February 24, 2010
Posted by: Chris
Anyone who watched Ryan Sorba's tirade against CPAC for accepting the gay Republican group GOProud as a sponsor knows the firebrand leader of Young Conservatives of California has, um, issues. Thanks to Talking Points Memo, we're getting our first glimpse into his closet:
The man who cited natural law in an off-script anti-gay rant at CPAC has had two run-ins with the real law in the past decade, including a restraining order for domestic violence, according to court records in California.
Ryan Sorba of California Young Americans for Freedom, who is a longtime anti-gay activist, in 2001 had a restraining order brought against him by a woman in a San Bernardino County domestic violence case, according to case records.
A three-year restraining order granted by the court barred Sorba from any contact with the woman, Mary Paulson, and his brother Michael Sorba. He was also ordered to move out of the "family dwelling" in Highland, a small city outside San Bernardino, according to records. Sorba was 19 at the time and did not appear in court for any of the proceedings.
Sorba insisted the woman was not his girlfriend (surprise, surprise), but the mother of a male friend from his neighborhood with whom Sorba had heated relations (surprise, surprise). "I got in a fight with a kid in my neighborhood. And the mother did not want us getting in any more fights," Sorba told TPM. "And so the mother filed a restraining order. And then nothing else ever happened."
In a second incident, Sorba was cited for a noise disturbance (surprise, surprise) that involved screaming at a gay guy (surprise, surprise) while handing out flyers at a California polling place in favor of Proposition 8:
Asked how he knew the man was gay, Sorba said "because he looked gay, he sounded gay -- it was evident."
"I'm proud of that ticket. I look at that ticket as if it's a trophy," he said.
Any predictions where this story goes next?
Note: Photo of Sorba with a Young Americans for Freedom member is unrelated to the reported incidents.
February 20, 2010
Posted by: Chris
Just when I thought that Ann Coulter would win the testosterone award at this year's CPAC, the various factions fighting over gay issues at the annual conservative confab are gunning for gold.
The GOProud didn't start off looking particular courageous, what with their head-scratching decision not to participate in a roundtable on Don't Ask Don't Tell but instead parlay their sponsorship to join a technology panel. But they found their inner-feisty after the National Organization for Marriage issued a statement attacking GOProud after appearing too chummy in this CNN report.
In this short clip, which is already going viral, GOProud Executive Director** Jimmy LaSilvia calls NOM out, asking why they couldn't deliver their statement in person, just two booths down, and asking, "Who's the real pansy at CPAC?"
Not to be outdone, an incredibly cocky Ryan Sorba, head of the Young Conservatives of California, "condemned" CPAC for allowing GOProud's participation, and launched into a rant attacking gay rights (video below). Nothing too shocking there, except for the audience reaction, which was more boos and jeers than applause. Eventually, Sorba walks off the stage.
Whatever you think of GOProud's politics or its history as a splinter group complaining that Log Cabin wasn't conservative enough(!), it is a net-plus that even at CPAC, the rightwing inner sanctum, attacking gay rights risks jeers as well as cheers.
** LaSilvia gets bonus points for taking the title executive director and not "president," like Joe Solmonese of HRC, who was in no way elected by that group's membership, or "president and CEO" like some at the helm of other gay rights groups. Next thing you know, these guys will start calling themselves bishops like some ministers with grossly oversized egos.
February 19, 2010
Posted by: Chris
An unlikely sponsor at this year's annual conservative conference is hoping to not only promote the issues that set it apart from many Republicans, but also draw attention to the beliefs they share. The group is called GOProud -- a name that combines GOP and gay pride.
So far, the group is getting a mixed response at the Conservative Political Action Conference. GOProud was founded by former members of the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay and lesbian Republican grass-roots organization. GOProud has a booth at CPAC just two spaces away from the exhibition for the National Organization for Marriage, which wants the government to define marriage as between a man and a woman.
GOProud's nontraditional conservative views are rankling some attendees at CPAC. Liberty University Law School, founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, boycotted the event after GOProud was announced as a co-sponsor.
Still, I'm baffled by the last item in this CNN report: Given a speaking role as a CPAC sponsor, GOProud affirmatively chose not to speak on a gay subject, instead asking to participate in a roundtable on technology. The middle of the debate over marriage and the military is no time for "we just happen to be gay" politics.
January 28, 2010
Posted by: Chris
At the same time that craven and immoral statement by Log Cabin Republicans slammed President Obama for the mortal sin of committing in his State of the Union address to the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell this year, we still await remarks by the gay GOP group in response to the very public pronouncements in favor of the policy by the man they endorsed for president in 2008:
“In his State of the Union address, President Obama asked Congress to repeal the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy. I am immensely proud of, and thankful for, every American who wears the uniform of our country, especially at a time of war, and I believe it would be a mistake to repeal the policy.
“This successful policy has been in effect for over fifteen years, and it is well understood and predominantly supported by our military at all levels. We have the best trained, best equipped, and most professional force in the history of our country, and the men and women in uniform are performing heroically in two wars. At a time when our Armed Forces are fighting and sacrificing on the battlefield, now is not the time to abandon the policy.”
If, as Log Cabin ludicrously suggests, President Obama favors the rights of foreign terrorists over hard-working, life-sacrificing gay Americans, then by that measure John McCain must himself be a member of Al Qaeda, targetting flag-waving queers for all sort of murder and mayhem.
Yes, that analogy is completely over the top, offensive, and ridiculous, but no more so than Log Cabin's shameful attack on the president.
P.S. It goes without saying that McCain is flat wrong in his assertion that Don't Ask Don't Tell, which requires gay soldiers and sailors to lie to their comrades, their superiors and their families and friends about who they are, is "predominantly supported by our military at all levels."
A December 2006 Zogby poll of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan found that 73 percent of soldiers reported being “comfortable … in the presence of gays,” and only 37 percent opposed repealing DADT. In July 2008, a Washington Post/ABC poll found that even 50 percent of veterans supported open service by lesbians and gays.
Posted by: Chris
The initial reaction from Gay Rights Inc. are in to the president calling on Congress to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell in the State of the Union address. Not surprisingly, most groups (including the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, Lambda Legal and the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network) give Congress a complete pass, acting as if Obama alone can repeal DADT. The Human Rights Campaign mentions Congress but only in passing.
And then there's this despicable statement from Log Cabin Republicans, a group I have defended for years but don't even recognize anymore:
“President Obama is more concerned about protecting the rights of terrorists than he is about the rights of gay and lesbian Americans who are putting their lives on the line every day fighting to preserve peace and democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan and operate small businesses that are the backbone of the American economy.” — Charles Moran, a spokesperson for Log Cabin Republicans
Never in more than a decade of covering the gay rights movement have I seen a public pronouncement by a gay political group that is more offensive, more over the top and more worthy of universal condemnation.
Put aside, for the moment, the conflating of gays in the military with the completely unrelated decision by Attorney General Eric Holder (independent of President Obama) to try some Guantanamo prisoners in Article III courts (as the Bush administration did) rather than in front of military commissions. Put aside even, the gay Republican group's indefensible silence in response to condemnation of the president's promise by leading Republicans, especially sore loser John McCain.
This president favors the entire range of gay rights legislation put forward by our movement, up to and including civil unions if not marriage in terms of relationship recognition. He is more supportive by far than any previous president and is a complete and total foil for both McCain and the last Republican president, who favored federal or state constitutional amendments making those same gay Americans second-class citizens.
I don't know who is running Log Cabin these days, and why they are even trying to outflank the GOP apologists over at the oxymornic GOProud, but outrageous and offensive statements like this one convince no one of the rightness of our cause, including the anti-gay Republican leadership, which Log Cabin so cravenly seeks to ingratiate.
January 28, 2009
Posted by: Chris
The Politico's Ben Smith reports on the way support -- or even conversation -- with the Log Cabin Republicans remains something that those seeking to run the GOP run away from at warp speed.
First, Smith posted an item than an aide to Saul Anuzis, a candidate for chairman of the Republican National Committee, had responded positively to an inquiry from Patrick Sammon, the Log Cabin president. "I think you will find him to be a very reasonable individual who does not seek to grow the party by dividing it," the aide said in the exchange.
Later, in an update, Anuzis sets the record straight, so to speak:
"I have no knowledge of this email. I have never contacted this group, I have never had any correspondence with them, I have not sought their support nor have I ever talked to anyone from their group. So I have no idea what this could be about, but it was not at my request or authorization."
Is it any wonder that a new Gallup report shows only five remaining "red states" solidly in GOP hands?
January 15, 2009
Posted by: Chris
His voice will be missed in the gay blogosphere because he managed to stay true to his Republican loyalties while at the same time strongly advocating equal rights for gays. It's not an easy task; just ask my co-blogger Kevin.
Scott made the decision to stop blogging while working on the Republicans Against Prop 8 effort, and he made clear in a farewell interview with the Advocate that he's not walking away from politics or the Net, just his Boi From Troy persona:
One thing I have learned while blogging is that none of us fit nicely into compartmentalized boxes -- even into those boxes we define ourselves with. As a gay, Republican USC football fan, my readers would get crazy when I talked about other passions I had, like Georgetown basketball, some boy, or obsessively racking up frequent flier miles. We are all individuals, and we should not hold it against folks who don't fit the predefined community molds.
Million dollar question -- what comes next?
Freedom! Although I hadn't been blogging as regularly lately, once I declared that I was no longer "Boi From Troy" it was very liberating. This doesn't mean I will give up writing, and I won't be leaving the Internet. I still have my column at Spot-on.com and still consider myself as a blogger -- I just won't be Boi From Troy.
I look forward to hearing from Scott in whatever form his voice will take in the future.
(Photo of Scott Schmidt with Maria Shriver via BoiFromTroy.com)
November 07, 2008
Posted by: Chris
- In Colorado, Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, the original sponsor of a federal marriage amendment, was defeated by Democratic challenger Betsy Markey.
- In conservative North Carolina, Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole, who scored 0, 0, and 20On on respective HRC report cards, was decisively beaten by pro-gay Democrat Kay Hagan.
On the other hand, Democratic gains are most likely in districts previously held by moderate Republicans, and Tuesday witnessed the defeat of two of the three most reliably pro-gay Republicans in Congress:
- Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith, a primary co-sponsor of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, was narrowly defeated by Democrat Jeff Merkley. Despite Smith's record, HRC did not issue an endorsement in the race.
- In Connecticut, moderate Republican Congressman Chris Shays, a primary co-sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, was defeated by Democrat Jim Hines. HRC and Log Cabin had both backed Shays.
- In New Hampshire, Log Cabin endorsee John Sununu, the incumbent Republican, was defeated by Democrat Jeanne Shaheen. Sununu was not exactly in the same league as Smith or Shays, given successive scores of 25, 33, and 20 on HRC's report cards.
- In Ohio's 15th congressional district, vacated by Republican Rep. Deborah Pryce, who co-sponsored ENDA, Log Cabin endorsee Steve Stivers leads by just 150 votes.
- Another longtime Log Cabin ally, Virginia Rep. Tom Davis, retired his seat and was replaced by a Democrat. Davis had backed ENDA and opposed efforts to overturn pro-gay legislation adopted by the District of Columbia.
It wasn't all bad news for gay Republicans, as several moderate House members including Illinois Rep. Mark Kirk and Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Most significant will be the return of Maine Sen. Susan Collins -- HRC's only GOP Senate endorsee and a primary co-sponsor of the Matthew Shepard Act -- who was easily re-elected.
Even still, the trends are disturbing, and follow the difficult loss two years ago of Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee, another outspoken pro-gay Republican.
In this environment, as the GOP caucus in Congress looks more and more under the tight grip of social conservatives, the Log Cabin leadership would be much better served concentrating their limited efforts on the waining number of Republicans in Congress who are truly pro-gay, rather than wasting their credibility inside and outside the gay community acting as apologists for the likes of John McCain and Sarah Palin.
Remember than neither McCain nor Palin backed a single piece of gay rights legislation -- a stark contrast with Smith, Shays, et al. After Log Cabin prematurely labeled Palin, the Alaska governor, as "a different kind of Republican," she even came out in favor of a federal marriage amendment.
Posted by: Chris
UPDATE: Log Cabin has responded to this post, defending its claim that 20% of GLB voters backed Bush-Cheney in 2004 by citing a Los Angeles Times exit poll that shows the GOP ticket receiving only 17% of the gay vote. Huh?
LCR's Scott Tucker explains that the gay GOP group averaged that 17% along with the Voter News Service exit polls that showed 23% gay vote. Talk about your fuzzy logic, especially considering that Log Cabin originally represented that 20% statistic as taken direct from the exit polls, not the result of some "poll of polls" averaging.
