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"Stop this
unbridled extremism"

"Stop this
unbridled extremism"

Stop

Kentucky Republicans are returning to antigay politics in advance of their reelection campaigns. This strategy is not only reprehensible, it's bad for business

unbridled extremism" " >

You know Election Day is approaching when some Kentucky Republican leaders try to use gay and lesbian Kentuckians in pursuit of electoral success. They're conditioned to think the gains they made in 2004, when Kentucky passed a constitutional amendment banning civil marriage equality, are possible again if they continue attacking gay people. However, this playbook isn't going to work again.

The latest antigay attack came this week when Ernie Fletcher, one of the nation's most unpopular governors, reversed previous state policy by removing employment protections for state employees, the effect of which is to permit discrimination based on sexual orientation. I'm not sure how he kept a straight face when he declared it Diversity Day and then made it easier to discriminate against gay and lesbian people. He actually had the nerve to say, "It is our diversity that gives us strength." When you misuse words, they lose their meaning.

The governor justified his decision by saying his administration is merely following federal standards, which he says don't officially recognize gay and lesbian workers as a "protected class." The governor is wrong. In fact, his assertion flies in the face of 30 years of precedent and is inconsistent with a federal government executive order supported by President Bush. "Long-standing federal policy prohibits discrimination against federal employees based on sexual orientation," the White House said in a statement last year. "President Bush expects federal agencies to enforce this policy and to ensure that all federal employees are protected from unfair discrimination at work."

Unfortunately, Fletcher isn't the only Republican relying on antigay politics as a reelection strategy. Last month the state senate tried to pass a constitutional amendment that would have abolished local ordinances in Louisville, Lexington, and Covington that ban discrimination based on sexual orientation Then, they passed a budget awarding $11 million to the University of the Cumberlands to establish a pharmacy school. That's the school that has drawn national attention for expelling a student simply because he is gay. The public funding is being pushed by Sen. David Williams, a Republican from Burkesville, as an "economic development initiative." Of course, any potential economic development benefit could be lost because the pharmacy school at Cumberlands likely won't get accredited, since its gay discrimination policy conflicts with guidelines of the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education.

Some Republicans might think that making our commonwealth the most ant-gay state in the country will help them at the polls, but they're harming the state's economic future. Are they saying to Wall Street, "Bring your investments to Kentucky"? Are they saying to tourists, "Spend your tourism dollars here"? Are they saying to meeting planners in other states, "Plan your conventions in Kentucky"? The answer to all of those questions is no. Research shows that antigay public policy is bad for business. Unfortunately, some politicians have convinced themselves that it's good politics. They are wrong.

An extreme antigay agenda will hurt our party this November and in 2007. The "base" isn't a majority. Fair-minded conservatives want to support hopeful candidates who unify voters with a positive agenda that promotes prosperity and creates a strong future for the state.

Fair-minded Republicans across the commonwealth have risen to prominent positions in their communities and in our party organization. Their time for bold action and leadership is now. It's time for this new generation of leaders to step up, take the reins of our party, and stop this unbridled extremism. This bold action won't be easy and requires tremendous political courage. Those party leaders willing to risk political capital and even their careers today will reap the benefits of a larger, stronger, and more broad-based Republican Party in the future. It's the right thing to do.

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"Stop this
unbridled extremism"

" >
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