Gay Republicans are distressed over President Bush's support for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and are divided over where to turn in November, with many weighing party loyalty against outrage. "I'm going to have a hard time going with Bush," said Shawn Gardner, one of several hundred party members attending this weekend's annual convention in Palm Springs, Calif., of the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay GOP organization that backed Bush in 2000. "In my good conscience, I don't know how I can support him. It's difficult for me to reconcile him having turned his back on an organization that supported him," added Gardner, who was among an estimated 1 million gays who voted for the president four years ago.
Many gays see the proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage as an assault on equal rights. The Log Cabin Republicans have aired 30-second TV ads in several states featuring Vice President Dick Cheney and a remark he made in a debate four years ago: "People should be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to enter into."
During the weekend, Log Cabin aired the commercials in the Miami area to coincide with the meeting of the Southern Republican Leadership Conference. "Log Cabin wanted the delegates in Miami to know that Americans don't want discrimination written into our sacred Constitution," said Patrick Guerriero, the group's executive director. "Vice President Dick Cheney makes a powerful case against amending our sacred Constitution. His position in 2000 is as true today as it was when he said it. As Republicans, it is our obligation to speak out when our party is headed in the wrong direction."
Concern about the proposed amendment has cut into organizational and financial support for Bush, Log Cabin leaders said. "The nation is in the midst of a culture war, and conservative gays and lesbians are on the front line," said Guerriero. "We have shifted all of our resources and energy to protect the Constitution from being messed with." The president has jeopardized what should have been an automatic endorsement from the group, added Guerriero.
Bush issued a call for speedy enactment of an amendment banning same-sex marriage after the Massachusetts supreme judicial court ruled that it is unconstitutional to prevent gay couples from marrying. California's supreme court has indicated that it's considering how to deal with the 4,000 same-sex couples who were wed in San Francisco before such marriages were halted last month. An Oregon court is considering whether to allow same-sex weddings to continue; they are ongoing in Multnomah County, which includes Portland.
Chris Barron, political director for the Log Cabin Republicans, said it's uncertain whether the group will endorse Bush. A decision by its 23-member board is expected around the time of the GOP's national convention in New York, which begins August 30. "We would never endorse a Democrat," Barron said.
If gays desert Bush in November, it's unclear how much it would hurt him. Several states with a large gay turnout voted solidly Democratic in 2000, including New York, California, and Massachusetts. Exit polls in 2000 found that Al Gore received 75% of the votes from self-identified gays and lesbians, with Bush picking up 25%.
John Karczynski, vice chairman of the Orange County chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans, said he was disappointed in Bush's support for the amendment. "I'm still voting for Bush...but I have serious issues with the current team the president has put around him to cultivate the religious-right support,"
A lot of gay Republicans intend to stay with Bush, but they will vote "with their eyes closed," Karczynski added.