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GOP Gays Find Allies

Pataki, Specter and other top moderates aid cause of angry Log Cabin faction.

August 30, 2004|Nick Anderson | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — A handful of prominent Republicans declared solidarity Sunday with gay GOP activists on the eve of a party convention poised to take a forceful stance against same-sex marriage.

The show of support from New York Gov. George E. Pataki, New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and former Massachusetts Gov. William F. Weld heartened members of the Log Cabin Republicans, who are irate over a platform that they consider a repudiation of gay rights.

The gay GOP organization, which is threatening to withhold an endorsement of President Bush, has scheduled what it calls a "major announcement" today on its response to the platform drafted last week by a committee dominated by social conservatives.

The platform supports, as Bush does, a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. It also includes attacks on civil unions and laws benefiting same-sex couples. Asked about civil unions this month, Bush told CNN he did not mind if states choose to "provide legal protections for gays."

During a week carefully choreographed as a Bush renomination gala and a showcase for party moderates in prime time, the gay unrest is a rare sign of internal discord.

At a reception in Manhattan, Specter urged the Log Cabin group to stand fast. "When you talk about gay rights, you talk about fundamental rights of equality," he said.

Noting that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and other gay rights supporters will address the convention, Specter said: "There's a lot of muscle, a lot of prestige, a lot of prominence behind the gay and lesbian community, and that's the way it ought to be."

Bloomberg, Pataki and Weld also sought to encourage the group. "I am a believer that what makes America and New York great is its inclusiveness and its willingness to let everybody be who they are," Bloomberg said.

Party leaders insist they are not antigay. The platform committee chaired by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee included a plank declaring that Republicans "respect and accept" people within the party who have deeply held and sometimes differing views. But that did not satisfy the gay and lesbian leaders gathered here.

Nearly 50 delegates and alternates to the convention are openly gay, according to the Log Cabin group, the most ever. Some say they are torn over whether to vote for Bush in the fall, though they are pledged to support him this week.

That was not the case four years ago at the Republican convention in Philadelphia, when GOP gay activists viewed Bush as friendly to their cause. An estimated 1 million gay voters backed Bush in 2000.

"I want the George Bush of 2000," said Jeff Bissiri, a delegate from Los Angeles. He declined to say whether he would vote to reelect the president.

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