A Big Tent, Sure — But Not That Big

by Jeff Fleischer

(Mother Jones, August 30, 2004)


For all the Republican talk of inclusiveness — highlighting the number of minority delegates and insisting that “W stands for women” — that spirit of tolerance doesn’t extend to homosexual voters, who find themselves even more marginalized by the GOP than they were in 2000.

During his first run at the presidency, George W. Bush made a point of courting groups like the Log Cabin Republicans. And at the Philadelphia convention four years ago, Arizona Rep. Jim Kolbe made history as the first openly gay politician to address the GOP delegation. But some conservatives used his speech as a protest opportunity, bowing their heads to “pray for him” and holding up signs telling him “there is a way out” – even though Kolbe spoke about trade issues (an area of his expertise) and never mentioned his sexuality. As a spokesman for the right-wing American Family Association told ABC News back then:

“It is a little slick and I don’t care for it. We don’t want to play that game. We have a problem with this idea of tolerance and having to value every kind of lifestyle.”

This year, the GOP is going with that approach. No openly gay Republicans will address the gathering and, despite the efforts of moderate groups, the party platform includes support for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and criticizes civil-union partnerships.

The Republican National Committee has even left gays and lesbians off its list of outreach efforts, while listed groups include everything from Greek Americans and Lebanese Americans to snowmobilers and homeschoolers.

The Log Cabin Republicans have held off on endorsing Bush’s re-election campaign, and the groups is running a new ad criticizing the party’s anti-gay tactics. But LCR and other moderates are in a tight spot, trying to influence a party that’s clearly not receptive. As Log Cabin executive director Patrick Guerriero said:

“This party has a choice to make, about whether it will be the party of Rudy Giuliani and Arnold Schwarzenegger or the party of Jerry Falwell and Pat Buchanan.”

Unfortunately, it seems to be choosing the latter.

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