Column: Think ‘gay Republican’ is a contradiction? Think again

A head-and-shoulders frame of a man with short blond hair sitting in front of a coffee shop with rainbow flag in the window
Charles Moran, head of the Log Cabin Republicans, says there should be “guardrails” to keep opposing sides from going over the edge in culture war.
(Mark Z. Barabak / Los Angeles Times)
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Charles Moran is proudly gay and proudly Republican.

To some that combination is an inherent contradiction, like being a meat-eating vegetarian, a violent pacifist or a Dodger-loving San Francisco Giants fan.

In recent months, conservative extremists have declared war on the LGBTQ+ community, waging skirmishes on social media, school campuses and in the aisles of your friendly neighborhood Target store.

Hundreds of anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in statehouses across the country, part of a Pink Scare aimed at inciting the Republican base for political profit and financial gain.


Moran, however, insists there is a middle ground, even if you have to squint to see it through the blaze of the smoking culture wars.

“I don’t want to see my movement, the gay movement, hijacked by far-left, cultural Marxists,” he said. “And I don’t want the antigay forces that still exist in the social conservative movement to hijack the progress that I helped make in the Republican Party.”

Those are words guaranteed to antagonize people of various stripes, which reflects the odd and uncomfortable position of the Log Cabin Republicans, an organization that advocates for LGBTQ+ rights from within the GOP. The group, headquartered in Washington, claims more than 10,000 members nationwide. The 42-year-old Moran, born and raised in San Pedro, is president.

The club has long faced hostility from its supposed political kinfolk — “perverted” is one of the kinder epithets hurled at members — and today’s atmosphere certainly isn’t any more welcoming.

Across the country, LGBTQ+ people are struggling against a wave of legislation aimed at restricting their rights. They are also fighting back.

June 9, 2023

But Moran sees nothing contradictory in his political allegiance. Being gay doesn’t necessarily make someone a Democrat, he suggested, and supporting the Republican agenda — up to a point — doesn’t automatically mean a person is a homophobe.

“You’ve got a lot of gay conservatives that are horrified with the way the Republican Party is acting,” he said. “You have a lot of gay conservatives who are horrified at the way the larger LGBT organizations are acting.”


Guardrails are what’s needed, he went on, to keep both sides from going off the edge. Or put another way, Moran suggested, there has to be compromise and a consensus somewhere in the hazy gray area between black and white.

“Over the last 20, 30 years we’ve had amazing movement with gay inclusion and normalization of who I am, of who we are in our families,” he said. “I don’t want to see that slide back. So instead of being hyper-reactive to things, I want to be principled in how we respond.”

On an unseasonably mild spring day, in a pocket of green a few miles from the Capitol, Moran described a happy Southern California upbringing that involved none of the cruelty or hatred others have experienced simply for being who they are. He came out while going to Occidental College.

Dad was a firefighter. Mom was a flight attendant. Both were Republican, though neither was politically active.

Moran was drawn to the GOP from a young age because he believed Republicans have a more bottom-up approach to society and its problems. “Individual, family, community, city, state, nation,” he described it. “Instead of the other way down.”

Naturally, he doesn’t agree with every position of everyone in the party.

Moran rejects the climate-change denialism that many head-in-the-sand Republicans embrace. He likes much of what the Democratic Party has to say about education and respect for working people.


“I’m definitely not a zero-sum ... or single-issue voter,” he said. “I think single-issue voting is really dangerous in a democracy.”

But it is the single issue of LGBTQ+ rights that places Moran athwart the pitchfork-wielding wing of the Republican Party and those promoting what he considers an anything goes — or should be allowed to go — political agenda.

It is not anti-LGBTQ+, he said, to believe children should wait until at least age 16 to gender transition.

It is not bigoted, he said, to hold off until at least the sixth grade to allow classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity.

It is not homophobic, he said, to believe sexually explicit drag performances should be limited to adult audiences.

“Guess what? We regulate NC-17 movies,” Moran said, referring to ratings intended to limit certain content to mature audiences. “What’s the difference?”


Of course, some Republicans won’t be happy, it seems, until every last transgender person is made to disappear and every member of the LGBTQ+ community is shoved back in the closet and put under lock and key.

It’s not just, as they claim, about “protecting” children.

Missouri’s Republican governor signed legislation that will ban gender-affirming care for some adults. Other Republican-led states have looked at ways to limit healthcare for transgender grown-ups.

The Florida Board of Education, helping GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis fluff up his Republican presidential resume, expanded restrictions on sexual orientation and gender instruction through the 12th grade.

GOP lawmakers in Tennessee passed a first-of-its-kind law strictly limiting drag performances. (It was tossed out by a judge who, Moran noted, was appointed by President Trump.)

Once the government starts targeting a particular group, the slope can get awfully slippery.

Gwenn Craig, who helped defeat California’s anti-gay Proposition 6 in 1978, hears echoes in recent anti-LGBTQ laws.

April 6, 2022

In Moran’s leafy northwest Washington neighborhood, a profusion of rainbow flags and Pride Month bunting blossomed from windows and storefronts, as bright and cheery as the brilliant dogwoods and lustrous azalea bushes.


Does he worry that a change in political climate, and anything less than give-no-quarter resistance, will undo decades of hard-fought achievement for the LGBTQ+ community?

Moran does not.

“LGBT people are everywhere in society,” he said. “We are in every political affiliation. We’re every race. We’re every religion.... I think we as a society have moved beyond that.”

That’s not to say, however, some won’t keep trying to wind back the clock.