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Thursday, September 16, 2004

Planet Out: Bush speech angers many LGBT leaders

Community - Planet Out
Planet Out
Bush speech angers many LGBT leaders

Fri Sep 3, 7:50 PM ET
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Larry Buhl, PlanetOut Network

SUMMARY: George W. Bush's "compassionate conservatism" that won over an estimated 1 million LGBT voters in 2000 is now gone, said many gay political leaders after Bush's Thursday speech.

George W. Bush's conciliatory, or at least ambiguous, stance on LGBT issues that garnered him nearly a quarter of the gay vote in 2000 is officially gone, according to community leaders who see the 2004 campaign as red meat for the religious right at the expense of gays and lesbians.

In his acceptance speech Thursday night at the Republican National Convention, Bush told Republicans that he will protect traditional marriage from "activist judges" who would allow same-sex marriages. He went on to say that his second term would continue his fight for the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) -- the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage -- drawing a clear contrast against Democratic opponent John Kerry (news - web sites), who opposes such an amendment.

The president's comments provoked outrage by gay leaders across the political spectrum.

"It seems George Bush (news - web sites) forgot some of his lines during his acceptance speech. Espousing his support of values such as inclusion and the expansion of freedom, he forgot to add, 'except for gay and lesbian Americans,'" said Corri Planck, communications director for the Family Pride Coalition.

"President Bush (news - web sites)'s renewed call for discrimination in the Constitution offends millions of Americans, including not just Democrats, but Republicans, conservatives and swing voters," said Steven Fisher, spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign. "The Republican platform is one of the most discriminatory platforms in history, and in following it, Bush has written off the gay vote by trying to use us as a wedge."

National Stonewall Democrats spokesman John Marble suggested that the Bush re-election strategy is about increasing the religious right base. "It's unfortunate that they have to boost their turnout by demonizing gays and lesbians. It's a strategy of desperation," Marble told the PlanetOut Network.

Assessments that Bush has given up on the gay vote seem confirmed by Bush's strategist, Karl Rove, who has repeatedly claimed that the key to re-election is mobilizing the estimated 4 million evangelical voters he believes stayed home in 2000.

But any gains in the evangelical vote would likely come at the expense of the estimated 1 million gays and lesbians who voted for Bush four years ago. Many prominent gay conservatives who supported Bush in the past have already turned away from him.

Conservative gay pundit Andrew Sullivan posted a message on his Weblog Friday, saying he feels "personal sadness" that Bush is taking away freedom from a whole group of Americans who might otherwise support many parts of his agenda.

"The president made it clear that discriminating against gay people, keeping them from full civic dignity and equality, is now a core value for him and his party. The opposite is a core value for me. Some things you can trade away. Some things you can compromise on. Some things you can give any politician a pass on. But there are other values -- of basic human dignity and equality -- that cannot be sacrificed without losing your integrity," Sullivan wrote.

The largest gay GOP group, the Log Cabin Republicans (news - web sites), meets this weekend to decide whether to endorse Bush. The group is already running commercials opposing the FMA and other anti-gay measures.

LGBT political leaders were also dismayed at the absence of Mary Cheney and her partner, as the rest of Vice President Dick Cheney (news - web sites)'s family followed him onstage following his speech Wednesday evening.

"They can hide gay and lesbian family members at their convention, but Bush can't hide his failed record from the American people," said Democratic National Committee (news - web sites) Chairman Terry McAuliffe. "President Bush isn't content with just dividing the country along political lines, now he's dividing families, including the family of his vice president."

Mary Cheney's absence from the convention stage made many re-examine the vice president's comments in Iowa last week, when he seemed to break with the president over the FMA.

"Dick Cheney said at that town hall meeting in Iowa that he loves his daughter, and the issue should be left to the states; but in the next sentence, which the media didn't cover, he said he supports the president, which basically meant, 'forget the statement I just made,'" said Marble.

"Neither Bush nor Cheney consulted with the Log Cabin Republicans or any gay leaders before they pushed for the FMA, so that should make it clear where their priorities are," Marble said, adding that the National Stonewall Democrats are dramatically increasing their grassroots organizing in an all-out effort to defeat Bush.

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