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GOP Gay Group Has a Word for Bush: No

September 15, 2004|Patrick Guerriero | Patrick Guerriero is executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans.

Log Cabin Republicans have worked for almost three decades to build a stronger GOP that welcomes gay and lesbian Americans. Since 1993, when we opened our national office, we've endorsed both GOP candidates for president. But this year, despite our loyalty to the party of Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln, we have decided, after significant discussion, to withhold our endorsement of President Bush. It was a difficult choice, but our integrity requires it, and the Republican Party's future will be stronger because of it.

We continue to stand for fundamental Republican positions: low taxes, limited government and winning the war on terrorism. That's why we're Republicans. But we cannot stand idly by while some in the GOP use fear and intolerance to divide the United States in a culture war. Though such tactics may provide short-term political gain, they will put the Republican Party on the wrong side of history.

The Republican Party has a choice: It can be the party of Rudy Giuliani and Arnold Schwarzenegger or it can be the party of Alan Keyes and Rick Santorum.

Some will accuse us of being disloyal. However, it was actually the White House that has been disloyal to the 1 million gay and lesbian Americans who voted for Bush in 2000, including more than 50,000 in Florida alone (where he won by only a few hundred votes). The White House is pursuing a reelection strategy geared to the radical right, using gay and lesbian families as a political wedge issue. That is unacceptable.

The president's use of the bully pulpit, campaign stump speeches and radio addresses to support a constitutional amendment to prohibit civil marriage equality has encouraged the passage of discriminatory laws and state constitutional amendments across the country.

The constitutional amendment would not only ban gay marriage, it would also jeopardize civil unions and domestic partnerships. The president's support of an unnecessary and discriminatory constitutional amendment ignores the party's belief in state autonomy and disregards the nation's reliance on federalism. Using the Constitution as a campaign tool weakens our nation's founding document and erodes our party's proud tradition of equality and liberty.

It didn't have to be this way. In 2000, Bush ran an inclusive campaign that appealed not only to social conservatives but also pro-choice Republicans, independents and gay and lesbian conservatives. The early days of the Bush administration saw significant victories for our organization. The administration maintained existing anti-discrimination protections for federal employees, appointed openly gay employees and extended survivor benefits to gay and lesbian partners who lost loved ones on 9/11.

Over the last year, presidential advisor Karl Rove has been obsessed with his belief that 4 million evangelicals stayed home in 2000. As a result, the 2004 campaign has focused on energizing the far right while ignoring mainstream Republicans. From stem-cell research to partial-birth abortion and faith-based initiatives, the president's record attracts voters on the far right. Had he decided not to endorse a constitutional amendment, does anyone really believe that the far right would have stayed home in an election between Bush and John F. Kerry?

The far-right campaign strategy is widening the gender gap, eroding support among gays and lesbians and weakening support among younger voters. The president should return to the strategy that got him elected four years ago.

Even as we saw the GOP's future highlighted with fair-minded prime-time convention speakers, we saw the passage of an extremist party platform that opposes any basic protections for gay and lesbian families. The incongruity between the party's platform and its list of prime-time speakers symbolizes a wider battle for the GOP's heart and soul.

A clear majority of Americans support civil unions, even though many do not yet support civil marriage equality. In 10 years, our view will be shared by the vast majority of American voters. That is why Log Cabin is warning our party to avoid the path of defeat paved with intolerance and exclusion.

Log Cabin's mission is about more than one platform, one convention, one election or even one president. We eventually will succeed in building a more inclusive Republican Party. Liberty, fairness and common decency will prevail, or the Republican Party won't.

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