Gay Republicans ditch president over marriage amendment, anti-gay rhetoric
The national board of the Log Cabin Republicans (LCR) voted overwhelmingly against endorsing President George W. Bush in his re-election bid.
“There are certain moments in the gay and lesbian movement that require us to put our fight for civil rights ahead of partisan politics,” said Patrick Guerriero, executive director of the gay Republican group. “We will not remain silent while our families are used as a wedge issue.”
The 25-member board voted 22 to 2 on September 7 to not endorse the president. One board member could not attend the endorsement meeting.
While the president supported an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would ban same-sex marriage in February and he has reiterated that support several times since then, that was not the only factor that moved the board. They also objected to the Republican Party platform that affirmed support for the amendment as well as called for a ban on civil unions and domestic partnerships.
“I don’t think it was any one thing,” Guerriero said. “It was the totality of the record.”
The gay Republicans backed Sen. Robert Dole in his 1996 presidential bid and it endorsed Bush in 2000. While the 22 to 2 vote in the 2004 decision might suggest it was an easy vote, Bill Brownson, chair of the LCR board, said it was carefully considered by the board.
“It took into account information that we had been gathering for months,” he said. “It was a break from tradition and it was a bold one.”
The Bush campaign did not respond to a call seeking comment.
This year’s vote also marks a shift in LCR’s political strategy as it now moves its resources to congressional races where it will back gay-friendly candidates.
“We are looking at state opportunities where we think we can win,” Guerriero said during a September 8 phone conference with gay press reporters.
In the run-up to the vote, LCR board members were saying the group’s roughly 12,000 members were split with 25 percent adamantly supporting an endorsement, 25 percent adamantly opposed, and the remaining members largely undecided.
The group had a months-long process for deciding the endorsement that included “dozens of meetings” with LCR chapters around the country though the decision was made by the national board.
Guerriero did not expect any fallout among the membership.
“My sense is that even among those who wanted to support the president, they respect the process,” he said. Since the decision was announced, LCR has added “hundreds of new members,” according to Guerriero.
“I hope this vote by the national board will be a message to conservative and moderate folks to get involved,” Guerriero said.
LCR does not expect that their standing in the Republican Party will suffer. The group’s leaders spoke with its supporters in the party and they told the Bush campaign about the decision.
“I’ve talked with a lot of Republican allies and most of them understand what Log Cabin is doing,” Guerriero said. “It is actually the White House that is being disloyal to Log Cabin and the one million gay and lesbian people who voted for Bush in 2000.”
LCR is occasionally derided by some of the queer community’s left-leaning members and the endorsement decision may serve to improve LCR’s standing. In demonstrating their independence from the Republican Party they may gain greater respect in the gay community. LCR members have long argued that the community must work in both major parties to advance it’s issues.
“I hope the story of this decade will be that we fought together,” Guerriero said.
The Democratic National Committee used the occasion of the LCR decision to hold a press conference with two gay Republicans who are supporting Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry’s presidential bid, David Catania, a Washington, D.C. city councilmember and Steve May, a former Arizona state representative.
Terry McAuliffe, the DNC chair, also issued a statement on the LCR decision.
“Four years ago, Pres. Bush promised us that he would be a ‘uniter, not a divider,’ a president who would work to protect the rights of all Americans,” the statement read. “Now, four years later, after countless attacks on gay and lesbian Americans, it is crystal clear that Bush has misled the American people… In contrast to Pres. Bush’s politics of division, John Kerry will be a president for all Americans, Republican and Democrat, gay and straight. He will continue to fight for the rights of gays and lesbians just as he will fight for the rights of all Americans.”