A day after their party embedded a tough, anti-same-sex-marriage stance in its official platform — one shared by GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney — gay Republicans shrugged (virtually) and suggested that the intensity of the intraparty fight over the issue means victory is near.
"When you back someone into a corner, they fight back twice as hard," said Casey Pick of the Log Cabin Republicans, a national organization representing the interests of gays and lesbians.
"The platform is ugly and harmful," she said during a Wednesday gathering of same-sex marriage supporters at a law firm just across the Hillsborough River from the site of this week's Republican convention in Tampa, Fla.
But the stances that include support for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and for reinstating a military ban on openly gay Americans may also be hopeful, she insisted, quoting Gandhi: "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."
There was, indeed, an air of quiet confidence among gay Republicans who filled the firm's elegant, dark-paneled 41st-floor conference room, noshing on omelets and fruit and taking in sweeping views that extended to St. Petersburg and beyond.
That confidence stemmed not only from the country's increasing acceptance of same-sex marriage, they say, but also from a landmark moment for the movement: This has been the first-ever GOP convention during which party leaders asked representatives from the Log Cabin Republicans to participate in the platform meetings.
"We've been invited to engage," said Log Cabin Deputy Director Donald Bramer, a Navy reservist and former official in the Commerce and Health and Human Services departments during the administration of President George H.W. Bush. "We've achieved a certain level of respect."
Pick, the Log Cabin's program director and an evangelical Christian, however, characterized the tone of the party's discussions about same-sex marriage in meetings of the Constitution subcommittee as largely "hostile."
"We lost," she said. "And you could say the social conservatives in our party dropped the hammer harder because we were there."
Said Michael Carr, a Log Cabin board member, convention delegate and Colorado state Senate candidate from Denver: "We're less than ecstatic about the language in the platform. But the good thing? It doesn't matter."
"I haven't read the platform, and I probably won't," said Carr, whose Democratic opponent this fall is also openly gay. "I'm running on school reform, jobs and marriage equality."
In that order.
"Regardless of the platform, the issue is the economy," he said.
In 2004, the Log Cabin Republicans declined to endorse President George W. Bush during his run for re-election. They endorsed Sen. John McCain during his nominating convention in 2008.
Bramer said the organization's board will make its endorsement decision in coming weeks.
In 1994, when Romney was running for the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts, he sought an endorsement from the state Log Cabin chapter. In a letter to the organization, Romney wrote: "I am more convinced than ever before that as we seek to establish full equality for America's gay and lesbian citizens, I will provide more effective leadership than my opponent.
"If we are to achieve the goals we share," he wrote, "we must make equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern. My opponent cannot do this. I can and will."
Romney has been wooing a very different constituency since he began running for president.
Gay Republicans acknowledge that Romney's current positions are anathema to their freedom-to-marry aims. But Dave Myers, a Republican delegate from Maryland, says he has found some reassurance in Romney's past assurances that he would represent everyone, "regardless of race, creed or sexuality."
"I don't think Mitt Romney is a hateful guy," said Myers, chairman of his county's Republican Party.