Why a longtime Philly Democrat switched parties and relaunched Pa.'s only gay Republicans club
Rob Jordan re-launched a Republican LGBTQ club in the city and sat down with the Inquirer to talk about the evolution of his politics and how the club has been received.
When Rob Jordan came out 30 years ago, he said, he felt like a Democratic Party registration card came with it. For two decades, he voted the party line and contributed to Democratic candidates. Then, in 2008, he started questioning his political beliefs. Why did it seem automatic that the LGBTQ community votes blue?
Now Jordan, 53, a Republican for the last 10 years and who voted for President Donald Trump in 2016, is relaunching the Philadelphia Log Cabin Republicans, part of a national organization of LGBTQ Republicans and allies. He hopes the club — the only chapter in Pennsylvania — offers another viewpoint and helps reelect Trump in 2020.
Jordan, who lives in Northern Liberties and works in marketing, talked about his political journey. Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Why did you want to relaunch the Log Cabin Republicans here?
I just feel like you’re told in our community to think one way and to believe one thing — the Democratic liberal agenda. I just wanted there to be a venue, an avenue, for the other side to be heard, to try to address that imbalance.
Did you have any concerns about starting this chapter given some of the anti-Trump feelings within the LGBTQ community?
I did have a big concern, because I’m very active in the Stonewall Athletic League. I play volleyball and kickball, and I was concerned about the reaction, but the members have been great, and I’ve had other players come up to me and say, “I have that same viewpoint.” So it’s caused a lot of open discussion.
Were you always aligned with the Republican Party?
My father was a local Republican commissioner in Delaware County, but my mother was a registered Democrat, so I was open-minded. At Villanova, I was very conservative because Ronald Reagan was at the end of his reign and I really liked Reagan. Back then in the ’80s, there was more open-mindedness. You could be conservative or liberal and not be threatened, maligned, or told what to do. Now, of course, it’s different.
Have you felt that personally?
I’ve been on a couple dates where when it gets to politics, it doesn’t go well.
When did you come out, how did that affect your politics, if at all?
I came out in 1989, I was 23. I did gravitate toward the line of thinking that the Democratic Party is the party for the LGBTQ community. So I was very supportive of the party. Then, it was the 2008 election that really started getting my mind thinking, why am I just thinking this way? Why am I not thinking for myself?
How do you think the advancement of LGBTQ rights contributed to that switch for you?
We were behind in 1989. We needed to be recognized. We needed marriage to be recognized. We needed workplace rights to be recognized. And luckily, we’ve achieved all of that. So in my mind, we’ve achieved 90 percent of what we were trying to get 20 years ago. And now it’s just the dogma, there’s really not much more to be gained in my mind by locking into one side.
What’d you mean by the “dogma?”
Now they’re espousing bathroom rights for transgender people, and I understand the issue and I’m sympathetic, but I don’t think that’s something I’m going to vote on. The major issues are the economic issues, national security, immigration.
Do you worry at all about the 90 percent you’ve gained eroding under Trump?
I do. I always think about keeping and retaining that 90 percent, but that’s why I stay involved, and this administration’s been very good for the LGBTQ community. We have Richard Allen Grenell as ambassador to Germany, and he’s been a real force. The president has talked about wanting to eradicate HIV worldwide. So he’s saying and doing all the right things as far as I’m concerned.
What about Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military?
I reached out to people in Washington about that and I researched it and the response that comes back is, people [who] are going through these transgender situations are having other issues going on that are affecting their whole unit. So if you are having mental health issues or counseling issues, you don’t want those people on the front line responsible for people’s lives. So I understand that.
What about allowing discrimination in cases of religious beliefs, as with religious-affiliated foster care agencies who turn away same-sex couples?
I think the Catholic Church needs to be more welcoming and more open. I do think there are some of these agencies that are specialized to their audience, so if you’re working with an all-Catholic or all-Baptist or all-Hispanic audience, I could see how they only want to work with their own protocols, as long as everyone is being served somewhere.
What is an issue that’s important to you and informing your vote in 2020?
I’ve come to be very pro-life. That is something I really admire — the administration putting two pro-life Supreme Court justices up. In the beginning, I thought Planned Parenthood was great. I gave money to it, and now I’m totally against it. I really do think it was because I was told what to believe and now I’m thinking for myself.
So it was like an ideological coming out for you?
Yes, that’s right. I don’t like any one group or newspaper telling me what to think and how to feel.
His policies aside, Trump’s style can be very divisive. LGBTQ culture often embraces inclusiveness. Are you a fan of his leadership style?
The Democrats love to promote hugs and love and smiles, but Trump is a disrupter and I think that is what our country needs. There’s so much with our system that’s wrong, it’s inefficient, it’s wasteful. In 2½ years, you see how the economy has grown, regulations that have been cut. So, he is brash, he doesn’t hold back, and I know it can be painful and brutal, but" (shrugs).
Pennsylvania is likely going to be key to Trump’s reelection. What’s your goal for this chapter and the national organization?
I intend to ask our chapter to endorse the president. I also intend to be a national trustee for Log Cabin and to push the vote to endorse him because at the current time, I think it’s 50/50, it’s split.
Who do other Log Cabin chapters support?
California Sen. Kamala Harris is getting a lot of buzz, and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, in the beginning he did have a lot of buzz being from the community, but his has sort of faded.
Do you like any of the Democratic candidates?
I like that Marianne Williamson woman. She’s like a philosophical, soothing disrupter, and she’s not a party hack. Right now, I think we need Trump to continue to go to the mat with China and Mexico and all these foreign countries on trade pacts, get those in line. Once those imbalances have been addressed, I’d be open to a Marianne Williamson. That would be like the gentle rainstorm after the hurricane — but you do need the hurricane to clean up what’s been going on.
Staff writer Jonathan Lai contributed to this article.