful that your party is ready to change. But to really get a sense of whether or not they’re truly accepted, we’ve got to go to the heart of the conservative movement.
TOBIN: A place that hasn't always been welcoming to gay Republicans. But, what about now? That’s after the break.
GUESTS: This is Nancy. We'll be back after these messages.
KATHY: And we’re back!
TOBIN: We are!
KATHY: Alright, what’s happening right now? Where are we?
TOBIN: Well, we're going to head to the heart of the conservative movement -- otherwise known as CPAC.
DOMINIC: That is the Conservative Political Action Conference.
DOMINIC: ... if you aren’t familiar. So, it’s this giant annual gathering of conservative politicians, lobbyists, and just straight-up fans of conservatism. And it’s been going on since 1973. Ronald Reagan used to speak here all the time. It’s kind of like the Republican version of Comic-Con.
TOBIN: And, we should say, if you’re conservative, and you are also part of the LGBT community ...
RYAN SORBA: The intelligible end of the reproductive act is reproduction.
TOBIN: … CPAC has not been the friendliest space to be in.
RYAN SORBA: Do you understand that? Civil rights when they conflict with natural rights are contrary. Yeah, you sit down. The lesbians at Smith college protest better than you do.
TOBIN: This is from 2010. That was the year CPAC first allowed a gay conservative group called GOProud to be an official sponsor, and the reaction was ... not great.
RYAN SORBA: I’d like to condemn CPAC for bringing GOPride [sic] to this event.
TOBIN: This is Ryan Sorba, of the Young Conservatives of California, speaking at a panel that year.
RYAN SORBA: Bring it. Bring it. I love it. I love it.
TOBIN: A bunch of big conservative groups boycotted ... GOProud was combative ... and ultimately they got kicked out of CPAC in 2012. It wasn’t until last year, 2016, that the conference let another conservative LGBT group be an official co-sponsor. And that group was…
KATHY: Log Cabin Republicans!
TOBIN: Yes! Ding ding ding. [TOBIN AND DOMINIC LAUGH]
DOMINIC: Right, so this year’s CPAC -- it was in late February ... at the Gaylord Resort.
[SOUND OF CONVENTION CROWD]
TOBIN: Yeah, more specifically, the Gaylord Resort.
DOMINIC: Yeah, we're at the Gaylord outside of Washington DC ... And this is CPAC.
TOBIN: Lot of big names this year at CPAC -- Kellyanne Conway:
CONWAY: I see myself as a product of my choices, not a victim of my circumstances.
TOBIN: Vice President Mike Pence:
PENCE: This is still government for the people, by the people, and for the people ...
TOBIN: President Donald Trump.
TRUMP: And God bless the United States of America. Thank you, folks.
[CROWD CHEERS, CHOIR SINGS]
TOBIN: And if you head down about two very large sets of escalators from the lobby ...
TOBIN: So we just walked into a full floor of expo space, wall-to-wall booths, all in red, white, and blue.
DOMINIC: We've got Breitbart merchandise for sale, we are under a Heritage Foundation sign that say, "Opportunity for all, favoritism toward none."
TOBIN: In the middle of it all, just down the aisle from the NRA ...
DOMINIC: You've got a Diet Dr Pepper and a 5-Hour Energy.
GREGORY: And a 5-Hour Energy, that's right.
TOBIN: Is Gregory T. Angelo.
GREGORY: I was up very early to Uber my way up to national harbor, lugging this stuff with me.
DOMINIC: I feel you.
GREGORY: Really! -- I know, right? The glamorous life of the president of a nonprofit advocacy group. [DOMINIC AND GREGORY LAUGH]
DOMINIC: So what's the response, what are you hearing from people?
GREGORY: There has been a constant stream of visitors here, people signing up for Log Cabin Republicans, people who can't wait to take a Log Cabin Republican sticker and give it to their gay Democrat friend when they get back home to show them that they were visiting with the gay Republican organization or the LGBT Republican organization -- at CPAC of all places.
TOBIN: But is this really a new CPAC? Are there actually a bunch of LGBT folks in the building?
[JAZZY ELEVATOR MUSIC IN]
DOMINIC: So I looked at Grindr because I wanted to find out if there are gay guys who are out as being gay and attending CPAC. And absolutely, they were. There are a lot of guys who -- a lot of them have their faces posted. Some don’t, but plenty of them do.
TOBIN: Or, they’re very clear about why they’re here. They’re here for CPAC. It’s in their username and their bio.
DOMINIC: Um, obviously though, this doesn’t mean they’re out to everybody. They’re only out to gay guys like them who are in the CPAC area.
TOBIN: But, you know, at the same time, prominently featured at the center of the expo floor is a giant booth for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that promotes anti-LGBT policies.
HERITAGE REP: These are our solutions cards. So it basically breaks down a number of issues. So this is what they look like.
TOBIN: This is a guy working the Heritage booth. He’s showing us these giant flashcards they hand out with the main talking points of the foundation.
