Fighting for Our Party’s Future

At this historic time in the path to fairness and equality for gay and lesbian Americans, party loyalty must be matched with personal integrity.

That is why Log Cabin Republicans decided last week to withhold its endorsement from Pres. George Bush in 2004.

As loyal Republicans, it is difficult deciding not to endorse our party’s nominee. However our integrity requires it and the GOP’s future will be stronger because of it.

Log Cabin Republicans offer a hopeful vision for the Republican Party’s future in the finest tradition of Pres. Ronald Reagan, built on a foundation of freedom and fairness. The GOP will continue being the majority party only if we come together around unifying issues such as low taxes, limited government and winning the war on terror. Using fear and intolerance to divide America in a culture war may provide short term political gain, but it will put the Republican Party on the wrong side of history. The Republican Party has a choice—be the party of Rudy Giuliani and Arnold Schwarzenegger or be the party of Alan Keyes and Rick Santorum.

Some will accuse us of being disloyal. However, it was actually the White House who has been disloyal to the one million gay and lesbian Americans who voted for Mr. Bush in 2000, including more than 50,000 in Florida alone. Log Cabin made its principled decision in response to the White House’s calculated political decision to pursue a re-election strategy geared to the radical right. The president’s use of the bully pulpit, campaign stump speeches and radio addresses to support a constitutional amendment has encouraged the passage of discriminatory laws and state constitutional amendments across America. Using gay and lesbian families as a political wedge issue is unacceptable.

Log Cabin supports the president’s leadership in cutting taxes to improve the economy and battling terrorists to make our nation safer. At the same time, it is impossible to overstate the depth of anger and disappointment caused by the President’s support for an anti-family constitutional amendment. This amendment would not only ban gay marriage, it would also jeopardize civil unions and domestic partnerships. The president’s decision to support 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. Log Cabin Republicans proudly endorsed Mr. Bush in 2000. He ran an inclusive campaign that appealed not only to social conservatives, but also pro-choice Republicans, independents and gay and lesbian conservatives. Mr. Bush’s mainstream message based on compassionate conservatism helped Republicans take back the White House after eight years of Bill Clinton.

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 throughout the executive branch, continued thoughtful dialogue with our organization 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 four million evangelicals stayed home in 2000. As a result, the 2004 campaign has focused on energizing the far right, while ignoring mainstream Republicans.

Regardless of his position on a constitutional amendment, Mr. Bush appeals to socially conservative 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, do you really believe that the far right would’ve stayed home in an election between Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry?

The president’s support for a constitutional amendment has not only jeopardized the support of gay Americans, it risks alienating the centrist swing voters who will decide the election. The far-right campaign strategy is widening the gender gap, eroding support among gays and lesbians and weakening support among younger voters. If not this election, the backlash from this socially extreme agenda will be felt with full force in the years ahead. The president should return to the strategy that got him elected four years ago. I’m not surprised that the first noticeable bounce in the polls for Pres. Bush came after a GOP convention that highlighted centrist Republicans and focused on unifying Republican issues.

Even as we saw the GOP’s future highlighted with fair-minded primetime 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 primetime speakers symbolizes a wider battle for the GOP’s heart and soul.

The radical right is desperate because they are losing, so their rhetoric and threats grow louder. A clear majority of Americans support civil unions, even though many do not yet support civil marriage equality. Even among GOP convention delegates, nearly half favor civil unions or civil marriage equality according to a recent poll by the New York Times and CBS News. In ten 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. Inside Madison Garden in New York during the recent GOP convention, countless delegates and Republican allies offered me their support for our efforts. These quiet voices of inclusion are getting louder. Soon they will create a chorus for change in the GOP.

During his acceptance speech at the GOP convention, Pres. Bush said, “The story of America is the story of expanding liberty: an ever-widening circle, constantly growing to reach further and include more.” The truth of that statement explains why we are winning and it explains why the Republican Party’s future is our future. Liberty, fairness and common decency will prevail or the Republican Party won’t.

Patrick Guerriero is the executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, a national gay organization.

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