Republican platform committee rejects gay-inclusive plank

BY admin

August 25 2004 11:00 PM ET

A day after Vice President Dick Cheney made it clear that he does not favor the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage supported by his boss, the platform committee for the Republican Party on Wednesday rejected a proposed plank put forth by the gay political group Log Cabin Republicans and two other groups that sought to add moderate language to the platform. "Today's decision--refusing to unite our party and refusing to recognize that people of good faith can disagree over contentious social issues--sends the wrong message to fair-minded voters," said Log Cabin executive director Patrick Guerriero. "What is the message that today's platform language sends to Republicans like Vice President Cheney, Governor Schwarzenegger, Mayor Giuliani, and Senator McCain? How can you have a platform that fails to recognize that people of good faith, like Vice President Cheney, can disagree over complex social issues. The far right's agenda is dividing our families, our party, our nation, and even our president and vice president."

The "Party Unity" plank was drafted and submitted by a coalition of Republican groups consisting of Log Cabin, Republicans for Choice, and the Republican Youth Majority. "This was a chance to unite the party and demonstrate that the GOP's inclusiveness doesn't end with the prime-time speaking lineup," said Ann Stone, national chair of Republicans for Choice. "It was their chance to show George Bush as a uniter, not a divider, but clearly they have failed." The rejected plank reads: "We recognize and respect that Republicans of good faith may not agree with all the planks in the party's platform. This is particularly the case with regard to those planks dealing with abortion, family planning, and gay and lesbian issues. The Republican Party welcomes all people on all sides of these complex issues and encourages their active participation as we work together on those issues upon which we agree."

The rejection comes as Republican leaders are pushing for the party platform to include support for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. But some antigay Republicans are pushing for more than that, Chris Barron, political director for Log Cabin, told Advocate.com. "A platform subcommittee [on Wednesday] put in language that goes beyond just supporting the amendment," he said. "It seeks to outlaw any legal benefits or 'living arrangements' outside of marriage. It's outrageous." The new language will be voted on Wednesday afternoon, he said.

Roberta Achtenberg, the out lesbian senior vice president of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and a former assistant secretary in the Clinton administration who helped to craft this year's Democratic Party platform, on Wednesday called the decision by the Republican Party to completely shut out gays from its platform "unconscionable," adding that it constitutes pure discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans. "It seems to me to be mean-spirited and sort of ridiculous on its face," she said, adding that the Democratic National Committee made sure to support protections and equality for GLBT Americans. "Bush seems to be pandering to the right wing of his party. It's obvious that moderates and independents have no place in Bush's Republican Party."

If the marriage plank is approved as expected, it would mark the first time the party has gone on record in its platform as supporting an amendment against same-sex unions. The 2000 platform settled for a more general statement supporting the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman. Over the next day or two, delegates will pore over platform language that hews closely to Bush's agenda, sings his achievements, and jabs at his Democratic challenger, John Kerry. About half of the nearly 100-page document deals with national security and foreign policy as both parties compete to demonstrate a tough stand against terrorism. But most attention will be paid to the uncompromising language against abortion and gay marriage as well as to a plank supporting Bush's restrictions
on federal financing of stem cell research.

The platform, while not binding on Bush or any candidate, is a delicate dance for the party as it tries to stage a unified convention and satisfy conservative activists without alienating swing voters or more liberal Republicans. The party is putting forward moderate politicians in most of its prominent convention speaking slots next week. But behind those faces is a struggle over party principles that Republicans who favor abortion rights and gay rights are hard-pressed to win. Senate Republicans last month had to set aside their proposed marriage amendment for lack of support, but the platform draft makes clear that the issue is not going away. "We strongly support President Bush's call for a constitutional amendment that fully protects marriage," it says.

Campaigning in Iowa on Tuesday, Vice President Dick Cheney made it clear that he does not favor the amendment supported by his boss, saying existing federal and state laws "may be sufficient to resolve this issue." But he deferred to Bush in saying, "The president makes policy for the administration." Cheney, whose daughter Mary is a lesbian, said, "People ought to be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to."

Regarding abortion, the proposed platform again calls for a constitutional ban, asserting that "the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed." Republicans who back gay rights and abortion rights had little chance of shaping those planks more to their liking. But they hoped, at least, to have the party offer a strong statement declaring its openness to opposing views on those subjects. Without it, they may try to get enough delegates to sign on to a fight on the convention floor next week.

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