There’s been much written about all of the prominent Republicans who skipped the party’s convention in Cleveland this week. Former presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush aren't there. The two most recent presidential nominees, Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain, aren't there either.
Nearly two dozen senators have skipped out, as have many House members.
But why? Some are facing tough re-election bids in the fall and chose to stay home to focus on their own campaigns. Still others offered more candid rejections of Trump’s candidacy. “I’ve got to mow my lawn,” said Ariz. Sen. Jeff Flake, while Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse planned to watch Dumpster fires with his kids instead.
We know that several LGBTQ-supportive Republican public officials have also declined to attend the convention, though some have kept their reasons to themselves. Meet five of them:
Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk’s leadership on LGBTQ equality includes his co-sponsorship of the Equality Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to existing civil rights laws that ban discrimination in employment, housing, public spaces, education, credit, federal funding and jury service. He also co-sponsored the Safe Schools Improvement Act, which would help schools address bullying.
Kirk, who was endorsed for re-election by HRC earlier this year, supported the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” voted for numerous HIV/AIDS funding measures, voted twice against the Federal Marriage Amendment that would have outlawed same-sex marriage, and served as the lead Republican co-sponsor of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act
In June, Kirk rescinded his endorsement of Trump.
“. . . I cannot and will not support my party’s nominee for President regardless of the political impact on my candidacy or the Republican Party,” Kirk said.
“After much consideration, I have concluded that Donald Trump has not demonstrated the temperament necessary to assume the greatest office in the world,” he said.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker stood up for equality earlier this month when he signed into law bipartisan legislation extending crucial protections to the transgender community. State law already prohibited discrimination against transgender people in housing and employment, and the new law extends these same crucial protections to public accommodations, such as access to restaurants, malls, restrooms, and locker rooms.
When asked why he was skipping the convention, Baker said, "I think I can be a lot more effective here than I would be there.”
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval has a long history of supporting equal rights for the LGBTQ community. In 2011, over the course of a few weeks, he signed bills into law that codified prohibitions against discrimination in public accommodations and housing and expanded the state's anti-discrimination laws in employment to cover gender identity or expression.
In 2014, he signed legislation adding gender identity and expression to the state's hate crimes law, and that same year, he announced he would oppose attempts to delay marriage equality in the state.
Sandoval declined to give a reason for skipping the 2016 Republican National Convention.
Earlier this year, Illinois Rep. Bob Dold became the first Republican member of the House of Representatives to endorse the Equality Act. Dold also supports marriage equality and voted to uphold President Obama’s executive order on Discrimination Against LGBT Federal Contractors. In June of 2015, Dold joined 60 Republican members of the House to uphold President Obama’s executive order on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Dold, who was endorsed for re-election by HRC, says he is avoiding the convention because he does not support Donald Trump.
“I am not going to be supportive of Donald Trump,” he said.” For me, it’s a very personal thing.”
Dold was particularly offended when Trump said that Sen. John McCain, who was once captured as a prisoner of war, was not a war hero.
“My uncle was the second one shot down,” Dold says. “He spent eight years and a day in a prison in Vietnam. So, if anybody wants to say that his service to our country is anything less than heroic is unacceptable.”
Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has long been a crucial Republican ally of equality and stands out as the first Republican member of Congress to support marriage equality.
She earned a perfect score on the HRC Congressional Scorecard. As one of the leading voices on LGBT equality in Congress, she has been adamant in her support for LGBT young people, including her support of non-discrimination protections, anti-bullying and harassment policies, and her opposition to the shameful practice of so-called “conversion therapy.”
Ros-Lehtinen did not share a reason for skipping the Republican National Convention but said previously that she would not vote for Donald Trump.
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