HERITAGE REP: You've got voter integrity, cyber-security, rebuilding constitutional government ...
DOMINIC: And do you work with Heritage?
HERITAGE REP: I do, yes.
DOMINIC: Excellent. We've been talking to people and obviously Heritage is a giant in conservative circles. We were talking to Log Cabin Republicans earlier and this is their second year in representing LGBT issues and, y'know, obviously Heritage has ...
HERITAGE REP: I can't comment on of that.
DOMINIC: You can't comment on that.
HERITAGE REP: No, sir, I can't.
DOMINIC: Who here can?
HERITAGE REP: We can't do that. We're not involving ourselves in sort of media thing.
TOBIN: But, you know, he doesn’t really have to say anything.
DOMINIC: Marriage and religious liberty are two of the cards.
TOBIN: It’s printed on the cards.
DOMINIC: The marriage card says that growing up with a married mother and father is a leading predictor of children’s prosperity ... and redefining marriage makes the issue more about the desires of adults than about the needs or rights of children.
[CROWD NOISE DOWN, THEN BACK UP]
TOBIN: Back at the Log Cabin table, we talked with a woman named McKenzie.
MCKENZIE: I’m very progressive in those issues.
DOMINIC: Why do you think conservatives are progressing or changing on LGBT issues?
MCKENZIE: 'Cause the world is. Conservatives are progressing because the world’s progressing. Um, you know, just keeping up with "We the People" and understanding that different backgrounds, demographic, sexual orientation, race, whatever. That’s something that has to be kept up with politically.
TOBIN: Then there was Ellen and Ashlin, a mother daughter duo waiting to hear vice president Mike Pence speak. They talked to us about their evolving views on gay marriage.
ELLEN: Well, I don’t support it personally, in my own thoughts, that doesn’t mean I’m gonna not say it’s okay. I just have a hard time wrapping my head around it. Not gonna, you know, go out and jump on the bandwagon …
ASHLIN: I think, maybe, what she's trying to say, or maybe how I see it, is that, y'know, we may not agree with it in how it aligns with maybe our religious beliefs, or how we would conduct our personal relationships, but I have LG -- er, I have homosexual friends from college. It's just always been a reality of social situations, especially in the millennial group, I think.
DOMINIC: What about when you tell people that you're a gay Republican? What do they say?
NICHOLAS: They say that just cannot be. They say that it doesn't make sense, how can I be a Republican and gay at the same time ...
TOBIN: This is a college student named Nicholas.
DOMINIC: How long have you been out?
NICHOLAS: About three and a half years now, I believe?
DOMINIC: And do you find it's easy to be out and gay?
NICHOLAS: Yeah. I would say that I have not had any problems. So, yeah.
DOMINIC: And what about when you tell people that you're a gay Republican?
NICHOLAS: Uhh ... yeah, I have some problems actually, within the LGBT community as well as in more progressive-type atmospheres. Which is why I kind of criticize the left for saying they're progressive. I find they them to be a bit more regressive. [NERVOUS LAUGHTER]
DOMINIC: Do you think that the Republican party is good on LGBT issues?
NICHOLAS: Yes, I think so, in many ways, especially with Trump and stuff. I think we're moving in the right direction. I think that it shows a lot of progress that's needed, in both parties actually.
TOBIN: I’ll admit, I was struck by how many people we talked to who seemed genuinely supportive. But their views on LGBT rights kind of started and ended with gay people.
DOMINIC: I see you've got your "Gays for Guns" sign.
TOBIN: We circled back to check in with Gregory.
DOMINIC: What about "Trans People for Guns"?
GREGORY: Maybe next year. "Gays for Guns," it's ... I'm a lover of alliteration and there is an organization out there called "Gays Against Guns," so part of the naming here is to show people who have heard of "Gays Against Guns" that there is an organization that represents them, if they are gay and supporters of the Second Amendment. But yes, for all intents and purposes, "LGBT for Guns" is a part of the Log Cabin Republicans credo.
TOBIN: Using the word “gay” as a euphemism for LGBT works great ... for signs. But when you use it as shorthand in policy, you run the risk of leaving behind whole groups of people. And that was particularly clear just a couple of days before CPAC started, when the Trump administration dealt a major blow to the rights of transgender people.
DOMINIC: So, Donald Trump, who made a lot of overtures to LGBT rights --
DOMINIC: -- when he was campaigning, yesterday withdrew the guidance --
DOMINIC: -- concerning transgender protections in public schools. What's your take on that?
GREGORY: Not supportive of that. I mean ... We supported the Obama guidance for transgender students -- this was a zero cost executive action. It wasn't even legally binding. It provided a framework for public schools in their considerations of transgender student issues. And we certainly oppose that guidance being rescinded. We'll see how this will play out. This is an issue that, even before Trump rescinded this guidance, is something that was being adjudicated by the courts and is something that can be heard by the courts less than a month from now, at the end of March. So there will be an ultimate resolution to this, and it will be soon.
