Bush Campaign Plays Gay Card Again

Targeted mailing highlights marriage and the Bible; right-wing groups also active

Just five weeks before Americans vote in the presidential elections, right-wing groups and the Republican National Committee are ratcheting up their anti-gay rhetoric in an effort to turn out socially conservative voters and raise funds.

“They are trying to draw out their base,” said Steven Fisher, spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay lobbying group. “The president needs his right-wing base. He has offended a lot of moderate, Republican families who, like the Cheneys, oppose discriminating against their own family members.”

In a September direct mail piece sent to voters in, at least, two states—Arkansas and West Virginia—the Republican National Committee (RNC) warned that the “liberal agenda” would ban the Bible and permit same-sex marriage.

The direct mail piece had an image of the Bible with the word “banned” and a second image of one man, down on one knee, proposing to another with the word “allowed.” The text continued with “This will be Arkansas if you don’t vote.”

On September 17, Ed Gillespie, the RNC chairman, told reporters he had no knowledge of the mailing, but in the September 24 issue of The New York Times, an RNC spokesperson admitted the mailing was from the RNC and wrote in an e-mail “When the Massachusetts Supreme Court sanctioned same-sex marriage and people in other states realized they could be compelled to recognize those laws, same-sex marriage became an issue. These same activist judges also want to remove the words ‘under God’ from the Pledge of Allegiance.”

The decision that removed “under God” from the pledge was made by a federal court in California. That decision has since been reversed. The Massachusetts ruling came from a court in which six of the seven justices were appointed by Republican governors.

The RNC and the Bush campaign did not respond to phone messages and e-mail from Gay City News seeking comment.

In a press statement, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) fired at the Bush campaign.

“At least now the Republican Party admits they are running a disgusting campaign of bigotry for George W. Bush,” said the statement, which was attributed to Eric Stern, the DNC’s director of gay outreach. “Instead of running on his failed record, Bush has launched a campaign of distortion in an effort to divide the country at the expense of gay and lesbian Americans. I encourage every American on November 2 to reject Bush’s dirty politics and elect John Kerry, who will be a president for all Americans. Homophobia has no place in politics.”

Fisher echoed that view saying Bush has no record to run on and he has had to produce such direct mail pieces to motivate voters.

“It’s just an effort to distract from the president’s failure to act on issues that Americans care about most—the war in Iraq, the loss of jobs and the rising cost of health care,” he said. “We’re optimistic that the American people will see through these efforts. The American people are focused on the issues.”

Not to be outdone by the RNC, Gary Bauer, the former head of the right-wing Family Research Council (FRC), is running an anti-Kerry ad in Michigan and Pennsylvania, two swing states where neither Kerry nor Bush has a solid lead. The ad attacks Kerry’s position on same-sex marriage.

The ad was produced by Americans United to Preserve Marriage, one of many so-called 527 groups that are named for the section of the Internal Revenue Service code that governs them. The Associated Press reported on September 24 that Bauer’s group had raised $500,000.

The 527 groups can raise unlimited cash, advocate for the election or defeat of a candidate, but they may not coordinate their activities with candidates.

“They are just following the script that we all saw written 14 months ago, 15 months ago, and that is to use the issue of marriage equality to divide Americans, exploit irrational fear, and elect right-wing Republicans to office,” said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Other groups or individuals on the right wing are using gay marriage or anti-gay rhetoric to motivate their supporters, raise cash, or both.

In August, James Dobson, head of the right-wing Focus on the Family, wrote supporters to raise money for his group. The legal status of Dobson’s group limits his advocacy, but he spent most of the letter railing against gay marriage and the queer community.

“In May 2003, the Supreme Court decided that the right to commit sodomy is guaranteed by our Constitution,” he wrote. “This is opening up the floodgates to a wide array of lawsuits and legislation designed to not only normalize the homosexual lifestyle, but to ensure that the radical gay agenda is forced upon every American.”

In a September appeal from Focus on the Family Action, the group’s political arm, Dobson presented the coming November vote in near apocalyptic terms.

“It seems that the great pendulum of history is swinging back and forth almost every day, oscillating between righteousness and wickedness, between the celebration of life and the certainties of death,” Dobson wrote.

Dobson listed a range of evils—pornography, abortion, euthanasia—including the AIDS epidemic which he blamed on the gay community.

“The promiscuity of homosexuality, especially the way it was practiced in shameful ‘bath house’ behavior, gave rise to the AIDS epidemic,” he wrote. “That devastating plague has resulted in over 500,000 deaths in the United States since 1981, and more than 20 million worldwide.”

Other groups including FRC, the Declaration Alliance, a right-wing group founded by Alan Keyes, and the Liberty Alliance, Jerry Falwell’s group, have recently used same-sex marriage to raise cash.

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