Tucker is right that in one section of my original post below, I misquoted VNS as showing 24% support for Bush in '04. That was actually the result from back in 2000 -- although CNN's site actually shows 25% of the GLB vote went for Bush in '00.
The L.A. Times poll from 2004 relied upon by Log Cabin is particularly suspect, since it was based on interviews with 5,154 voters, 65% of whom were from California alone. Considering California's population is only about 12% of the U.S. total, the results of the L.A. Times poll exaggerated the state's GLB vote, which I think we would all agree was likely less supportive of Bush than gays nationwide.
At the very least, the wide range of results from these various exit polls -- along with the inherent variable of which GLB voters would be willing to self-identify to pollsters -- ought to give us all pause in reaching substantive conclusions from these numbers.
CORRECTED ORIGINAL POST: Log Cabin Republicans are doing their best to put lipstick on the pig that was John McCain's landslide defeat on Tuesday. In a post on Blog Cabin, Scott Tucker observed:
Exit polls show John McCain received 27% of the gay vote. That is up from 20% four years ago. That equals 1.3 million votes -- the most any Republican candidate for President has received.
Tucker's math is off considerably, even if his general point about greater gay support for McCain holds true. He is correct that national exit polls showed McCain-Palin receiving support from 27% of those who identified themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual.
But he's off the mark on how Bush-Cheney did four years ago -- in fact, the Voter News Service exit poll showed President Bush received
24% 23% of the GLB vote, despite his support for a federal marriage amendment -- which in turn led to a snub from Log Cabin.
In fact, McCain's GLB support registers higher than the GOP nominee has received in any presidential election since pollsters asked the question:
- 1996: Dole-Kemp: 23%
- 2000: Bush-Cheney:
- 2004: Bush-Cheney:
- 2008: McCain-Palin: 27%
On the Democratic side, meanwhile, the Obama-Biden ticket under-performed previous tallies:
- 1996: Clinton-Gore: 66%
- 2000: Gore-Lieberman: 70%
- 2004: Kerry-Edwards: 77%
- 2008: Obama-Biden: 70%
Obama's support from self-identified GLB voters is especially weak considering that the comparable totals in 1996 and 2000 were in presidential races with significant third-party candidates. Here are the complete totals, which I compiled from articles I edited in my years with the Washington Blade and Southern Voice newspapers:
Voter News Service
GLB (5% overall): Clinton (66%). Dole (23%). Perot (7%).
GLB: Gore (70%). Bush (23%). Nader (3%). Buchanan (1%).
Voter News Service
GLB (4% overall): Gore (70%). Bush (25%). Nader (4%). Buchanan (0%).
Voter News Service
GLB (4% overall): Kerry (77%). Bush (23%).
Los Angeles Times
GLB (4% overall): Kerry (81%). Bush (17%).
Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International
GLB (4% overall): Obama (70%). McCain (27%).
There are plenty of reasons to view this exit poll data about GLB voters with skepticism. Pollsters depend entirely on voters self-identifying as gay, lesbian or bisexual -- a factor that signficantly undercounts the actual GLB totals and how they voted. In addition, Voter News Service followed a practice of only asking the GLB question of voters in places like New York and California, where they knew the percentage saying yes would have statistical significance.
All that said, it's not surprising that gay, lesbian and bisexual voters would be a bit more willing, on the margins, to vote for John McCain this time around, given his opposition to the same federal marriage amendment that was championed by George W. Bush.
There is also a word of warning for President-Elect Obama in these numbers. Bill Clinton received the lowest percentage of GLB support in 1996 -- although still two-thirds -- after he caved to Republicans and conservative Democrats on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the Defense of Marriage Act. A more sophisticated and empowered GLB electorate is likely to be much less forgiving if "thrown under the bus" by President Obama, who starts off with a slightly smaller level of GLB support.
November 06, 2008
Posted by: Chris
I was disheartened, as I'm sure many of you were, to read my co-blogger Kevin's bitter post, "We now interrupt this fairy tale for a bit of reality." We are all passionate about our politics and our movement for civil rights, and I can imagine how Kevin felt when he saw the election of a candidate he does not support coincide with the passage of anti-gay ballot measures in four states. I was frustrated enough by the latter, even though I was euphoric about the former.
There is much in Kevin's post to be commended. I have written for years about the ideological intolerance of many gay liberals, as well as the need to be realistic about what the Democratic congressional leadership will deliver on gay civil rights. But I am far more hopeful, to use an overused word, that the size of the Democrats' majority come January, along with the expected long honeymoon for the Obama administration, might bring about far more concrete progress than Kevin expects.
I do believe that 2009 will bring passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act -- with or without transgender protections -- and the Matthew Shepard Hate Crime Prevention Act -- with gender identity included. The question is whether the passage of those two long-standing, popular measures will be viewed as enough to satisfy the gay donors and supporters who are at the core of the Democratic Party. I would certainly hope not, since both bills have been achingly close to passage for more than a decade, and require the expenditure of absolutely no political capital by anyone.
Leftist gay groups may well decide to expend what little political capital we have with the new Congress and administration by pushing for trans-inclusion in ENDA. Certainly, trans workers deserve the protection, but it remains unclear whether the votes are there, and the number of Americans benefitted would be miniscule by comparison to other pending items on "the gay agenda."
All that said, I would hope that my good friend Kevin remembers that the success of our political process and our civil rights movement depend very much on the engagement of people like him -- who would hold our organizations and the new D.C. powerbrokers to task to live up to their campaign promises.
Now is not the time, as we stand ever so closer to achieving tangible progress at the federal level, to cede the field to the loud-mouthed, close-minded minority on the left who care more about venting their sense of political righteousness on their fellow gays as they do fighting against our real enemies, and changing hearts and minds among the "mushy middle" that we still can reach.
For more than a decade, I have dismissed the rantings of these bitterniks on the left -- "sticks and stones" and all of that -- because their ideological intolerance says far more about them than their silly, predictable attacks would ever say about Kevin or Andoni or me -- and everyone else who puts themselves out there.
I hope you will join me in encouraging Kevin not to give up -- on this blog, on the movement, or on the process -- because, to borrow a Clintonism -- we don't have a person to waste. When that voice is as clear, as intelligent, as independent and as provocative as Kevin's, then the loss is all the more unfortunate.
October 01, 2008
Posted by: Kevin
The Washington Blade, which Chris used to run, has published an interview with Republican presidential nominee John McCain.
It will probably not change a single gay Democratic vote, and frankly that doesn't matter. (And the partisan vipers who will do all they can to shout down the meaning of this interview might as well save their breath.) It will, however, energize the gay GOP vote and maybe some who are in the middle. His openness to a change in "don't ask, don't tell" is a very welcome public statement of something he's been saying in private for at least ten years. His support for Proposition 8 in California, even in the context of his opposition to the Federal Marriage Amendment, is as disappointing as John Kerry's support for a similar measure in Missouri in 2004.
But the historical importance of this interview as a whole - the milestones it still contains - goes far beyond this election, one in which (to be honest) the gay vote will probably not be a factor at all.
This interview is real progress. Compare it with the Republican campaigns of 2004, 2000, 1996 and especially 1992, and it is unmistakable that our nation has once again taken a step forward. The bar is higher for the GOP going forward. And it would never have been possible without the steadfast, unbending tenacity of Log Cabin Republicans to ignore all the caterwauling and keep pushing forward.
September 08, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Just as I expected, Kevin has made by far the strongest argument I've seen anywhere in favor of the Log Cabin endorsement of McCain-Palin. His general point is that the decision was necessary for Log Cabin to retain any influence within the Republican Party, and to preserve access in a McCain White House.
Fair enough. I certainly understand that motivation and guessed as much before they announced the endorsement. Also, I will defer to Kevin's far superior knowledge about the control (or lack thereof) that GOP presidential nominees have over the platform process.
Still, before I respond to Kevin's argument, a word about motives. Kevin says he "can only speculate as to why [I've] been on such a tear" about the Log Cabin endorsement, although he believes I was motivated by "truly want[ing] more progress in the GOP" because I know he knows "as absolute fact that [I don't] want Log Cabin to fail."
Of course he's right on both counts -- I believei that I recognize more than most gay non-Republicans how critical support from the GOP will be to hastening our full equality under the law. I regularly defend Log Cabin in part because I know how critical they will be to bringing the GOP around. In fact, that's precisely why I went on "such a tear": because I see Log Cabin mishandling what should be an enormous opportunity, not just to its own detriment but to the movement's as a whole.
Kevin agrees with me that Log Cabin needs to raise the bar each election cycle, and yet he somehow misses that in reality LCR set the bar in roughly the same place as 2004 and only infinitesimally higher than way back in 2000.
Eight years ago, Kevin reminds us, "Karl Rove did meet with Rich Tafel face-to-face at the 2000 GOP convention, and came to an agreement on a number of items in return for an endorsement, [but] he never -- EVER -- would have given a speech before our organization that convention week." Kevin doesn't let us in on what "items" Rove agreed to, and we've got no indication what "items" McCain's camp signed off on -- so comparison there is rather difficult.
The only visible difference we can see between eight years ago and now is the brief public appearance made by two McCain campaign officials at Log Cabin meetings during the convention, as well as the official credentials LCR received in St. Paul. Do those differences really amount to raising the bar -- commensurate with the growth in support for gay rights in general, and among Republicans in particular? It certainly doesn't to me.
Kevin portrays these mini-advances as achievements made in spite of the non-endorsement four years ago, bu I would argue that's got the politics backwards. The LCR refusal in 2004 served notice that an endorsement this time around was no sure thing, and the McCain camp had to worry about a repeat, along with a series of press appearances that to distract from wooing moderates and independents.
Most disappointing for me, however, was Kevin's failure in almost 1,800 words to say anything at all about how McCain in reality failed to chin even the meager bar that he says Log Cabin set for presidential candidates this cycle: opposition to a federal marriage amendment.
To make their case, Log Cabin and Kevin are still reaching back before this campaign season to a time when McCain fervently opposed an amendment as "antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans." That's ancient history, as they know far too well. A fair and objective assessment is that McCain is at best "conditionally opposed" or, I would argue, "conditionally in favor" of amending the nation's founding document to ban states from marrying same-sex couples.
As I've written until blue in the fingertips, McCain has been backing away from his opposition to a federal amendment throughout this campaign season, just as he backed away from condemning the Pat Robertsons of the party as "agents of intolerance." McCain's slow-motion flip-flop climaxed last month in pledge to support a federal marriage amendment if even one judge rules the notorious Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.
My issue with the Log Cabin endorsement isn't just the way it papers over what is supposed to be its line in the sand. I think those inside the Log Cabin bubble -- and those who spent years there -- underestimate their own potential to influence the party and the debate. Kevin would measure LCR's political power by the size of membership rolls orby the number of gay Republican voters.
They're forgetting the percentage of committed party activists -- like Republican delegates -- and GOP-leaning who are sympathetic to gay rights. Not to mention those who see scapegoating the gays as a sign of Republican intolerance and judgmentalism, however they feel about gay rights itself.
If Log Cabin were to play it's P.R. cards more effectively, it could play a major role in defining whether Republican candidates -- at whatever level -- are perceived as hard core conservatives or those of the "compassionate" variety.
That's why I think Kevin is off base in imagining Log Cabin would have been "declared finished" if it had "endorsed McCain by press release and gone home" to fight Proposition 8 in California. To the contrary, if Log Cabin had withheld its endorsement and done the media rounds to explain why, the media would have eaten it up -- just look at the press the hardcore Hillaryites got. The message would be clear thata candidate like McCain will pay a serious price for opposing every form of gay rights protection ever proposed, and backing away even from opposition to a federal amendment.
Instead, I'm afraid, the take-away message for GOP politicians and operatives is the one I took last week: opposing our equality doesn't really matter, even if like McCain the record is grossly out of touch with Republicans generally, so long as they say a few placating words.
September 05, 2008
Posted by: Kevin
Although Chris will slather the criticism on like layers of icing on a New Jersey Italian wedding cake, he gets credit for doling out the praise when it's due. (Well, a bit more was due for the Log Cabin Romney ads, but I digress.)
His post calling Log Cabin's endorsement of John McCain this week a "big mistake" was one of the longest he's ever posted, I think, and I can only speculate as to why he's been on such a tear about something that most observers saw coming far in advance. (I would speculate that it was for good reasons, that Chris truly wanted more progress in the GOP, because I know as absolute fact that he doesn't want Log Cabin to fail.) But I think Chris didn't have the context, the history and the real significance of Log Cabin's 2008 decision completely right, and that's where he missed the story.