DOMINIC: This telegraphs, potentially, a much bigger change, of the federal government taking a, sort of an anti-trans position about civil rights law.
GREGORY: It could. I hope it wouldn't.
TOBIN: By the way, Gregory is referring here to Gavin Grimm’s case, which was set to go before the Supreme Court. But just weeks after we talked, the justices decided not to hear the case — based, in part, on Trump rescinding that guidance.
DOMINIC: And have you communicated with the Trump administration about this guidance?
GREGORY: Uh, we have certainly expressed our opposition to it, yeah.
DOMINIC: And did you send them a white paper or did you --
GREGORY: No, we did not send them a white paper.
DOMINIC: Did you try to lobby them on this?
GREGORY: This was a decision that, to my knowledge, came about very quickly, and there wasn't sufficient time that we had to push back on this in a way that would have been effective.
DOMINIC: I mean, this is something that Pence was talking about on the campaign rescinding, and I reported back last fall. So it's certainly known about. Have you reached out since the guidance was issued to say that you don't think they should change their interpretation of Title IX?
GREGORY: We've made that clear. Yes.
DOMINIC: How so?
GREGORY: We have communicated with the administration and let them know that we are disappointed in ... in this decision to rescind the guidance. I don't know what else we could do at this point.
[AMBIENT NOISE FADES OUT, MUSIC FADES IN]
KATHY: I gotta say, it doesn’t surprise me that much that Gregory isn’t that great at talking about trans issues because he’s a white gay dude ... kind of like everyone in this story.
TOBIN: Fair. And not a coincidence. I mean, most of the leaders of this gay conservative movement -- they're white gay males.
DOMINIC: Right, and so they reflect the same homogenous block of white guys who are fundamental to Trump’s base. And I think the ones who are not pushing for Trans rights, you have to ask this question, which is: are they here for full LGBT equality, or are they basically saying, “Hey, don’t leave me out of your Republican club”?
TOBIN: Right. And that seems like it will remain an open question. I think the other question which we have answered is whether or not they can get anything done under Trump. And, in just these first couple months, it seems to me like the answer is ... doubtful.
DOMINIC: It’s really hard to know. I mean, part of their point is totally legitimate. They are able to get in the door and speak to these people in a way that Democrats may not be able to. But, like, the real challenge for them is that the Republican party may not be as anti-gay as it was, but it’s not pro-gay. And there doesn’t seem to be any motivation for it. So it’s really a question of, "Will anything get done?" Is advocacy, whether it comes from the left or right, going to do anything? Part of me can’t help but wonder if the future of LGBT advocacy is actually simply trying to stop bad things from happening.
GREGORY: Hey, Tobin. How are you?
TOBIN: Hey, Gregory. How's it going?
GREGORY: Alright. Yourself?
TOBIN: Doing pretty good ...
TOBIN: A month after CPAC, we checked back in with Gregory...to see how he was feeling about the promise of the Trump administration...to see if he still felt like it was his moment.
GREGORY: I came to the conclusion in the time since we were all last together that we are past the point in the LGBT equality movement in the United States where gay men speak on behalf of transgender Americans. And while transgender Americans were there for us in the marriage equality fight, I think it’s important that we return the favor ... in that regard. And so what I’ve done is I’ve tasked transgender chapter leaders, and members that we have, with crafting what they would see as reasonable replacement guidance to the Department of Education. Things that the DOE (Department of Education) could suggest to America’s public schools, school boards, and boards of Ed in terms of reasonable ways to accommodate transgender students.
TOBIN: Are you optimistic about how the administration will hear that, or your access to them?
GREGORY: Am I optimistic? Yes. I -- I mean, I try not to be overly optimistic in my job, but you’re not going to last as the head of the LGBT Republicans if you don’t have some tendency and inclination towards optimism.
[PIANO MUSIC IN, THEN OUT]
KATHY: Alright, credits time!
TOBIN: This episode of Nancy was co-reported with Dominic Holden of Buzzfeed News.
KATHY: Special thanks this week to a bunch of people...
TOBIN: Jon Schober, Sarah Sandbach, for helping us get back and forth to Washington, D.C. Jen Hsu, Amy Pearl for the great photos and videos you may have been seeing online.
KATHY: And speaking of online, follow us on Facebook and Twitter. We're at “Nancy Podcast” in both places!
TOBIN: Alright, the team. Producer...
KATHY: Matt Collette.
TOBIN: Sound design...
KATHY: Isaac Jones, with help from Matt Boynton.
KATHY: Michelle Harris.
KATHY: Jenny Lawton.
TOBIN: Executive producer...
KATHY: Paula Szuchman.
TOBIN: I'm Tobin Low.
KATHY: I'm Kathy Tu.
TOBIN: And Nancy is a production of WNYC Studios.
[CREDITS MUSIC OUT]
DOMINIC: If I talk to commercial radio, basically, the pace is like this.
[TOBIN AND KATHY LAUGH]
DOMINIC: That's the way they talk, they're gonna --
KATHY: I want that for an hour straight. [ALL LAUGH]