While serving as a spokesman for the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush, Richard Grenell attempted to get his partner’s name listed in the U.N.’s “blue book” directory.
Grenell, who’s openly gay, said his request went all the way to then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s top attorney, who stalled for years before denying it and citing the Defense of Marriage Act, which bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.
Under President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the policy was changed in 2010, and same-sex partners can now be listed in the U.N. directory, an official in the office of the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. confirmed this week.
But Grenell, who said he didn’t know whether the policy had been changed, just laughed when asked whether it could convince him to vote for Obama on Nov. 6.
“We have an administration that just lied to us on Libya,” Grenell said. “I fear for every gay person’s safety if we allow this administration to continue their weak national security record.”
The response is hardly surprising from Grenell, a gay Republican who is perhaps best known in the LGBT community for his brief stint earlier this year as a national security spokesman for Mitt Romney’s campaign. Grenell resigned from the position a few weeks after being appointed in a firestorm of controversy over his sexual orientation.
Grenell, who’ll keynote Metroplex Republicans’ Grand Ol’ Party on Saturday, talked about that episode and more in an interview with Dallas Voice this week.
Dallas Voice: You’re coming to speak to Metroplex Republicans, which is the local GOProud affiliate. You’ve also worked with Log Cabin Republicans in the past. Do you have a preference?
Grenell: I’m just a very out, comfortably conservative, passionate American, so I’m probably both and neither. I’d probably say that I’m both. I have friends in both camps. I really don’t distinguish. I think there’s enough work for all of us to be doing.
DV: How do you reconcile your support for the Republican Party with Republicans’ lack of support for LGBT equality?
Grenell: I probably would reconcile it in the exact same way that gay Democrats reconcile the fact that they belong to a party that keeps trying to take money from their paycheck and spend it on programs they don’t agree with. I don’t have the luxury of being a one-issue voter. I wish I was that simple. I’m just not that simple; I’m much more complicated. I’m comfortably in a party that accepts me as a consistent conservative. I’m somebody who has worked for and fought for consistent conservative principles. I am consistently for government out of my pocketbook, out of my bedroom — and more personal responsibility.
DV: You said you worked with Paul Ryan when you were both congressional staffers on the same floor in 1995, and were on the same softball team. What is he like?
Grenell: Paul Ryan, the best way to describe him is that guy from high school who’s friends with everybody and who’s really super-earnest, smart and wanting to participate in student council. … He really is a great guy who doesn’t have a mean bone in his body, but he’s a very serious guy about the budget and fixing our problems. What I love is that I don’t see a politician right now on the national stage who is more serious about tackling the long-term entitlement issue. … I think we’ve got to have tough love. … We cannot sustain that path that we’re on in terms of spending. If you look at history, every great civilization has lasted roughly 250 years. … We are at a crucial point in this country, and I think the simple fact is that for the last four years, President Obama has decided to take the United States in a completely different direction.
DV: Do you ever recall discussing your sexual orientation with Paul Ryan?
Grenell: I’m sure I talked to him about it, because I was very open and out, but I can’t recall.
DV: Most people know you as the guy who was hired as a national security spokesman by the Romney campaign, but then removed, ostensibly because of backlash from the religious right. What really happened?
Grenell: When I was hired, they [the Romney campaign] made it perfectly clear they didn’t care. I’m very passionate about national security issues … Russia and China and Syria. Quickly after I was announced, when the media on the left and the right — which, most media will only focus on the crazy right, but the crazy left, the gay left to be honest, could not stand the fact that I was conservative, and they made this an issue, and it permeated into the mainstream media, to the point where I wasn’t able to be effective because I couldn’t talk about Russia and Syria. All people were fascinated with was me being gay. That didn’t happen in the Bush administration. For eight years, as the longest-serving American spokesman who was very out, that was never an issue. The difference is, this is a hyper-partisan presidential election. I, personally, because this was becoming a sideshow where I wasn’t able to talk about Syria and Russia, went to my team and said I’m going to step out.
DV: So you blame the gay left as much as the far right?
Grenell: I blame the far left and the far right. … What the No. 1 and only issue for me was, I couldn’t be an advocate for those foreign policy issues that I care about. Not one Republican elected official said anything negative about my appointment. Not one.
So, this narrative from the left that the far right forced me out is a false narrative. The simple fact is that it’s 2012 and the Republican Party did not, no elected official, used my appointment in a negative way, not one single elected official. However, conversely, several Republican officials heralded my appointment. So I think that progress within the Republican Party was not only missed, but the narrative was flipped completely the other way. Governor Romney has not used bashing gays as a way to get votes at all. Not in his stump speech, he doesn’t bring it up, he doesn’t say it. When asked, he says marriage is between a man and a woman, it’s a religious belief for him. But I know him, and he believes in equality, and he absolutely values diverse opinions around him, and he’s going to hire people according to who’s most qualified, so he’s not given enough credit for this election season, really evolving as well and really moving the Republican Party to a point of greater acceptance than they ever have been.
Metroplex Republicans Dallas Grand Ol’ Party, 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20,The Vendome Main Ballroom, 3505 Turtle Creek, Dallas. For tickets go here.