As he's now reported, the endorsement was warmly accepted by the campaign, which dispatched two of its very senior leaders in person -- and before the media -- to say so. Mike DuHaime (l), the political director (and a Giuliani campaign alum) attended the announcement of the endorsement on Tuesday and gave remarks from the podium saying it was proof that McCain is running an inclusive campaign. Then, senior strategist Steve Schmidt (r), the man seen as the driving force behind McCain's general election campaign, attended an event Thursday and was more personal, effusive and explicit in what he saw as the meaning of Log Cabin's endorsement, and of the broader issues facing gay people, as someone who knows about it first hand as the brother of a lesbian. Schmidt called for Log Cabin to "keep fighting for what you believe in because the day is going to come." The video is here.
As Chris has already pointed out, this is very positive news. And I'll add that the endorsement was woven into it completely. Chris was right to say that the "bar must be lifted" on a consistent basis each election cycle, but he failed to grasp the context of where the bar actually was going into this election, and where it is now after the events in Minneapolis.
Log Cabin is an organization that represents, at best, 800,000 to 1 million votes, or a fraction of a percent of the turnout in the last presidential election. It is also the one group inside the GOP that grates more upon the better organized and more numerous Christian right than any other. And this is a group that publicly and bitterly broke with its party's nominee in the last election four years ago, leaving its access and political capital highly depleted for the second Bush term.
The political price Log Cabin paid for its correct stand in 2004 against George W. Bush may have been the highest of any of its decisions in its history. Already a target of extreme (and unceasing) attacks from the gay left, it was now cast out of the national GOP fold. All the more an indicator of great bravery for a group so small in the big picture. (Does anyone remember anything remotely similar contemplated in 1996 when Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act and then bragged about it through campaign ads on Christian radio stations in Colorado, despite being miles ahead in opinion polls?) Measuring where "the bar" would be for Log Cabin as the campaign began last year, therefore, was where I think Chris started to get things wrong.
As they set out with great hopes - despite having no ability to control events -- to fight their way back into the game in 2008, Log Cabin set a couple of basic bottom lines. Support for the Federal Marriage Amendment was a non-starter, and Mitt Romney - for his 180-degree turn away from Log Cabin and supporting gay rights - would have to be punished and stopped from becoming the nominee. And from that basis, they would seek every opportunity to build upward.
By the time they pulled into Minneapolis, Romney was gone, all the men who backed or voted for the FMA in the Congressional vote were defeated. The one man who voted -- and spoke on the floor -- against the FMA emerged the victor. Any Log Cabin leader will tell you that, apart from playing a constructive role in stopping Romney, the organization was in no position after the 2004 breach to have a substantial impact on the primary vote at the ground level or in coalition with Republican national leaders. (For this, their compelling pounce on Romney was a sign of the scrap that has always been in the group's DNA.) In reality, the biggest opportunity to rebuild the blown-up bridges in a way that advanced Log Cabin's mission inside the party would be around the convention and the endorsement decision.
If Log Cabin had merely shown up in Minneapolis, endorsed McCain by press release, and gone home saying they'd simply be focusing on the Proposition 8 fight in California, it would be clear signals that the 2004 action had been more damaging to their capacities inside the party than had been thought. Chris would have certainly declared them finished, and it would be hard to argue against. Some partisan gay Democrats would, of course, be cheering at such news; for purely petty and selfish reasons, they've wanted Log Cabin to fail and disappear for more than a decade. Throughout the blogosphere (including in the comments on this very site) many gays openly call for Log Cabin to be "shunned", to be "silenced", to be "punished" or to have their right to speak, to assemble or even to vote taken away. (The attack on the highly obscure Jonathan Crutchley was a perfect example of this mob mentality that does not, and has never existed, within Log Cabin in return.)
But this didn't happen. And it wasn't going to happen. If you believe that the McCain campaign is captured by the Christian right, and that McCain himself is "gay-bashing" to win this election, there was no sense in, and absolutely nothing that either DuHaime or Schmidt could have possibly gained from, going publicly before Log Cabin's delegation and saying the things they said. The backlash would have been far too severe, if those assumptions were true. And yet, there you are. It happened, and it was another first for a GOP presidential campaign. While Karl Rove did meet with Rich Tafel face-to-face at the 2000 GOP convention, and came to agreement on a number of items in return for an endorsement, he never -- EVER -- would have given a speech before our organization that convention week. And certainly not one with such a personal tone that connected directly to Log Cabin's "fight".
And so far, a pin can be heard dropping in response from within the party. In fact, a predominant theme of McCain's speech was "country before party." And say what you want of Governor Sarah Palin, but she gained office by unseating an incumbent Republican governor -- and a member of GOP royalty in the state -- in a primary election. That ought to give a hint as to how he might respond to a backlash.
And while I could end up being wrong, I doubt there will be one. Every Log Cabiner at the convention that I have contacted reported a level of warmth from more average delegates than at any other convention they ever attended. The poll of the delegates which showed a remarkable level of support for gay marriage or civil unions was not a surprise to many gay Republicans there. And Log Cabin got official credentials from the convention's host committee, had an official convention booth, had a hotel room block under their group's name with the RNC organizers, and had the national party provide them with sanctioned spaces for their events -- an absolute first for a group that has had to file lawsuits to be able to even have a pamphlet table at some state conventions. That is a major contrast between McCain and many of the arch-conservative fiefs in the more difficult regions of the country.
One other thing Chris mistakenly said over and over is that McCain "controlled" the delegates at the 2008 convention, and therefore could dictate the platform. As I tried to explain once before, this is a misnomer, and a misreading of the de facto situation of "control" of any Republican National Convention. It's no excuse for the condemnable platform that gets produced every four years. But no nominee will ever "control" the GOP platform -- far from it -- until the delegate selection rules are changed in nearly all of the key states. The state parties control the selection processes for delegates, and a long time ago the rules were fixed by a hard-core of far right activists to ensure that no matter who won a primary or a caucus, the delegates going to convention would be of the most hardline social conservative types, with the specific purpose of controlling the platform. In 1996, Bob Dole tried to shine a microscopic beam of light on the abortion plank and was shot down hard; he then quipped that he hadn't read the final version and didn't intend to. George W. Bush sent a platform draft to the 2000 convention that was scrubbed of much of the anti-gay language of the previous one, or softened notably. An organized, but highly outgunned, group of Log Cabin and pro-choice allies tried to preserve the draft, but were mowed down on plank after plank and the bad stuff was loaded back in. So, as Log Cabin spokesman Scott Tucker said adeptly this week, the platform "was not the hill we were going to die on."
And wisely so. That is a battle for later. For now, Log Cabin has re-emerged from the disaster of the FMA and is re-booting their fight within the Republican Party with a new vigor and a new set of challenges to take on. What they scored in return for their endorsement in the bigger context of where they came from is extraordinary, and due entirely to their undying persistence in moving forward no matter what gets thrown at them.
And I agree with McCain's most senior aide that "the day is going to come" for Log Cabin's fight to be won.
Posted by: Chris
UPDATE: Now we have video, and Schmidt's remarks are very welcome.
"We are the party of freedom," he said, citing Abraham Lincoln as the GOP's founder. "And as a party we strive to … reach that goal, and we'll keep fighting as a party to reach it in full. And I think over time it will be reached in full."
I have to wonder if he or McCain will face backlash.
(Hat tip: My more skeptical pal over at Good As You)
My original post:
More encouraging news out of the Republican convention:
John McCain's senior campaign strategist Steve Schmidt showed up at a Log Cabin meeting to, in his words, "pay my respect and campaign’s respect to your organization and to your group":
“Your organization is an important one in the fabric of our party,” said Schmidt, who many view as the new architect of the Republican Party.
In his brief remarks, Schmidt weaved in a personal anecdote about his lesbian sister and her relationship to him, his wife, and his children. “On a personal level, my sister and her partner are an important part of my life and our children’s life,” he said. “I admire your group and your organization and I encourage you to keep fighting for what you believe in because the day is going to come.”
Those are strong words, especially when he predicts "the day is going to come" that the GOP will come around on gay rights. Apparently Schmidt had read the polling that shows that the delegates to the Republican convention are actually out ahead of voters in supporting civil unions or marriage for same-sex couples.
An Advocate story about Schmidt's remarks also reports that Log Cabin received official credentials from the convention host committee for the first time ever.
Still, given Schmidt's influential role, those words ring hollow since the McCain campaign went along with a Republican platform plank that backed the same federal marriage amendment the nominee himself supposedly opposes. And with inflammatory rhetoric, claiming it was necessary to "preserve our children's future."
We've had eight years with the second most powerful man in the White House backing civil unions and supporting his lesbian daughter and her partner. The effect on policy was nil. It's long past time that the Republican powerful who "get it" to do something about it.
If Scmidt is right, and he surely is, that our "day will come" even within the Republican party, what exactly are he and Dick Cheney and the rest doing about it?
September 03, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Since I've been pretty harsh on Log Cabin for endorsing the McCain-Palin ticket, I feel especially obliged to point out some positive developments in these early days of the Republican National Convention.
By far the most impressive was some polling data that got buried in the updates to my post on the LCR nod. According to a CBS-New York Times survey of the Republican delegates, fully half (well, 48%) of the delegates support either gay marriage or civil unions for same-sex couples.
Here's my homemade chart that breaks down the percentages among delegates and voters from each party. It's clearer that really civil unions are the option that the GOP delegates go for, but that's not the real shocker:
Civil unions register 15 percentage points higher support among Republican delegates than among the party's voters, and the combined support for either marriages or civil unions register 10 points higher among delegates than voters.
On the one hand, it's incredibly encouraging to see that level of support among Republican delegates for marriage or its legal equivalent for same-sex couples. This should come as a wake-up call to those on the left who consider the GOP to be a lost cause on our issues.
On the other hand, it should come as a wake-up call to Log Cabin that it's high time to raise the bar on its expectations from presidential hopefuls, since fully half the party's delegates are already there on the issue.
Before gay Democrats feel too comfy, however, they need to consider raising the bar themselves. With a majority (55%) of the party's delegates supporting full marriage equality and half of all Democratic voters feeling likewise, there is another disconnect there with the party's (viable) presidential candidates, none of whom were willing to go the distance on full marriage equality.
(Hat tip: Marc Armbinder)
A few other positive tidbits:
RNC's Shrinking Violet (ok, Lavender)
Log Cabin announced that about two dozen openly delegates and alternates (out of about 2,400 total) are attending this week's Republican convention in Minneapolis. That sounds like good news, but it's only one-third the number from just four years ago, when there were about 40. (Some 277 out GLBT delegates -- out of 4,400 total -- were selected for the Democratic convention, for those of you keeping count at home.)
I know I said this post would feature positive news from the Republican convention, but I just can't help myself on this one:
The Virginia delegation to the Republican National Convention canceled their order of The Rake magazine's "Secrets of the City" guide because it includes a section for gays and lesbians. The publication is a guide to various attractions in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and the gay section contains non-sexual information about local bars and events.
The campaign for Virginia's Lt. Governor Bill Bolling ordered 150 of the guides to give to Virginia delegates as gifts when they arrived in the Twin Cities. But after reviewing the guide and finding it had a six-page section for gays and lesbians, they canceled their order, said AJ Kiefer, The Rake's advertising director.
"We need to cancel the order for 150 of the 'Secrets of the City' guidebooks, Melissa Busse, Bolling's political director, wrote in an email to The Rake. "Upon looking at it, though, having a section dedicated solely to GLBT will be a BIG problem for many of our folks. We simply can't hand them out."
Actually, this does qualify as good news. I can't imagine how those on the right could possibly make themselves look more foolish. Makes you wonder why exactly they were so afraid that their delegation might learn where the gay hot spots are…
A handful of gay bloggers got credentials to cover the Democratic National Convention -- Andy Towle (Towleroad), Daniel DeRito (Thought Theater) and Pam Spaulding, Russ Belville and (my favorite!) Autumn Sandeen from Pam's House Blend.
But it's pretty fantastic that Dan Blatt (Gay Patriot West of the Gay Patriot blog) was awarded credentials as an out gay blogger covering the GOP confab.
I had the pleasure of meeting Dan at the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association convention in San Diego last year, and came away very impressed. He's a very fun and engaging guy, and my jaw was agape at how he can bang out on-the-spot posts in the time it takes me to form my thoughts on what I might have to say.
