August 31, 2008
Log Cabin's big decision
Posted by: Chris
All signs point to a forthcoming Log Cabin endorsement of the McCain-Palin ticket, which would be profoundly disappointing from a group I believe is committed to the struggle for gay civil rights and equality.
As much as my co-blogger Kevin predicted "gay Democratic hacks" would exaggerate Sarah Palin's mixed record on gay issues, the nation's largest GOP group is so far playing the same game:
Log Cabin President Patrick Sammon
She's a mainstream Republican who will unite the Party and serve John McCain well as Vice President. Gov. Palin is an inclusive Republican who will help Sen. McCain appeal to gay and lesbian voters.
Log Cabin spokesperson Scott Tucker
Sen. McCain’s choice for Vice President, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, is a smart choice on many levels. She unifies the GOP across the spectrum. Plus, Gov. Palin will help appeal to disaffected Hillary supporters. Also, so-called “pro-family” groups love her because she’s solidly pro-life. …
But, let’s remember one thing: pro-life doesn’t equal anti-gay. Her record on gay issues is unclear, but it’s not anti-gay and news reports say she has expressed sympathy for gays who face discrimination. In 2006, she said she’s “not out to judge anyone and has good friends who are gay.” Her record doesn’t necessarily mean she’s going to support pro-gay issues, but it indicates she’s an inclusive leader who isn’t a bigot. …
The only decision she made as governor affecting gay people benefited our community. In late 2006, many social conservatives wanted her to sign a bill that would’ve blocked benefits for the same-sex partners of state employees. She vetoed the bill. Though she disagreed with the Supreme Court order that directed the state to offer the benefits, she said the anti-gay bill was unconstitutional.
Tucker at least acknowledges Palin disagreed with the Alaska Supreme Court ruling that denying gay government workers equal benefits violated the state constitution, but he leaves out that also she opposed granting the benefits as a policy matter -- a different and more question than the constitutional one. That's especially the case since the Democratic-controlled Congress will likely pass a bipartisan bill (praised by Log Cabin) that would extend D.P. benefits to federal employees.
Our gay Republican friends at GayPatiot, frequent critics of Log Cabin, are even more ebullient and appear no more interested in scrutinizing Palin's record:
Just as I couldn’t imagine me disliking the Obama ticket more after he picked Biden, I’m shocked to now find myself EXCITED about McCain’s pick and Vice President Sarah Palin. I almost can’t believe that he has done it.
Gay Patrot West
Sarah Palin is anything but a Bush Republican. And we gay Republicans have something to cheer in her record. Shortly after taking office, she vetoed legislation that would have prevented the state from providing benefits to the same-sex partners of state employees.
Another prominent gay Republican blogger, BoiFromTroy, is refreshingly skeptical of her overall qualifications and does a good job of analyzing her on the issues (details in his post). But ultimately he, too, sets a pretty low bar:
Boi From Troy
So the person with the most executive experience of any Presidential or Vice Presidential candidate is a 44 year-old woman who served as Governor of Alaska and Mayor of Wasilla, Sarah Palin. … Regrettably, [she is] about as progressive as a Republican can be on gay issues and be at the top-of-the ticket these days, but also makes me hope that Sarah Pallin can be persuadable if need be.
There are still important blanks to fill in about Palin -- on a whole range of issues, but on gay rights as well. Although Log Cabin credits "news reports" that she's "open" to non-discrimination laws to protect gays, all I've seen so far was a Wikipedia entry to that effect, without any supporting citation. The reference has since been deleted from the entry.
With those specific questions still hanging, there remains a much bigger question, for Log Cabin as a civil rights group and for gay Republicans individually: Is the McCain-Palin ticket one they can in good conscience support?
As much as Log Cabin wants to be a part of the GOP "big tent," I cannot see how this ticket has earned their endorsement. McCain has a full record of opposition to every form of gay rights legislation -- state, federal or local -- ever introduced.
The only thing that separates him from George W. Bush, who Log Cabin under the leadership of former president Patrick Guerriero declined to endorse, is McCain's opposition to a federal marriage amendment.
That's old new, unfortunately. Even though McCain said during that 2004 Senate debate that such an amendment is "antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans," this month the GOP delegates he controls voted in favor of a draft party platform that backs it. At the recent Saddleback forum, McCain softened his own opposition, saying he would support amending the U.S. Constitution if even one federal court concludes the notorious Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.
Surely Log Cabin requires more of a presidential candidate than such weak, conditional opposition to the FMA, especially since McCain is on the wrong side of every other gay rights issue.
Consider that none other than former Log Cabin leader Rich Tafel, who along with Guerriero and my co-blogger Kevin is most responsible for the group's prominence, publicly supported Barack Obama during the Democratic primary. Kevin has also had very positive things to say about Obama, if less so recently. Rich and Kevin haven't yet said whether they prefer Obama-Biden over McCain-Palin and no one expects Log Cabin to back a Democrat for president. Still, endorsing McCain isn't the gay GOP group's only option.
With so little in McCain's record or positions that merit praise, Log Cabin has made a big deal of trumpeted its "productive" relationship to the McCain campaign, pointing out that it netted a personal meeting between Sammon and the candidate himself back in June. Putting aside that the campaign initially said the meeting was unplanned and coincidental, an open door is nonetheless important. If McCain is elected, Log Cabin might well be the only gay rights group with White House access.
Log Cabin's leaders no doubt worries that open door will slam shut if they decline to endorse, but still they should consider the very real cost of going along to get along. It sends the message that whatever their opposition on the issues, Republican politicians need only answer their phone calls to win their support.
Considering the very justified grief that gay Republicans have given the Human Rights Campaign and other D.C. groups for confusing cocktail party access with real progress, that's not the message Log Cabin needs to send now.
(Photo of John McCain and Sarah Palin via AP)
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