Under New Management: Brian Savage And Michigan Log Cabin Republicans Look To Expand

By Crystal A. Proxmire

Exiting Michigan Log Cabin Republican Chairman Joe Sylvester has high hopes for the new leadership of the organization he ran for the past five years. In a recent press release he announced that Brian Savage will be taking over as chairman, Kevin Knight as vice chairman, Matt Pascoe will be staying on as treasurer and Daniel Dobson will remain as the group's secretary.

"You will find they have a skill set that is unrivaled in MILCR history and I have complete confidence that they will create the most vibrant LCR group in the country," Sylvester wrote.

The group has struggled to unite its membership which is spanned out across the state and across the political spectrum; however with new leadership Savage is hopeful he can bring people together to work from within the Republican Party to create change.

Savage, 26, currently serves as the board chairman of the OutCenter located in Benton Harbor, and in 2012 he ran for State Representative in Michigan's 78th District, losing in the primary.

"I've have the pleasure of serving in the organization (OutCenter) for the last three or four years. We have regular services that we provide for Whole Lives, Healthy Lives adult services, and a county-wide GSA since many of the high schools don't have those available. We're trying to create unity. Over 200 people came to our most recent fundraiser. We also have a partnership with the county health department, Berrien County, working with counselors," Savage said. That organization is non-partisan and service-driven.

But Savage is also passionate politically. He was in touch with the Michigan LCR after having run for office last year. After nearly a year of discussions, the board structure came into place.

"I think it's a really important time for the Republican Party. We've had a lot of interest recently in Log Cabin, not just gays and lesbians, but also allies and that's been really encouraging," Savage said.

Recent controversy over remarks by Michigan's GOP National Committee Chairman Dave Agema, and more open discussion about marriage and non-discrimination have made it possible for more people to come out as LGBT Republicans and allies in the Republican Party according to Savage.

"There is opportunity for people to understand that the Agemas are not the people we want to be associated with. How do we create a message that works for all Republicans? Common ground is where things get done," Savage said.

"It doesn't mean people have to jump ship. A lot of people underestimate how many people are gay and lesbian in the Republican Party. A lot of business owners would love to see the Republican Party be more inclusive. Now it's a great opportunity to reach out to the gay and lesbian community, at least let them know we're here and we're going to do what we can on our side of the aisle. We're working on the same goals."

"I really like the idea of the Republican platform of limited government. It inspires people to open businesses, do what they want with their money, have more control rather than just bigger government deciding what to do. I also believe in a strong defense, and strong foreign policy issues," said Savage.

MILCR will have some major challenges working within the party. On key issues of interest to LGBT people, the 2012 Republican Party Platform, page 10 states, "We reaffirm our support for a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. We applaud the citizens of the majority of States which have enshrined in their constitutions the traditional concept of marriage, and we support the campaigns underway in several other states to do so." Such a state amendment has existed in Michigan since 2004. The 2012 Republican platform, page 43, also said, "We will enforce and defend in court the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the armed forces...", an issue now decided in favor of LGBT people by a ruling last June by the U.S. Supreme Court. The platform also agreed with the discriminatory policies of the Boy Scouts keeping out LGBT people, found on page 12.

Recently state Republican leadership has hinted at some movement to amend the state's nondiscrimination policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity protections in it's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act and nationally some prominent Republican leaders - in particular U.S. Senators in Ohio (Portman) and Illinois (Kirk) have come out in support of gay marriage, however they find themselves in the minority on this issue.

Savage lives in Baroda near St. Joe and Benton Harbor where he works in hospitality and is a volunteer deputy with the Berrien County Sheriff's Department. "It's Republican territory," he said. "It's been enjoyable living here. I moved here six years ago and it's been great. I don't have any complaints about this area. I'm excited about the timing of things."

Both Savage's parents were police officers in Illinois where he grew up, and being involved in the community is a value he was raised with. He said that politics is in his DNA, and he loves being part of the Out Center. "Politics is a great avenue for creating change. You have to be in the game. It's better to be involved and serve my community than to do nothing," he said.

The next few months will be spent accessing the strength of the LCR network and clarifying the mission. Vice Chairman Knight from West Branch has worked in the national LCR office and other Washington, DC-based offices. Pascoe of Ferndale is the longest serving executive board member and will stay on as the organization's treasurer for his fifth year. He works in hotel management. And MILCR Secretary Dobson lives in the Grand Rapids area after having served twice in Iraq for the Michigan Army National Guard.

For more information on the Michigan Log Cabin Republicans, visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/MILCR.

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