Jim Kolbe first came out while serving as a Republican congressman from Arizona when he thought he was about to be outed by the Advocate and gay activists who were angry that he voted for the Defense of Marriage Act (a vote he finally recanted last year). So it's a bit surprising (and fun) to see him engaging in a bit of public gossip about closeted party brethren still serving.
In a well-received speech at Log Cabin's Big Tent Event yesterday, Kolbe remarked on the fact that his retirement in January last year left no openly gay Republicans in Congress:
“Don’t worry, there are others there,” Kolbe said of gays in the House. “We just need to make them feel more comfortable.”
You taking notes, Mike Rogers? Er, let's hope not.
Less fun was Kolbe's full-throated endorsement of John McCain, based in part on the reaction the Arizona senator had back in '96 to Kolbe's big gay news:
Kolbe described confiding his sexual orientation years ago to McCain, who he said cut him off and held up his hands. “None of that makes any difference,” Kolbe quoted McCain as saying. “You were my friend yesterday and you’ll be my friend tomorrow.”
That reaction is to McCain's credit, of course, and I remember him issuing a public statement that same year when my good buddy Neil Giuliano came out while serving as mayor of Tempe, Ariz. You may recognize the name because Neil has been doing a bang-up job since 2005 running the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).
If only the partisan hacks on the Human Rights Campaign board had selected Neil instead of a certain someone earlier that very same year. (Just kidding with the "hacks" comment, of course. Kevin's turn of phrase is still ringing in my ears. Not kidding with the partisan part, though.)
FYI, CQ Politics erroneously reported that Kolbe is the only openly gay Republican ever in Congress, forgetting Wisconsin Rep. Steve Gunderson, who served from 1981 to 1997, and was outed on the floor of the House in 1994 by GOP blowhard Bob Dornan (R-Calif.) in 1994.
Whatever happened to Gunderson anyway? He was the guest speaker at my first ever Log Cabin meeting, about 14 years ago now, and I'll admit to coming away a bit crushed out. Anybody out there help out with a "where is he now"?
September 02, 2008
Posted by: Chris
UPDATES embedded and at the end of the post. Be sure to refresh your browser because I've added in quite a lot.
Is political insanity running rampant among Republicans these days?
First, John McCain threw good sense to the wind and tapped Sarah Palin as his running mate, even though she is untested and astonishingly unqualified to be one septuagenarian heartbeat away from the presidency.
Now Log Cabin joins in the fall foolishness by going forward with an endorsement of the McCain-Palin ticket without even waiting to ask, much less get answers, about the Alaska governor’s unknown views on a range of issues important to gay Americans. We only learned today, for example, that she opposes hate crime laws.
(UPDATE: LCR told Reuters it is taking "a wait and see approach with Gov. Palin about her views on gay issues." Huh? A bit late for that at this point.)
My understanding is that Mike DuHaime, the McCain campaign's political director, thanked Log Cabin from the podium today at the group's luncheon. That's encouraging, though let's see if there's any acknowledgment from the podium of the convention itself. Then again, why wouldn't the political director say thanks? The LCR nod helps confuse voters into believing McCain is a "compassionate conservative" on social issues, and he had to do next to nothing to get it.
(UPDATE: DuHaime told Congressional Quarterly the Log Cabin endorsement is "very helpful" because McCain is "running an inclusive campaign." I rest my case.)
It’s as if our gay Republican friends forgot the basic politics of the carrot and the stick. Now that McCain and Palin are happily chomping away on the endorsement carrot that Log Cabin could have kept dangling in front of them, all they’re left with is the stick. With apologies to my friends among their number, including my beloved co-blogger Kevin, gay Republicans aren’t exactly known for carrying a big stick.
With the Log Cabin endorsement in hand, the pressure is off Palin to commit either publicly or privately to what some accounts suggest is her “openness to anti-discrimination legislation.” If McCain is elected, inside support from Palin might be the best shot at avoiding a veto of workplace protection, since the “inclusive” senator from Arizona has voted against such legislation multiple times.
Cynics will no doubt see the rushed endorsement as a desperate ploy by Log Cabin to gain entree into the GOP’s “big tent,” a concept that gay and pro-choice Republicans have demonstrated a much greater commitment to than has the rest of the party.
Witness how McCain picked Palin after he was forced to bypass his first two choices, Tom Ridge and Joe Lieberman, because social conservatives vowed a floor fight over their selection solely because Lieberman is pro-gay and both favor abortion rights.
This two-issue litmus test gives no credit to the eminent qualification and political advantages of both: Ridge, a former Homeland Security secretary, was twice elected governor of Pennsylvania, a crucial swing state, and Lieberman, a longtime Connecticut senator, was Al Gore’s running mate and has broad appeal among independents, conservative Democrats and Jewish voters.
Yet these same conservatives are ecstatic about Palin despite her obvious weaknesses because she chose not to abort her fifth child after learning he’d be born with Down’s Syndrome. (It also mattered not that this special-needs child is still an infant and requires far greater attention than Palin could give as vice president or president.)
(UPDATE: After reading the early comment train to this post, I officially regret including the above parenthetical about Palin's infant son. Not because I think I was wrong, but because it's a total tangent from the rest of the post.)
Pete Kingma, Log Cabin’s board chair, defended the endorsement by claiming McCain enjoyed “overwhelming support” among members. Listening to the grassroots is a good thing, and no doubt some gay Republicans will conclude that non-gay issues outweigh McCain's opposition to every form of gay rights legislation ever introduced at any level of government. But a record like that ought to preclude official backing from a gay rights group like Log Cabin.
The national board's decision not to endorse President Bush four years ago divided Log Cabin's members and donors, even though he had pushed for a federal marriage amendment. Even so, a rushed decision to satisfy internal critics who insist on a litmus test based on party affiliation is exactly what Log Cabin has for years rightly criticized the Human Rights Campaign and gay Democrats of doing.
Log Cabin President Patrick Sammon insists McCain earned the nod by opposing Bush’s marriage amendment:
Sen. McCain showed courage by bucking his own party’s leadership and the president – twice voting against the amendment. He gave an impassioned speech on the Senate floor, calling the amendment "antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans."
Sammon’s statement is most remarkable more for what it leaves out — for one, McCain’s opposition was entirely based on states’ rights, not support for legal recognition of same-sex couples. He even appeared in TV ads backing an amendment to his home state’s constitution that was so extreme – banning gay marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships and even D.P. benefits – that Arizona voters rejected it back in 2006.
Sammon also neglects to mention that for awhile now McCain has been backing away from his opposition to a federal amendment, and he pledged last month to back an amendment if even one judge rules the notorious Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.
McCain’s motive is transparently political, considering that DOMA itself is profoundly “antithetical” to states’ rights, since it requires the federal government to completely disregard those states that recognize gay relationships, and allows sister states to do likewise.
It’s no surprise, then, that even though McCain controls an overwhelming majority of delegates, he went along with a Republican platform plank saying that to “preserve our children’s future,” the country needs a federal amendment to block marriage and “other arrangements equivalent to it,” meaning civil unions.
When McCain completes his inevitable, slow motion flip-flop, he will actually be worse on gay issues than President Bush.
(UPDATE: Sammon told Reuters that "Sen. McCain is no George Bush when it comes to gay issues. We are much more optimistic and enthusiastic about Sen. McCain." Why is that? President Bush has never said how he feels about non-discrimination and hate crimes legislation. Despite veto threats from his staff, there was some indication he might have signed ENDA or the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill if they had passed the Democratic Congress after certain limiting amendments.)
Log Cabin has made a big deal of its “productive” relationship with the GOP nominee's campaign, which they hope will translate into White House access if McCain is elected. Declining to endorse might risk that door slamming shut, but going along to get along sends the more dangerous signal that opposition on the issues doesn’t matter so long as Republicans answer the phone when Log Cabin calls.
NOTE: Sammon offered one other justification that's worth noting, praising McCain as "a different kind of Republican" from those who "use divisive social issues in an effort to win elections." That whopper is deserving of its own post, so stay tuned for that…
UPDATES: Sammon exaggerated McCain's record even more in an interview with CNN:
He’s a very inclusive Republican, a different type of Republican. At the same time we have honest disagreements on some issues.
"Very inclusive"? "Some issues"?! Does Sammon qualify as a "partisan hack" at this point, Kevin? ;)
And this in the same CNN report from Log Cabin member David Valkema, a director of a fine arts foundation in Chicago:
Exactly where does Valkema see that in McCain's decades-long record of opposing every form of gay rights legislation?
Have these good folks forgotten entirely how they gave George W. Bush the benefit of the doubt back in 2000 and got royally burned as a result? Do they realize how much more they are giving to McCain than he has or will give back to them?
Shame on Reuters, by the way, for reporting Sammon's praise for McCain "not inflaming passions around the issue of gay marriage," then noting "proposals to ban same-sex unions will be on the ballot … in California and Florida" and failing to mention McCain gave his public support for the California measure.
I've also yet to see a single MSM press report that notes how McCain has backed away from his opposition to the federal marriage amendment.
This from Roll Call:
The nod is significant not just because it allows the party a semblance of unity between its socially conservative and moderate wings but also because Log Cabin is announcing its decision earlier than it has in any recent presidential election. … Four years ago, the group made its non-endorsement [of Bush] by the end of September. In 2000 and 1996, the group endorsed Bush and former Sen. Robert Dole (R-Kan.), respectively, after the GOP conventions.
With this history in mind, Log Cabin's early nod this time around is even less defensible -- especially since Sammon says they're taking "a wait and see" attitude toward Palin.
This important nugget courtesy of Marc Armbinder:
A CBS News / New York Times poll finds that 48% of Republican delegates support either gay marriage or civil unions for gay people.
With very encouraging numbers like that, Log Cabin ought to have raised the bar on what it takes to win their backing, especially considering McCain opposes absolutely any form of recognition, including largely symbolic domestic partnership registries by local governments and not-so-symbolic D.P. benefits by any level of government or public universities and the like.
Jimmy LaSalvia, director of programs and policy for the Log Cabin Republicans, told Reuters yesterday in the video interview below that Sarah Palin's "priorities are our priorities," and "if being anti-gay was a priority for her, we would know about it."
This is the problem with rushing to endorse, Jimmy, since Palin actually indicated in a 2006 questionnaire to the conservative Eagle Forum that her No. 2 priority as governor would be "preserving the definition of 'marriage' as defined in our constitution." That definition, of course, was established by a 1998 ballot measure that amended the constitution to overturn a preliminary ruling by the Alaska Supreme Court that excluding gay couples from marriage violated equal protection.
LaSilvia also credited Palin (in a mainstream press interview, no less) for her D.P. benefits veto without any mention of her reluctance to do so, her opposition to any benefits for same-sex couples or her support for yet another constitutional amendment to accomplish what the bill she vetoed legally could not.
Alas, the "fall foolishness" continues unabated…
Another video interview, this time Patrick Sammon on CNN. It's actully less bad than the other MSM interviews Log Cabin has done, but that's not saying much. Sammon corrects anchor Soledad O'Brien's suggestion that McCain supports a federal marriage amendment but (a) never answers her central question about why the nominee who controls the delegates allowed a platform plank to contradict his supposedly fervent opposition, and (b) never acknowledges how McCain has backed away from his opposition on the issue.
The big problem here, of course, is that Sammon does a huge disservice to gay rights by misrepresents McCain as a "much different Republican" than President Bush, when in fact he is worse than the president on issues besides the amendment (i.e., non-discrimination and hate crime laws, and Bush has spoken somewhat approvingly of civil unions, which McCain would ban, along with domestic partnerships and D.P. benefits by public entities). Hat tip: Rebecca Armendariz/Blade Blog
August 31, 2008
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)
August 29, 2008
Posted by: Kevin
But many Americans down in the lower 48 are asking themselves, who the hell is Sarah Palin?
The Governor of Alaska is perhaps best known anywhere for having an approval rating of around 90% in her home state, which for any Republican these days is a remarkable achievement. And Palin is 44 years old, three years younger than Barack Obama.
And no matter who she is or what she believes on a full range of federal matters of interest to gay people, the press releases calling her the girlfriend of Satan and the most dangerous, hateful maniac in history are no doubt flying off the laser printers of gay Democratic hacks as we speak. They will wisely leap on how unknown she is, and will burst into a chorus of screeching like the finger-pointing little girls in "The Crucible." They saw Goody Palin with the Devil.
What little I know about her is that she is a native of Idaho and a social conservative, but cut from the Alaska cloth in terms of her politics. She is much more active in the pro-life movement, largely tied to the symbolism of her personal experience (she gave birth to her fifth son in April, who was diagnosed with Down's Syndrome early in the pregnancy).
