Wyoming LGBTQ Republican Group Wants Louder Voice In Politics

Jackson resident and Republican Melchor Moore believes the media and Democratic Party unjustly promote a stereotype that all LGBTQ people like himself should inherently be Democrats. He said many are Republicans and embrace conservative politics.

Leo Wolfson

May 02, 20246 min read

State Rep. Dan Zwonizer, R-Cheyenne, left, and Melchor Moore, president of Log Cabin Republicans of Wyoming.
State Rep. Dan Zwonizer, R-Cheyenne, left, and Melchor Moore, president of Log Cabin Republicans of Wyoming. (Matt Idler for Cowboy State Daily; Courtesy Photo)

It’s a common stereotype that all people who are LGBTQ or support causes like gay rights and same-sex marriage should and do align with the Democratic Party.

Jackson resident Melchor Moore said it’s difficult for conservatives in the LGBTQ community to break that perception in Wyoming.

Moore, a gay man, is president of the Log Cabin Republicans of Wyoming, a chapter of a national LGBTQ conservative group. He wants his group and like-minded residents of Wyoming to take a more vocal role in local politics, which he believes has been dominated by more liberal LGBTQ voices.

“We don’t think it’s representative of the critical mass we represent,” he said. “A lot of Republican LGBTQ voters won’t be involved because they don’t speak up.”

Moore said the reason many don’t speak up is out of fear of being targeted or labeled for something they don’t believe singularly defines their politics or them as people.

“The backlash on that is probably one of the reasons why I’m not a Democrat,” he said.

Moore said although he supports gay rights and same-sex marriage, his overriding political views represent a much broader and more conservative swath of ideas than just those two issues.

“I believe in economic conservatism, farming and mineral rights,” he said.

Moore believes the stereotype that all Republicans are actively opposed to gay people is inaccurate, and he found it telling that when attending a meeting of Tea Party Republicans on one occasion, they welcomed him as a participant with no hesitation while fully aware of his sexuality.

How Many Are There Really?

Moore’s group is now conducting a statewide survey to definitively determine how many LGBTQ people live in Wyoming and how many from this group consider themselves Republicans and conservatives.

He believes the number of gay Republicans in Wyoming may be much larger than some people expect and even possibly larger than the number who identify as Democrats. If Moore’s survey determines there are more LGBTQ people who affiliate as Republicans than Democrats, it would likely make Wyoming the only state with this political demographic.

Exact data hasn’t been created, but UCLA’s Williams Institute estimated in 2023 that around 19,000 LGBTQ people live in Wyoming.

A 2023 Wyoming Economic Analysis study puts that population lower, counting 681 same-sex married couple households and 473 same-sex unmarried households in the state as of 2020. Their share of all Wyoming households were respectively 0.3% and 0.2%, the second lowest and lowest rates in the country. However, when considering Wyoming’s low overall population, the rate per capita for LGBTQ people ranks higher.

Upbringing Shapes All

Cheyenne State Rep. Dan Zwonitzer is the only openly gay member of the Wyoming Legislature and is also a Republican.

Zwonitzer said he, like Moore, sometimes receives the most pressure to join the Democratic Party from members of his own LGBTQ community. He compared it to a similar mantra that ethnic minorities should automatically support Democrat platforms.

Zwonitzer said this type of approach falls in line with what he sees as a recent trend of the Democratic and Republican parties engaging in “purity tests” to determine true allegiance to their parties.

He doesn’t want anyone telling him what he should and shouldn’t be.

“It’s discouraging to have to hear from Democrats that all minority groups should be Democrats because Republicans are old, white and out of touch,” he said. “Both parties to some degree lump each other into certain characteristics.”

Moore said gay rights issues, for certain members of the LGBTQ community like himself, are not always the highest priority on their minds.

He also challenges the narrative that the Democratic Party has been much more supportive of LGBTQ people than Republicans historically. He said prior to 2008, both parties made minimal efforts to support members of his community, mentioning former President Bill Clinton’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy prohibiting openly gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans from serving in the armed forces.

It's unknown how accepting the Wyoming Republican Party would be to support the Log Cabin Republicans. At a 2023 meeting, state GOP Chairman Frank Eathorne criticized the Republican National Committee’s donation to gay rodeos and other LGBTQ causes. Former RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel received heat in 2021 when she announced the launch of the RNC Pride Coalition.

Multiple members of the Wyoming GOP did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the Log Cabin Republicans of Wyoming group.

Like Moore, Zwonitzer said his sexuality doesn’t define his entire identity.

Zwonitzer was raised on a ranch in Wyoming to parents who were conservative and small business owners, an upbringing that shaped his outlook on the world. He said many of the conservative LGBTQ people he knows had similar upbringings.

“I grew up with a belief in limited government — nobody is going to help you out,” he said.

Those who don’t already know his sexual identity would be unlikely to guess that Zwonitzer is gay. He doesn’t fit many of the popular stereotypes people often assume about LGBTQ people and said he’s been approached by many in Wyoming who live their lives the same way.

“Like most of us, they believe in live and let live values,” he said. “Most don’t want to make waves.”

A 2014 Pew Research Trust study found that 53% of Wyoming residents say homosexuality should be accepted in the state, while 39% said it should be discouraged.

Zwonitzer believes Wyoming gets painted with an inaccurate brush as a bigoted and unwelcoming place for gay people. He said he’s never faced discrimination because of his sexuality here, nor has almost all other LGBTQ people he’s known in Wyoming.

Future Plans

Moore wants his group, which is filing for 501(c)(4) nonprofit status with the IRS, to have an active voice in Wyoming politics. They also plan to endorse certain candidates down the road, but Moore acknowledged this must be done with some coordination, as he admitted some Republicans still won’t support their cause.

“Just because we support a candidate, because of the LGBTQ portion of what we’re doing, that candidate might not support us,” he said.

However, he said conservative stalwart U.S. Rep. Harriet Hageman has expressed an interest in attending one of their meetings. They also plan to host a launch party in June and will be hosting “bring a gay to breakfast” events across the state in the near future under the theme of "celebrate conservative equality."

Leo Wolfson can be reached at leo@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter