Maragani said that he envisions the conservative LGBT group allowing anyone who wants to attend.
“While giving a place where more conservative gays can meet and talk about issues and policy, anyone can come to our meetings,” he said. “[The group] is not meant to be an echo chamber. Not everyone will agree on everything. That would be boring.”
Maragani first joined a chapter of the national Log Cabin Republicans in D.C., but found it “moribund.”
“When I moved to Dallas, I found a vibrant group where more than 100 people showed up,” he said.
To grow Utah’s group, he hopes to bring in interesting speakers and politicians.
Maragani hopes to have at least one upcoming meeting be a gun safety course.
“Our last meeting, we had a gay owner of a gun store,” he said. “He has trained more people on gun safety than anyone in the state.”
In the next two meetings, he is asking legislators to come discuss bills that are coming forward in the legislative session that began Jan. 17 and runs through Mar. 3.
The group will meet on the third Tuesday of each month, beginning with a social half hour at 6:30 and the meeting will run from 7 to 8 p.m.
National Log Cabin Republicans
Log Cabin Republicans began in the late 1970s in California. Similar to today, advancements in our community’s cause drew backlash, including singer and Florida Citrus Commission representative Anita Bryant. Her “Save the Children” campaign was successful in Dade County, Florida. Arkansas and Oklahoma, banning gays and lesbians from holding teaching positions.
California State Sen. John Briggs sponsored a ballot measure he called the “Briggs Initiative” that would ban gay and lesbian educators and permitted the firing of any educator who was determined to be “advocating, imposing, encouraging or promoting” homosexuality. California gay conservatives turned to then-governor Ronald Reagan, who argued “Innocent lives could be ruined,” if the measure passed. The measure failed by over a million votes.
In the wake of the Briggs campaign, gay conservatives in California formed Log Cabin Republicans, and several chapters in states across the country sprang up.
Log Cabin Republicans Utah
In Utah, Log Cabin started meeting in 1993. Its 25 members elected Chris Ryan as president; Robert Matscherz, vice president; Frank Lohmeyer, secretary; and Todd Jones, treasurer.
Ryan called Utah Log Cabin a “moderate Republican club.”
The group’s first issue was to support a bill that would allow people to draw off of their life insurance policy before death. The measure was backed by a number of AIDS groups because the disease was expensive to fight, and a number of people with AIDS needed access to their life insurance policy payoffs before they died. The bill was written by Utah Gay and Lesbian Democrats founder David Nelson. It passed the legislature and then-Gov. Mike Leavitt allowed the bill to go into law despite heavy pressure from the insurance lobby.
In 2009, then-ULCR president Gordon Storrs ran for Utah State House and in 2012, president Mel Nimer ran for Salt Lake County Commission. Neither was successful in their elections.
Utah governors Jon M. Huntsman and Gary Herbert invited the group for annual receptions at the Governor’s Mansion from 2009 through 2013.
In late 2020, Ryan Woods, also known as Lady MAGA, became president of the organization. One of the first public policy statements under Woods was the group’s support of a Utah Eagle Forum-sponsored bill to forbid doctors from treating a transgender child with hormone therapies or gender-corrective surgeries.
“This has nothing to do with an LGBT issue,” Woods stated, “This has to do with protecting innocent children from procedures that have irreversible and very serious consequences.”
Woods also used the group’s Facebook pages to denounce Democrats and the LGBT community as “Leftist radicals,” a “Leftist Mob,” and “groomers.” He also opened the Facebook group to ultra-conservative politicians, school board members, and uber-right MAGA supporters from across the country.
During Woods’ reign, the group never met with any of Utah’s LGBTQ community organizations, nor supported any of their fundraising events.
Maragani’s first policy statement after being elected president was to oppose Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson’s budget, in part, for helping fund a clinic by the Utah AIDS Foundation. The budget passed with the funding intact.
“We do intend to engage in policy matters,” Maragani said. “Log Cabin’s mission statement is broader than just LGBT issues. We believe in limited government, strong national defense, free markets, low taxes, personal responsibility, and individual liberty. Log Cabin Republicans represent an important part of the American family..”
“We must acknowledge that gays are still living normal lives,” he continued. “We can’t just focus on LGBTQ+ marriage and adoption. Other issues are equally important.”
Currently, Maragani hopes to support a gay man who has type-one diabetes and is fighting his HOA for access to their gym.
“He asked for reasonable accommodation, and the HOA sat on it for four months,” he explains. The Utah Antidiscrimination and Labor Commission ruled that the delay was discriminatory but only fined the HOA $4,000, and would not include attorney’s fees. Maragani says that a large percentage of homes and condos in the valley are under HOAs, and protections are needed.
Another issue they are looking at is the Duty to Report Bill that would require clergy to report any disclosure of abuse by a perpetrator to law enforcement to investigate. Failure to report abuse would be a misdemeanor crime under the legislation, on par with other professions that are required to report disclosures. Both Rep. Angela Romero and Rep. Phil Lyman have drafted bills that will go before the Utah Legislature this year.
Maragani says the group will communicate with its members through social media, including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, as well as through an email list.
Their next meeting is on Tuesday, Jan. 17th from 6:30 pm through 8 pm in the Aspen Room at the East Senate Building, 120 E. Capitol Street. The February meeting will take place on the 21st.