On gay issues, there is a discordant mix. Palin said during her 2006 campaign for governor that she has many close gay friends, and that she is "not out to judge anyone." She used her first veto as Governor to strike down a law which would ban domestic partner benefits for same-sex couples, effectively clearing the way for those benefits to be granted, when the state's Supreme Court found the measure unconstitutional. She complied with the decision, but also said she would support putting the issue to the voters in a referendum. "Signing this bill would be a direct violation of my oath of office," she said at the time. In April 2007, 53% of the voters in Alaska gave their approval to putting the issue on the ballot this year, but the measure has not been put forward. Palin also supported the state's ban on gay marriage in 1998, and said she didn't know whether being gay is a choice or not, but the exact quotes on those positions are not available anywhere. All of this needs a lot more definition from Palin herself.
However, for those who continue harboring a concern that Barack Obama does not have the experience to be President, Palin's resume is even thinner. A year and a half in office as governor, and years of experience in civic politics before that. No national experience and no foreign policy background. The one area where she has some real gravitas is on energy policy, which is a crucial one in this election. However, as those who doubt Obama's experience may persist in them, one could also argue that Obama's camp couldn't credibly lob the same criticism at the number two on the GOP ticket when their number one has the same problem. McCain would win that draw in the minds of many.
Palin was elected in 2006 -- an upset victory against better funded and better known candidates, on the worst year for Republicans in a generation. For those who followed that race, she truly earned it. At a time when the state's GOP establishment is sinking in sleaze - embodied in the now-indicted Senator Ted Stevens on corruption charges - Palin personally went public with her knowledge of a corruption scandal that involved the state's Republican Party chairman and the Republican state Attorney General, both of whom were brought down by the scandal, and she crusaded against much of the pork barrel spending that Stevens himself became famous for, including the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere". All of this is in line with McCain's own reformist agenda, and she is probably the most successful maverick Republican in office. Perhaps McCain will bask in her success, and the pick is more one of synchronizing attitude on reformist zeal. Palin will also be a ferocious running mate, and an effective attack dog, if her upset 2006 campaign is any indication. She will also spend her time going after every disaffected Hillary voter she can sink her nails into, especially in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Iowa and Michigan, among other states.
I'll leave it to Log Cabin to do the grunt work of reaching out to Palin and McCain and reporting back to all of us on their progress. Nobody else will have any hope of impacting the ticket. Their endorsement is not a dead letter now, as Romney has been brushed aside. The question is whether McCain wants to gain it, no matter which non-Romney has joined as his veep.
August 28, 2008
Posted by: Kevin
John McCain is expected to announce his running mate in the next 24 hours. The rising speculation from Republican and conservative circles is that it will be Mitt Romney, McCain's defeated foe from the primaries. Knowing how Republican activists and pundits operate, the buzz could be a combination of wishful thinking, bullpen calculations and a bit of actual intelligence from balloon-floating campaign aides. Who knows?
What is known for sure is that, besides McCain himself, no more than four or five of his aides know the name of his choice at this hour.
A couple things would be certain if the choice really is Mitt Romney. It would be the end of the road for McCain with a lot of gay Republicans, whose loathing of Romney is perhaps even more intense than for much of the Christian Right's various backbenchers, given his betrayal of a decade of strong public support for gay rights (and strong gay Republican support in return) once his ill-fated presidential campaign began. A Romney pick would also make a Log Cabin endorsement for McCain nearly impossible, despite the iron will among some hardline partisans within the organization to ensure an endorsement at almost any cost. From what I can measure picking Romney would be felt like a knife in the chest even by some of McCain's oldest and strongest admirers within Log Cabin.
It is also hard to imagine what good Romney would bring to McCain's presidential effort. He's a very wealthy man and a gigantic target by an increasingly populist Democratic Party, particularly among those looking to bring Hillary Clinton's working-class whites back into the fold. Perhaps Romney could help in his native Michigan, though it has been 40 years since his father was governor so one wonders how many voters today actually remember his father. Michigan has been hemorrhaging jobs so Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital, where layoffs were sometimes part of the “turn around strategy” for good or bad, will cause problems among blue collar voters.
Also, Romney’s selection could only hurt in frighteningly vulnerable states for the GOP like Georgia, North Carolina and Mississippi, where Republican base voters are evangelical Christians whose petulant intolerance against "heretics" (like the Mormon former governor of Massachusetts) has been intensely stoked by their political leaders for too long to change course this late in the game. There are a lot of evangelical voters in the GOP fold who would rather vote for pro-choice Rudy Giuliani than for an adherent to a religion that many of them consider a cult. Political 'heresy' is very different from outright religious heresy to those folks.
Romney was also defeated in the primaries largely because of Republican unease with his oily shift on so many issues -- he was a pro-choice, pro-gay reformist 1994 Senate candidate and governor from 2002 to 2006 who suddenly pirouetted into a staunchly anti-gay, anti-abortion midwesterner before he even left the statehouse in Boston. He leapt on the anti-gay-marriage train so severely and eagerly that he gleefully self-immolated in Boston to foist his martyrdom aloft for all the Red States to see. It won him enough calculating Republican activists to gain traction in some of the primaries, and to generate lots of buzz, but McCain and Mike Huckabee tore at his flanks from both sides fairly easily right out of the gate and Romney was stopped.
Picking Romney would also raise more doubts about McCain's own beliefs, especially among his most fanatical primary supporters who bitterly fought Romney in every state they contested. The McCainiacs were fighting against a man who came to represent the worst aspects of a post-Bush GOP establishment: an empty suit, a weirdly naive and creepily clean-cut face ready to believe anything and do anything to win. It would also cement a disturbing transformation inside McCain himself. For a man, whose great appeal has been rooted in his maverick instincts, to choose Romney as his running mate at this moment of triumph would be perplexing and confusing to independent voters, who shunned Romney in the primaries. And that could cost McCain the margin he desperately needs to hold in November.
Whoever McCain picks, the reasons behind it, and the strategy it will come to represent, should become very clear over the weekend as the campaign rolls out its ticket in a battleground state tour that will end up in Minneapolis. We'll be seeing the final touches being placed on the real campaign that will be unfolding over the coming months.
Here's hoping the campaign isn't over by this time tomorrow. Those of us who remain undecided have fairly open minds, but not that open.
August 16, 2008
Posted by: Chris
I hope my gay Republican friends pay close heed to the very disturbing answer that John McCain gave tonight on marriage. Much of it was not new, including his generous willingness to allow gay Americans in relationships to enter into "legal arrangements" with each other -- at least our right to private contracts isn't at risk! But it is grossly disingenuous to say we should have "the same rights as other citizens" when he's just made clear that we can't marry -- a basic human right -- and in fact he opposes any form of legal recognition for same-sex couples, whether it be civil unions, domestic partnerships or even D.P. benefits offered by public institutions like universities and hospitals.
That wasn't even the disturbing part. McCain also made much clearer than he has to date that if "any federal court" says that one state, like his home sweet home in Arizona, has to recognize gay marriages from other states, then he'll reverse his "courageous" opposition to a federal constitutional amendment banning all states from marrying same-sex couples.
It matters not to McCain, who claims to respect federalism and the role of the states to decide these questions, that the U.S. Constitution may well require each state to recognize and respect the decision other states have made on this question -- just as they do on almost every other similar decision. If some federal judge somewhere decides the notorious Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, probably because of the U.S. Constitution's "full faith and credit clause," then McCain is fully on board with George W. Bush, Rick Santorum, and other hard-right-wingers who would amend our nation's founding document to forever ban any state from deciding the issue for itself.
(Note: If this overturning DOMA is really McCain's trigger, then he ought to support a limited federal amendment that enshrines the portion of DOMA that provides one state should not have to recognize gay marriages from other states. His answer belies a political, and cynical, willingness to go much, much further.)
Perhaps even most disturbing was his list of current Supreme Court justices he believes should not have been nominated: Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Steven Breyer, appointed by President Clinton, and John Paul Stevens and David Souter, nominated by Republican Presidents Ford and Bush Sr. All four were eminently qualified and confirmed by wide Senate majorities. You don't get any clearer glimpse at the Supreme Court that a President McCain envisions.
The real irony of this clear, new statement from McCain on a federal marriage amendment is how it came only minutes after he listed Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.), the black civil rights pioneer who fervently supports gay marriage, as one of the three "wise" men he would rely on as president. Then, only moments later, he offered as America's "greatest moral failure" our inability to defend the rights of those different from ourselves.
(Late-added note: Obama's answer was actually worse. In addition to his wife and 85-year-old grandmother -- really? they are the wisest people to turn to on matters of state? so much for arguing 71-year-old McCain is too old to trust! -- he offered up Sam Nunn, the former Georgia senator who is an expert on defense issues, as well as forcing the bigoted "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy on a president of his own party. Is this a veep hint? Please, no!)
There's no way to square his respect for Lewis and civil rights with his complete disregard for the lives and hopes of gay Americans. His views on legal recognition of gay couples are to the right of the vast majority of Americans, and even President Bush himself -- who has spoken favorably about civil unions.
Rhetoric about civil rights is empty and hypocritical if in almost the same breath John McCain can assert such hardened views about lesbian and gay Americans.
An endorsement from Log Cabin really ought to be unthinkable now.
(Photo of John McCain and Pastor Rick Warren via Justin Sullivan/Getty)
Posted by: Kevin
The Republicans will converge on Minneapolis barely a breath and a half after Barack Obama's stadium acceptance speech in Denver. But the event beginning on September 1 will probably -and sadly- be predictable. As with the Democrats, the Republican National Convention has evolved into an enormously irrelevant exercise beyond the likely debut of the vice-presidential pick, and the chance for John McCain to capture the attention of the American people (and actually hold it for more than a few minutes if he can manage to ditch his alarmingly wooden delivery from various primary victory nights). While McCain is not likely to physically bolt the convention hall for his one appearance before the delegates -- like Obama wisely will -- in his gut he probably will want to.
McCain is just as likely as Obama to be more hurt than helped by the confab of his party's activists - probably a lot more. In fact, despite waving signs with his name all over them, most of them loathe their nominee deep down for his middle-of-the-road views on many issues, and are thinking more of their desperate hopes to hang onto the White House than their real feelings. The GOP doesn't have superdelegates per se (although state party chairs and national committee members are guaranteed delegate status), but several states select delegates for the national convention in a similarly bizarre manner under state rules that were adopted to make sure that no matter who the nominee is, there would still be an overwhelming number of extreme-right conservatives in enough delegations to ensure that the party's platform will remain an enjoyable read in the original German.
And that's another thing. While the Democratic platform is a huge camouflage operation intended to hide the contempt that its party's base has for the rest of the country, the Republicans put all the hate and contempt and twisted ideas of their extremists right out on paper for the world to see - and for the hapless nominee to waste time trying to shake off like a piece of toilet paper glued to his shoe.
The Democrats might pay lip service to gay rights now and then (although they decided to give up on the "g" word this year) without really caring at all about the issue as a national party, but the Republican conventioneers have cared a lot, a LOT, about gay rights since it started popping up at conventions in the 1980s. Gay marriage, gays in the military, gay adoption, employment discrimination, partner benefits, even the rights of domestic partners in the District of Columbia, and gays in the Boy Scouts - you name it. Gay rights is always in the GOP platform, in that the document usually reflects the abiding hatred that the religious right and its convention soldiers hold for any kind of progress we have made or might make in legal or political terms, written in often lurid ways that depart from the majority thinking of the American people.
The evolution of the abortion issue is an interesting illustration of the horrendous shortcomings of the GOP Convention in ever reflecting the reality of American opinion, thanks to its delegate selection rules in most states. While the American people might be queasy about unfettered abortion, they long ago closed ranks against a constitutional amendment abolishing it. Yet, the Republican platform still trumpets an abortion plank out of the political dark ages, and if even a pro-choice Republican somehow win the nomination he or she'd have to stay away from that sacred plank or else. The same attitude has encrusted around all things gay, despite polls which put public support as very high for lifting the military ban, very high for employment non-discrimination laws, and even heading upward for gay marriage.
This has always put Republican advocates for gay rights (and movement to the center on abortion) in a tough position inside the party machine. In my years on staff at Log Cabin Republicans, we always looked at taking on the platform somehow and even on years when we were blessed with scores of gay rights supporters in the state delegations -- even openly gay delegates -- and even with some state leaders ready to go to bat for us in platform committee meetings, the math was clearly never going to be remotely with us. No matter what the vast majority of Republican primary voters even believed, the delegate selection rules were cooked long ago. Rudy Giuliani or William Weld could have won 100% of the vote in the Texas primary, for example, and the Texas delegation would still have been made up mostly of hateful activists aligned with the religious right movement. In 1996, Bob Dole gave up on his effort to adjust the platform on social issues, and just quipped to a reporter that he didn't read the platform and didn't intend to. I expect McCain will do the same, whether he says so or not.
