"What happens in California usually has a ripple effect whether good or bad," said Charles Moran, chairman of the Log Cabin California chapter in a phone interview with the Washington Post.
The 861-293 vote to recognize the group as a chartered volunteer organization was a result of a) work by Log Cabin members on behalf of the party and candidates b) new leadership, including chair Jim Brulte and c) donors putting their foot down when it came to fights over social issues, Moran explained.
California has frequently found itself in the middle of the gay rights fight, from 2008's Proposition 8 to the 1978's Briggs Initiative, which the Log Cabin Republicans was founded in response to. That ballot initiative would have barred gays and lesbian from being public school teachers. It was defeated and opposed by two California governors, then-Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and Ronald Reagan (R), who left the governor's mansion three years earlier.
Having Reagan on the same side as Log Cabin Republicans was an auspicious beginning for the group, but it would be more than 30 years until a California Republican gubernatorial candidate would support same-sex marriage; The 2014 race between Neel Kashkari (R) and Brown was the first. Kashkari followed two California Republicans who only came out in support after they ran, Meg Whitman in 2013 after her 2010 race, and Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2008, while he was still governor but after his last election in 2006.
Schwarzenegger was ahead of public opinion in 2008 but Whitman was behind. A majority of Californians favored same-sex marriage for the first time in 2010, and support reached 61 percent in 2013, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.
California adults who are registered as Republicans are still lagging behind though, with 44 percent support compared with 76 percent for Democrats, the 2013 figures show. Still, support has nearly doubled since 2008, from 23 percent, and as Moran noted, those who voted to recognize Log Cabin on Sunday "are core Republican activists. This is the base."
Moran characterized being more inclusive as a matter of survival of the party in the state. A majority of Millennial Republicans now support same-sex marriage, even as California Republican party membership has sunk to 28 percent of registered voters. "We have to do something different to maintain relevancy in the state," he said.
Inclusion of gay groups at the national level played out last week at CPAC. Log Cabin Republicans were invited to present on Vladimir Putin's Russia, but only after being excluded from being a sponsor. The group was optimistic though, focusing in a statement on being included on the panel and looking forward to being a full sponsor in the future. The LGBT community is "ripe for the picking," Moran said, but "it has to be earned." And there's already plenty of gay Republicans out there.
"A lot of us knew we were Republican before we knew we were gay," he said.