Face-Off

7.4.2004

By Bruce Shenitz

How do you reconcile your support with your reservations?

It goes back to the reason we're Republicans to begin with. A lot of people say a gay Republican is an oxymoron. [But] back in the 2000 election, voter surveys showed that about 25% of self-identified gay voters supported Bush; 30% voted Republican in congressional races. My view is that most gay and lesbian voters tend to be one-dimensional voters. They vote Democrat because of the common perception that the Democratic Party is more in favor of gay rights. We are Republicans because we take a broader, more realistic view. We look at a whole set of issues, not just gay and lesbian issues. At the end of the day, when FMA is dead and gone, all the other issues that made us Republicans in the first place will still be there. We don't want to abandon the party or abandon Bush because of that particular issue when we believe in much of the rest of the Republican agenda. We have no illusions about the fact that a lot of the Republican Party is made up of the religious right types, and we battle them all the time. We are not about to abandon the Republican Party, which best represents our view, and give the party up to them. We're not about to give them the pleasure and satisfaction of leaving the party to them'. The more we piss them off, the better we are reaching the broader Republican community.

Were you at Log Cabin's annual convention in April, when the FMA was a leading topic on the agenda?

Yes. It was a gut-wrenching meeting. People stood up and poured their hearts out about how dare Bush and Karl Rove put us in this position, where we have right-wingers on one side pushing us out of the party with the FMA, and we have gay and lesbian Democrats on the other side saying, 'How can you support this man?'

Is there anything that could happen between now and November that might make you decide not to vote for the president?

What I suspect is going to happen with the FMA is that he'll make one or two more obligatory statements of support but won't do anything about it and won't put pressure on anybody [to vote for it]. He demanded that the language be changed so that it would not outlaw civil unions and domestic-partnership benefits at the state level. It's a marginal improvement, and we still don't want the amendment. But it could be a lot worse, as they say. That's what I suspect is going to happen. It will die, and he won't do much to revive it or push it through. If, on the other hand, he suddenly went on the warpath to get this thing passed and tried to focus on gay marriage because things in Iraq are even worse than they are now, then I guess I would have to reconsider. We all have different levels of tolerance. At some point, if it gets bad enough, then I would abandon supporting him. I don't expect that's going to happen, and I think other issues will improve, such as the chaos in Iraq. The economy is doing very well. I think the Administration has done a terrible job of telling the American people it is doing well.
I think John Kerry and George Bush are much closer than most people realize. Kerry officially opposes the FMA, opposes gay marriage, and supports a constitutional amendment in Massachusetts to ban gay marriage. The end result of both positions is that the federal government would not legalize gay marriage and it would be left up to the states'. I'm all for gay marriage. Despite the fact that civil unions are sort of apartheid, separate and unequal, that's what we're going to have to live with. Just a few years ago they were considered a wacko idea, for liberal Vermont! I've heard Christian Coalition leaders say, 'I can live with civil unions.' We're so focused on gay marriage, I don't think gays and lesbians appreciate how much it's moved our way. We've taken so many steps forward, we should take a breather and realize things are actually much better than they were just a few years ago.

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