I spoke with a number of Log Cabin activists in the past few weeks, and I saw a remarkable level of focus around the realities of the 2008 election campaign. It's not the hopeless 2004 election, but it's also not the idealistic 2000 campaign either, where Bush had a public meeting with gays and said he was "a better man" for it. One longtime member was very direct. He said the gay community is kidding itself if it thinks the gay vote will make a difference one way or the other:
"Look at the 2004 vote - with [Log Cabin] openly against Bush, and the gay Democrats in full attack with their vote-or-die scenarios, the vote was still about the same as in 2000. Bush still got 20 to 25 percent of the gay vote. And Kerry's gay vote didn't make a difference one way or the other. So this isn't about kidding ourselves that gays matter to either party. It's about whether gays are positioned to have an impact on the next administration whoever wins."
That jarred me. To me, this was a departure from the idealism we come to expect from political activists. At least, the way gay Democrats talk about the need for a virtual one-party regime as a matter of life and death, you'd expect some kind of idealistic thought to motivate the gay political leaders of today. But what I heard from a number of gay Republicans I talked to this month was consistent: Log Cabin's endorsement isn't about getting gay votes, or about promoting a set of gay rights legislation. The gay GOP vote will be there no matter what, and the legislative goals will be dictated by the Democrats (if they care to even talk about them). In 2008, it's a question of having a chance to impact a McCain Administration, or being on the outs (as it has been the last four years with the current one) at a time when the so-called leading groups, like the Human Rights Campaign, are in the GOP freezer in just about every corner of the nation and will stay there for years to come.
I remember that the hope, back in the formative 1990s, was that Log Cabin would be able to raise the bar every four years and slowly leverage public opinion and moderate voters to pressure Republican candidates to go further than the last one. As another gay Republican leader told me last week, gay marriage has landed on that vision like a bomb, both for bad and for good. It led to a permanent break between Log Cabin and the Bush Administration, and from that moment on things largely collapsed after some promising developments in the first two years. And in just the past four years, the bar on gay rights has been raised so high -- especially after the arrival of gay marriage in California -- that the incrementalist path and the various legislative vehicles for traveling down it (ENDA, the federal hate crimes law, etc.) must be totally reviewed and adapted for the new reality. I agree with that notion -- and I think it also can be seen on the somewhat panicked faces of many national Democrats looking at California and wondering what it will lead to.
One thing I'll give the Log Cabiners credit for -- they have a grip on reality. Their party's convention and much of its base activists form the center of opposition to gay progress, and yet they are still marching into that convention hall, have a history with McCain, they are going to declare a set of goals before the election, and they're going to make themselves accountable for them after it. They are going to try to collect political capital, even if it is pocket change, and they are going to spend it all.
Say what you want about gay Republicans, but despite the enormous difference in atmosphere in their own party, I don't see one single gay Democratic organization -- de facto or de jure -- doing the same for this election cycle. Perhaps the experience of promising a rainbow revolution with a Democratic Congress, only to see it pop like a balloon in practice the last two years, has jarred them about overpromising. But are things that bad behind the Wizard's curtain that they can't make any set of public goals at all? Have they no political capital at all to spend, even in 2008?
I don't want to believe that the gay Democrats are all hot air -- I know and admire many of their leading lights, and know many to be serious people. Why are they allergic to clear, public goals on gay issues and accountability for them? If Log Cabin - with all the limits and challenges they face - can be sanguine about their endorsement process and their role in the big picture, albeit small, why can't there be some outside group of gay Democrats (like HRC) who set forth a clear agenda that they intend to carry out in an Obama presidency?
After the hundreds of millions of gay dollars raised and spent over the last 20 odd years of this stuff, it would be a horrendously depressing conclusion if all it has bought us is a gay Democratic establishment that, behind the expensive glitter, exists only by the permission and good humor of its party's leaders, and a small gay Republican insurgency, battered as it is, which would be the only channel of information for a GOP administration that itself would be a minefield whether the Oval Office was inhabited by a friendly face or not.
[Photo from The Simpsons (Fox). Note: Sorry this is a day late, but we had an internet outage in our building last night. -K]
July 22, 2008
Posted by: Chris
There’s been no such thing as the summer doldrums this election season, what with fevered speculation over running mates and overseas trips with dueling photo ops set up to appear more “presidential.”
Far more consequential, if much less made-for-TV, are the bare knuckles battles that lie ahead over the platforms to be adopted by the Republicans and Democrats, setting forth not just principles but the down and dirty policy positions of each party.
In past presidential election years, many of the platform planks were already decided on by mid-July, usually in proverbial backrooms with only longtime insiders participating.
The process is indeed underway this year, but both parties are making at least perfunctory attempts to seek input from average voters. Color me skeptical, since the platforms are ultimately voted on by the convention delegates, so Barack Obama and John McCain already control the outcome before the process even begins.
Even still, now is the time when the two campaigns are gauging the public’s temperature on the hot-button issues that tend to be the focus of platform fights. Of course, gay rights will be right up there with abortion, immigration and Iraq when it comes to slicing up language to appeal to the many who will vote in November, while avoiding offense to the few whose dollars and grassroots muscle can make the difference on Election Day.
Four years ago, both party platforms were a big gay disappointment. The Republicans’ were something of an expected disaster. With Karl Rove in charge and social conservatives one of the few constituencies that President Bush could count on, the anti-gay planks practically wrote themselves.
GOP delegates rejected efforts by Log Cabin Republicans to oppose gay marriage without specifically endorsing the federal amendment backed by the president. In fact, the platform went further, decrying legal recognition of civil unions and domestic partnerships as “living arrangements” – why didn’t they just say “living in sin”? – that shouldn’t be treated like marriage.
It will be interesting to see how the Republican platform tackles marriage this time around, since John McCain said on the Senate floor that the federal marriage amendment was “antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans.” The marriage plank will likely focus instead on leaving the issue to the states decide, which mean the real battle will be over whether the platform hints or insists on the answer that states should reach.
A defeat for Log Cabin would be a marriage plank that backs state amendments like the one pending in California -- or even more draconian amendments like the one McCain endorsed but which failed in Arizona two years ago. A victory would be one that leaves the question more open to the states, while including the familiar battle cry against “unelected judges” have any say at all.
Marriage will be a testing ground for Democrats as well. Four years ago, the party platform read like a good GOP plank would this year: “repudiating” Bush’s marriage amendment and saying the states should decide. But the platform was silent on civil unions as an alternative, much less advocating the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act – even though John Kerry, the nominee, had voted against it back in 1996.
Barack Obama made a point of distinguishing himself from Hillary Clinton by favoring DOMA’s full repeal, so the platform should make that explicit. Much more important, however, would be a plank that specifically lays out what the Democratic nominee has said repeatedly about gay relationships – whether recognized by the states through marriage, civil unions or not at all – being afforded fully equal treatment to heterosexual marriage under federal law.
For this gay American, stuck living in exile because of unequal immigration rights, the plank would include specific support for the Uniting American Families Act, which allows us to sponsor our partners for residence the same way heterosexuals do in the U.S. – and as both gay and straight citizens can in Canada, Australia, Brazil and almost all of Western Europe.
Trans activists will also be pressing hard for including their agenda in the Democratic platform, since they were turned away by the Kerry camp four years ago. This time, with lesbian Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin on the platform committee, they’re likely to get a much more welcome reception.
Even so, any trans rights plank should avoid taking sides in the bitter fight last fall over whether gay measures like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act should only be adopted if the votes are there for “gender identity” as well.
July 03, 2008
Posted by: Kevin
And the fact that just by someone being a gay Republican makes you froth at the mouth and hurl obscenities makes you closer to being a right-wing evangelical Christian yahoo than it makes me.
No matter what happens in the 2008 election, I for one will be committed to building a GOP that looks more like California's and less like Mississippi's. The former will win elections, and deservedly so. The latter will, and should, lose.
June 27, 2008
Posted by: Chris
The recent "education" efforts by Log Cabin Republicans about John McCain's gay rights record appear to have paid off -- our friends over at Gay Patriot reported yesterday that LCR president Patrick Sammon recently met personally with the presumptive GOP nominee. The private meeting wasn't on McCain's public calendar -- much like a secret meeting he had with Hispanic Republicans -- but Sammon has confirmed it:
We’ve had a series of productive meetings with the campaign since Sen. McCain won the nomination—including a recent meeting with the Senator. We expect to have more conversations with the campaign as we head toward November.
It would be very easy to overplay the significance of this get-together. Bruce (Gay Patriot) portrays it as historic -- the first time since Bob Dole reversed himself and decided to accept a contribution from Log Cabin back during his 1996 run for the White House.
On the one hand, having a gay rights group with "a place at the table" in the McCain campaign is a good thing, so long as they don't give away the store just to be in the room. (That's three mixed metaphors in one sentence, for those of you counting at home.) With McCain's recent backpedaling on a federal marriage amendment -- the one gay-friendly position he's taken in decades of public life -- it's important for someone with access to help him hold steady in the face of pressure from social conservatives.
On the other hand, within the 24 hours after news of the meeting had leaked, the McCain folks were showing their true colors. First they told Politico's Ben Smith that it was pure coincidence that McCain and Sammon even shook hands:
A McCain aide emails that the Log Cabin Republicans that the meeting, about two weeks ago, wasn't a formal one. "They were in the office for a meeting with staff and Sen. McCain dropped by. It wouldn't have been on the schedule anyway."
Then later they "corrected" that impression:
The same McCain aide corrects: "The meeting with Log Cabin Republicans a few weeks ago was scheduled as a meeting with the senator. Our mistake. Like Sen. Obama, every single campaign-related meeting he has isn’t alerted to the press."
The immediate effect on the campaign appears minimal as well. Yesterday, the same day the meeting went public, proponents of the ballot measure that would amend California's constitution to overturn the landmark gay marriage ruling were bragging they'd received an email in support from the Arizona senator:
The ProtectMarriage.com campaign says it received an e-mail from McCain Thursday in which the Arizona senator expressed his support for the group's efforts "to recognize marriage as a unique institution between a man and a woman."
McCain's position on the amendment isn't that surprising, given that he recorded TV ads in support of a much more draconian amendment in Arizona that would have banned gays from marrying, entering civil unions or domestic partnerships, and even prohibited public agencies, hospitals and universities in his home state from extending health and other benefits to same-sex domestic partners.
(That Arizona measure is the only gay marriage ban ever defeated at the ballot box; a more limited marriage amendment stalled this week in the Arizona Senate.)
Even still, McCain's willingness to reach out on the California ballot measure greatly undermines (some would say blows a nuclear-sized hole in) the effort by Log Cabin to use Republican Gov. Arnold Scwarzenegger as some sort of stand-in for McCain on the issue. Here's how LCR put it in their McCain education package:
When the California Supreme Court affirmed the state legislature in May 2008 and paved the way for marriage equality in the Golden State, Sen. McCain issued a statement saying that the people of California should decide the issue.
Sen. McCain's strongest California supporter, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA), issued a statement immediately following the California Supreme Court's ruling saying: "I respect the Court's decision and as Governor, I will uphold its ruling. Also, as I have said in the past, I will not support an amendment to the constitution that would overturn this state Supreme Court ruling."
It appears Rovian-Melhman politics hold greater sway at McCain campaign headquarters than the typical desire of presidential nominees to move to the political center once they've wrested their party's backing. That's not good news for Log Cabin's leaderships, which appears willing to stake its reputation on an "inside" relationship with McCain.
June 23, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Remember the clever theory advanced by Log Cabin blogger Kevin Norte about how the ballot measure to ban gay marriage in California was actually "revising" rather than "amending" the state's constitution?
Well it's now officially a legal claim:
In a legal brief filed late Friday with the high court, the gay rights groups argue that the initiative is a "revision" of the state Constitution, which would require involvement of the Legislature, rather than simply an amendment, which can be approved by a majority vote in an election. …
The suit has been brought by Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the ACLU and other gay and civil rights groups -- interesting bedfellows for our gay Republican friends. I offered my own view (here and here) about why the claim being advanced here is unlikely to prevail on the merits, but the L.A. Times report makes it sound as if it won't even get that far:
Legal experts said the supporters of same-sex marriage face a difficult task in getting the justices to block a vote on the initiative. Typically, courts allow initiatives to proceed to a vote and then consider constitutional arguments on them if they pass. The court indicated it would rule on the petition this summer.
All that said, the argument is an interesting one and the legal issues are very much open to interpretation. In a kitchen-sink battle like the one over gay marriage in California, you can see why they're throwing any and everything to see what sticks.
That said, and here I go again with hating on LCR, it is surprising to see gay Republicans associated with an effort to prevent the voters from deciding the question. Generally the "unelected judges" are the bad guys, right?
(Photo of gay newlyweds via Los Angeles Times)
June 19, 2008
Posted by: Chris
There appears to be some hope that the Log Cabin Republicans are having second thoughts -- or at least giving some thought -- to whether they should endorse John McCain, who opposes absolutely any and every form of gay civil rights protection. Marc Ambinder reports:
The Log Cabin Republicans aren't sure whether they plan to endorse John McCain, or whether extending a presidential endorsement is even necessary. … When I last checked with the group and with the McCain, they were working to find a mutually convenient time for McCain to meet with the LCR board.
He also attached a copy of an email sent to LCR members asking for their input on the question:
However the LCR board may feel, the national staff led by Patrick Sammon appears clearly leaning toward a McCain nod. Hopefully Log Cabin members will educate themselves about McCain's real record and pressure the board to withhold endorsement unless McCain backs away from at least his most extreme anti-gay positions.
This "inclusive leader," as LCR calls him, is night and day on gay issues as compared with Barack Obama; more so even than the differences between George W. Bush and John Kerry four years ago. Let's break it down just on the issue of relationship recognition:
- OPPOSES repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits federal recognition of valid state same-sex marriages, and allows anti-gay states to refuse recognition of gay marriages from other states;
- OPPOSES civil unions and even domestic partnerships;
- OPPOSES federal recognition of civil unions or DPs;
- FAVORS state constitutional amendments banning gays from marrying and recognizing gay marriages from other states;
- FAVORS state constitutional amendments banning civil unions and domestic partnerships;
- FAVORS state constitutional amendments that ban public agencies, universities, hospitals, etc from even offering D.P. benefits;
- OPPOSES judicial authority to strike down state laws that ban gays from marrying;
- OPPOSES immigration rights for gay Americans to sponsor non-American partners for residence and citizenship;
- opposes a federal marriage amendment but has said he would change his mind on that if some very open criteria are met.
- FAVORS civil unions issued by states AND federal recognition of those civil unions the same as marriages;
- FAVORS full repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act;
- OPPOSES state constitutional amendments blocking gay marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships or DP benefits;
- SUPPORTS judicial authority to strike down state laws that ban gays from marrying;
- FAVORS immigration rights for gay Americans to sponsor non-American partners for residence and citizenship;
- OPPOSES a federal marriage amendment under any circumstances.
The only thing these two have in common on the issue is opposition in principle to the idea of gay marriage itself, an issue both agree that states -- not Congress or the president -- should be deciding anyway. While they both voted against a federal marriage amendment, McCain has of late conditioned his opposition in major ways -- a major flip-flop that LCR has to-date refused even to publicly acknowledge much less criticize.
LCR is right that the endorsement decision is "crucial" -- crucial to the organization's credibility as committed to gay civil rights.
June 16, 2008
Posted by: Kevin
Chris' posting on John McCain, or more importantly on the competing visions of McCain put out by the Human Rights Campaign and the Log Cabin Republicans, was timely and important. And given the moment we are in now, finally having washed the Clinton mud off our shoes and looking ahead to the general election campaign, it is time to begin sizing up both of the candidates.
But I think the fair assessment of both men is not accomplished by looking at hack-speak. It's done by looking at both men, their records, and watching what happens between now and November. For us to say we definitively know what kind of president either Obama or McCain will be on gay issues right this moment is, in a word, foolishness. And it also has a tinge of hackery to it. It's natural that HRC would pump out a million-page screed against the Republican nominee in record time, whether he was John McCain or a ham sandwich. And it would also make perfect sense for Log Cabin to react against it with a protectiveness of a nominee like John McCain. There was no such veil of protection for George W. Bush in 2004. There are reasons for all of this. None of them have much to do with how Obama or McCain will be on gay rights in 2009 and beyond. Not yet, anyway.
Nor, frankly, does the question which Chris poses in the title of his post (and, hence, my own here.) For I would counterpoint not that McCain would be the best man for gay rights in this election. I would counterpoint that asking whether HRC or Log Cabin is right about him is, in fact, the wrong question.
The right question is -- do we know if Obama or McCain will be the better president, in terms of results they will deliver? And if we don't know yet, how can we best be sure to know before we have to vote in November?
Since Chris is one of the best gay journalists alive, in my opinion (talk about "ass-kissing"...), he went over, in a fairly broad way, John McCain's voting record and some of his more recent public statements in order to venture into some territory on answering the question. I've also written about the hope and ambivalence that gay Republicans feel about McCain's candidacy. Chris has done a great deal more probing on Obama's incredibly scant record, and turned up a lot more promises that have never been put to anything more than a rhetorical test.
What we both have done a lot of work on, though, is mining the rich, mineral-filled caverns of the Clintons' records on gay issues and, in doing so, our canaries turned up dead on one alarming point: don't trust mere words from people who, at the end of the day, really don't care about gay rights as much as they care about their own asses.
I'll introduce another factor. There is a notably large segment of the gay community that cares very passionately about other issues, too. Like Iraq. Like the economy. Like race. And yes, even innovation and technology (thanks, Andoni). And on those issues, there is a wealth of intensity of feeling inside those two men, and plenty of specifics to begin to judge them soundly. The pull of those issues, versus gay rights, cannot just be negated simply because this is a gay blog, and we are gay people. A guy who backs gay marriage but wants to bomb Beijing on day one is, quite frankly, fair game for debate in any community over whether it's wise to vote for him. Fair enough. So to pretend that the raging anger at John McCain among some gay people is about his vote against ENDA, and not really about his position on Iraq or on tax policy, for instance, is not only naive but insulting to all our intelligence. (I'm sure Chris is among the least afflicted, with his journalistic groundings, but come on. None of us is that shallow to be motivated by one issue alone. At least here's hoping none of us are.)
By their specific records and policy statements, for example, it is glaringly clear which man would be better for Latin America. (Guess who.) I am passionate about gay issues, and I am very, very passionate about Latin America. (For Christ's sake, I live here.) And if I'm supposed to "vote for my interests" - where exactly do all of those interests fall? Because I vote for the man who is right on farm subsidies and energy policy, does that make me an Uncle Tom? And if you vote for the man who is right on Iraq for your tastes, does that make you a traitor to America? Please. We're intelligent people, folks.
I have to say that not only can't I say I've decided between these men, but I refuse to decide right now. I'm not a hack, nor am I defending a fundraising base, or trying to use my leverage over a campaign to produce something positive on the issue of the organization I lead. I'm just a voter. And my long experience thus far with presidential campaigns teaches me that there is a long road ahead of us to November, once the primaries are done with. On gay rights alone, Obama is potentially an impressive figure. Perhaps he could be transformative. He could also be a crashing disappointment. Ditto all around for McCain. Our task is not to close off debate now and free them both to ignore us! It's to figure how to push them to the absolute limit to prove themselves before the election.
HRC proved yet again that they haven't got a clue -- and transparently revealed yet again that they are just a cog in the machine, dealing out their loyal Obama endorsement through some intern's blog, with all the requisite bitchiness of their spurned and eponymous favorite. So they will have no leverage over Obama, nor will they seek to gain any. My question is -- who will, and how will they do it? And what do we want Obama to do and say before November?
And same for McCain. We have to pressure him, and we have to do it effectively. Log Cabin is never going to walk off the stage now, especially since the much larger HRC is so useless that through their morning-after endorsement of Obama, they've once again tossed the gigantic responsibility of impacting the GOP campaign onto Log Cabin's shoulders (with the fervent hope that they'll fail). And if HRC had not put out their screed, you would not have heard from Log Cabin. That is also telling.
To answer Chris' concluding thought on Log Cabin, I can report that the desire to raise that bar every election cycle isn't just a goal, it's seared into their DNA. It is their raison d'etre. It's everything they pray for and stay awake nights strategizing over. Their decision to not endorse Bush in 2004 wasn't done with glee, it was done with a broken heart. Not because they love the Republican Party, or even liked Bush -- but because of the setback it represented in the bigger picture that the President of the United States fell backwards instead of moving forward. They took it personally, and they risked their existence on saying so. So they will carry the institutional memories of 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004 into this cycle and will fight to raise that bar. I can tell you, with all the pedantry of a kindergarten teacher, my children, that they won't raise that bar in June 2008 by trumpeting to the world all the things John McCain has done wrong. No more than HRC would have reached their goal of installing the Clinton borg back to power by putting her on the hot seat at any moment during the primaries (or ever, for that matter.)
And naturally, people who want to see the GOP fail no matter what, in turn, want to see Log Cabin fail. And they will throw the kitchen sink at both from day one to achieve it (notwithstanding David Smith's shit-eating grin) and make sure Log Cabin is out-gunned, under-funded, and hit with every kind of demeaning, demoralizing crap that they can manage to hurl at them. And, quite diligently, Log Cabin will still fight to the last moment, Hillary-style if need be, to leave a space of air for McCain to step forward and raise that bar. Until they, the most hopeful of all, lose hope. Call them what you will; but that's the truth about them.
I sorely wish such a group existed on the Democratic side. I know of many, many individuals who do, and whom I admire deeply. I support them 100% in their efforts to influence Barack Obama between now and Election Day, and I'll do my part (as I'm sure Chris and Andoni also will) to air their voices on this blog.
The counterpoint is, therefore, that there is a lot left in front of us. There are 12 town hall debates coming, perhaps more. There are two party conventions. There are campaign mailings, and mistakes, and controversies and surprises all in store. We could, in fact, have the greatest presidential campaign season for gay rights in the history of the United States. Or, we can throw such an opportunity away by handing the mike to the hacks now and skipping off to happy hour 'til November. My vote, for the moment, is to be part of making history.
June 15, 2008
Posted by: Chris
One of the key reasons why Log Cabin Republicans are looking past John McCain's long and extensive record of opposition to any and all forms of gay civil rights is the gay GOP group's belief that, "Sen. McCain isn’t going to use gay people as a wedge issue."
The general election is in its very early days, of course, and already this week the presumptive Republican nominee is already failing to chin even that extremely low bar:
Appearing at a campaign rally in Tennessee, John McCain was met with sustained cheers after stating that he believes "in the sanctity and unique status of marriage between man and woman."
As the cheers began, McCain added "That's what I believe, that's what I support, and that's what I will fight for."
The point here isn't simply that McCain opposes gay marriage; Barack Obama does as well. The point is that the Republican is using marriage as a wedge issue with conservatives, even in a place like Tennessee that already has a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. What more support could McCain offer to these voters but a federal marriage amendment?
The political reality for any not wearing partisan blinders is that McCain will use whatever leverage he has to win, especially given the unpopularity of his party and his president, not to mention the tanking economy and the unpopular war.
Log Cabin endorses McCain at its own peril, as talk like this is sure to be repeated, along with aggressive use of gay marriage as a wedge issue by the Republican National Committee and conservative 527s.
June 13, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Whatever lack of enthusiasm the Human Rights Campaign harbored toward the Democratic primary success of Barack Obama is more than made up for by hostility toward the Republicans' choice, John McCain. Even before HRC was released as a pledged delegate by candidate HRC, the D.C.-based group issued a report last week that portrayed McCain as offering "four more years" of anti-gay hostility in the White House.
Much in the HRC report is not new, highlighting as this blog has for months now McCain's long record of opposition to absolutely any form of gay civil rights:
- Opposes employment protections
- Opposes hate crime legislation
- Supports "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"
- Opposes same-sex marriage and supports the Defense of Marriage Act
- Opposes civil unions
- Opposes domestic partnerships
- Favors state constitutional amendments banning marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships at any level of government, as well as recognition of any of these from other states.
- Favors state constitutional amendment that would ban public entities -- local governments, agencies, public universities and hospitals, etc., from providing health insurance and other benefits to the domestic partners of their workers, students, etc.
- Opposes adoption by gay couples
- Supports the ban on HIV-positive immigrants and backed a Jesse Helms measure blocking HIV prevention aimed at gay men
- Supports the nomination of strict constructionist judges who reject "judicial activism," which is essentially anything that limits the elected branches' ability to trample on gays.
That is a very daunting and very damning list, pretty much matching George W. Bush and the most conservative Republicans bullet for bullet. In fact, candidate Bush in 2000 had not yet come out against employment protection and hate crime laws; that only happened last year when his White House issued veto threats to both bills.
Regardless, McCain's policy positions belie the "party maverick" reputation, which has come almost entirely from government reform and not on social issues -- about which he cares little and thus cedes entirely to those in his party who care a lot.
In addition to this handy compilation of harshly anti-gay positions, the HRC report also provides some helpful citations to McCain's dangerous backsliding of late on the one and only gay issue on which he has stood up to Christian conservatives: the Federal Marriage Amendment.
Back in 2004, McCain not only voted against the FMA but spoke out in opposition, calling it "antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans." Not because it was discriminatory, or wrote into the U.S. Constitution for the very first time a provision depriving a distinct minority of its rights, but because it violated states' rights -- that is, the long-recognized authority of states to decide questions relating to marriage.
(States' rights, as any high school student history can tell you, is a malleable "core principle." One day it protects progressive states who want to marry gays, and the next it protects bigoted states that want to keep their Jim Crow laws or other "peculiar institutions.")
But McCain has long-since walked away from even this "core philosophy of Republicans." He did vote against the FMA in 2006, but campaigning in New Hampshire that same year he set a very low bar for when he would flip-flop and back a federal marriage amendment:
If the Supreme Court of the United States rejects the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional; if state legislatures are frustrated by the decisions of jurists in more states than one, and if state remedies to such judicial activism fail; and finally, if a large majority of Americans come to perceive that their communities’ values are being ignored and other standards concerning marriage are being imposed on them against their will, and that elections and state legislatures can provide no remedy, then, and only then, should we consider, quite appropriately, amending the Constitution of the United States.
Events in California have almost already satisfied the second marker laid down by McCain, assuming the anti-gay ballot measure fails in November, and the third marker means basically he's free to change his mind if the poll numbers are compelling enough.
It's the kind of fair-weather "friendship" that only a gay Republican could love, and I say that with all affection for my friends, of course. HRC policy chief David Smith made absolutely no mention of Log Cabin and its history of defending McCain during the conference call last week announcing the group's report.
When I brought up the issue Smith deflected it, reiterating HRC's "respect" for Log Cabin and "respectful difference of opinion" about McCain. Smith avoided answering when I asked if HRC and Log Cabin had met to try to work through differences of opinion about the Republican presidential nominee, assuring that the "lines of communication are open."
Log Cabin, for its part, was quick to respond to the HRC report on McCain, slamming it as an unfair representation of McCain that ignored the Arizona senator's "open door" to Log Cabin and "record of inclusion." McCain's coziness with Log Cabin is largely the result of the Republican presidential primary in 2000, when the gay GOP group sided with McCain against Bush.
But that was an entirely different John McCain, of course. The Arizona senator has since gone from calling out "agents of intolerance" like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson to kissing their rings and coddling their evangelical supporters. Log Cabin's Scott Tucker claims otherwise, insisting McCain "won the GOP nomination with no help (and with outright hostility) from many so-called 'social conservatives.'" Tucker conveniently ignores McCain's evangelical fence-mending -- a.k.a. ass-kissing -- and willingly blinds himself from the current political reality: However John McCain got here, he has no prayer of winning the White House without the enthusiastic support of those very same "so-called 'social conservatives.'" In the end, he will be every bit as indebted to them as if he were Mike Huckabee himself.
Tucker unfairly accuses HRC of "glossing over" McCain's FMA opposition even though the HRC report deals with that issue directly and in context. Instead it is Tucker and LCR that don't just "gloss over" but ignore entirely McCain's back-pedaling since on a federal marriage amendment.
I understand and appreciate the difficult position of the Log Cabin Republicans as they work for change within an often hostile party; doing so requires earning intraparty credibility by advocating on the GOP's behalf within the gay community. But the bar for LCR support cannot be set so low that anything short of mean-spirited hostility qualifies.
John McCain may not care very much about social issues like gay rights; but neither did George W. Bush for that matter. The important thing is that both men have a record of consistent opposition to absolutely any form of gay civil rights and a demonstrated willingness to pander to the right when necessary.
I have yet to see a principled argument in favor of John McCain's candidacy that does not jettison entirely the concept of gay and lesbian equality as simply a lower priority than other political issues of the day. The leadership of Log Cabin should rethink their position before its too late, and at least demand something more than token from McCain in exchange for -- perish the thought -- endorsing this man for president.
May 15, 2008
Posted by: Kevin
...this would not have happened:
April 17, 2008
Posted by: Chris
I almost hate to offer any criticism at all about the new Out magazine piece, "Washington's Gay War," which purports to expose the "ancient hypocrisy" of closeted gay Republicans working in the political world.
That's because the Out of old -- not the engaging, original Out under Sarah Pettit, or its cheeky reincarnation under James Collard, but the "Us/People" years with Judy Weider at the helm -- wouldn't touch politics unless there was a gay-for-pay celebrity somehow involved.
After years of Hollywood pablum, it's at least encouraging to see Out editor Aaron Hicklin paying attention to more serious stories out of Washington. But talk about an appallingly bad job… Author Charles Kaiser ("The Gay Metropolis") was the one tasked with shedding some insight on the phenomenon of closeted gay Republicans. So who did he talk to: Barney Frank, outing activist/ blogger Mike Rogers, an unnamed Democratic political consultant and a gay Washington Post reporter.
What about an actual living, breathing gay Republican (closeted or otherwise)? Wouldn't they be at least relevant? Could Kaiser not find the number for Log Cabin?
The result was a 2,800-word, one-sided hack job that failed to report even one single new fact. J. Edgar Hoover? Terry Dolan? Jeff Gannon? Stop the presses! Kaiser even retells the story about Lee Atwater insinuating then-House speaker Tom Foley was gay (based on his Barney-like voting record) without ever acknowledging the possibility that (hello?!?!) Foley might actually be an example of a powerful Dem who lived a gay double life.
The sole interesting exception was the article's opening vignette, which actually outs a gay Democrat -- not a Republican. Longtime Hill staffer Rob Cogorno was already out about being gay but said he was floored when Barney told a Capitol Hill crowd at Cogorno's going-away party that he hosted (in outrageous drag) the Miss Adams Morgan pageant.
Those of us familiar with the annual MAM extravaganza know how absolutely paranoid many of its participants -- Democrat and Republican alike -- are, so that little story was at least interesting. But how in the heck does it show gay Dems are more out that gay Republicans?
We can only hope that Hicklin stays interested in gay politics and Washington. (I'll admit to being a very irregular reader during his tenure, given my geographic disadvantage.) The magazine length is perfect for truly digging into some serious and interesting stories, but with at least some interest in all sides of the subject and breaking new ground.
March 28, 2008
Posted by: Chris
This was my weekly column, written on Tuesday, before his quote about the insanity of gay Republicans and before another bit of breaking news I note in a postscript at the end.
The column was a bit of a love letter to Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean:
It’s us, the gay community. We need to talk. You know what about -- our relationship.
It’s no secret we’ve been drifting apart, all that romance and excitement from the halcyon days of 2004 seems like a lifetime ago now. These days, all we do is argue, and our dirty laundry is daily fodder for the gossiphounds on the blogosphere.
The name-calling. The nastiness. The pettiness. This isn’t us.
We should be thick as thieves. Eight years of George W. Bush is enough to make all but the button-down Log Cabin boys swoon at the prospect of one of yours in the White House. I mean just look at our choices.
The GOP is nominating a septuagenarian whose idea of a May-December romance is a gay rights record even worse than George Bush in 2000: no workplace protections, no hate crime law, no gays serving openly in the military -- even the most limited domestic partnerships are a non-starter with John McCain.
Your side, on the other hand, is down to two courtesans who know exactly what to say. Hillary had us practically at hello –at least since she said she wasn’t staying home serving milk and cookies. She’s already won over most of our prominent politicos, including 13 of the 21 out LGBT superdelegates. (We won’t count Donna Brazile, nudge nudge wink wink.) Despite Barack Obama’s own charm offensive, he has only 2.
But the handsome senator from Illinois knows how to push our buttons, too. He woos us with promises to repeal all of the Defense of Marriage Act, which reminds us of the presidential playa who signed it into law in the first place. Hillary feels our pain on that, no doubt.
When you see Clinton and Obama courting us, do you remember the 2004 party primaries? It was all about you, Howard -- a little-known governor from Vermont who courageously supported the nation’s first civil unions law. No matter the audience, you talked about gay rights before gay rights were cool. We swooned in response, and our dollars played a major role in putting you on the map. Later, we cheered when you parlayed your primary success into a bid to chair the Democratic National Committee.
So where did it all go wrong, Howard? It was that meddling “M word,” wasn’t it? Our expectations for this relationship went sky high after we could get married in Massachusetts. We thought you’d be happy for us but instead, like most pols, you just weren’t ready to go there. We were moving too fast for you, and it put you on the defensive. Sorry about that.
Then you went on Pat Robertson’s “700 Club” and said your party platform backed “one man-one woman marriage.” Ouch! We felt doubly betrayed; you were philandering with our sworn enemies and acting like you weren’t already spoken for. Looking back, we were too sensitive. It was smart politics for you to reach out to the religious right. So many of them these days are not their grandfather’s evangelicals.
But the Democratic Party platform is actually neutral on gay marriage, and it wasn’t the only time you got that wrong in public. Our suspicions grew. Where was the Howard we fell for? Maybe you were just like Bill Clinton and the rest – wham bam, thanks for the cash, man.
Then came the squabbling. Some of your most loyal party gays swore you’d lost that lovin’ feeling. You nixed the “gay outreach desk,” left us out of the party’s annual grassroots report, and you wouldn’t go along with treating us like other minority groups in delegate selection. You said you had your reasons, you said you did it for us, to make our bond stronger. We said, “Talk to the hand.”
What did you expect? You sacked Donald Hitchcock, your top gay liaison, and said it was strictly based on performance. But now he’s sued you alleging anti-gay bias. We don’t know who to believe, considering he got the axe just a week after his partner, longtime Dem Paul Yandura, publicly blasted you for not doing more to fight state marriage amendments. There’s that “M-word” again.
You know what happened next. Everything got personal. You called the Washington Blade “the Fox News of the gay media.” The Stonewall Dems got so riled at your chief of staff they said it was high time to “get these mother fuckin’ snakes off this mother fuckin’ plane.” A senior DNC staffer said she used gay newspapers to line her birdcage.
It’s crazy, isn’t it, how nasty it’s gotten, when we were so important to each other early on. Is it too late for us? Have we gone from Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man” to “D-I-V-O-R-C-E”? Actually no – that’s the “M word” again, sneaking up from behind. Still, civil union “D-I-S-S-O-L-U-T-I-O-N” just doesn’t have the same ring.
So what do you say, Howard? Can we give us one more try? Meet us halfway? You don’t have to bring us flowers – just get a gay rights bill or two through the Democratic-controlled Congress.
As a postscript, it's interesting to see this from today's Washington Blade report on Dean's deposition in the Donald Hitchcock suit:
Dean noted that he personally supports same-sex marriage, a position brought about by “getting to know gay people” during and after his 2004 presidential campaign.
“I learned more,” he said. “I learned a lot about the gay community. And I became much more comfortable with the gay community as I got to know more about them.”
That's a big change from his previous position, which was to derisively dismiss the notion that civil unions and marriage weren't equal. It also confirms what I wrote earlier today -- this is a man who believes in our equality, and that's an important first step toward making it a reality.
Posted by: Chris
Ever wondered why gay rights legislation is typically an agenda afterthought for congressional Democrats, why we seem to be the first minority group to be "thrown under the bus," as Melissa Etheridge put it? Ever suspected the Democratic National Committee and other fund-raising arms of the party love us more for our wallets and purses than they do for our civil rights struggle?
My suspicion has always been that Democratic Party leadership genuinely believes in our equality -- probably even including gay marriage -- but in the end will spend minimal political capital on us because they know the GOP is so much worse on our issues. That's no slam on Democrats per se; the GOP has been treating conservative Christians like that since the Reagan years, even with their much bigger numbers.
Every once in a while a leading Dem will say something that confirms my suspicion that we are taken for granted. Consider what DNC chair Howard Dean said yesterday at a speech in Madison, Wis.:
Dean said that the Republican Party has scapegoated every ethnic group and therefore can’t create a multicultural identity and reach younger voters.
“They can’t become more diverse,” Dean said. “Who in their right mind, if they were African American or Hispanic or Asian American, if they were gay or lesbian, would join the Republican Party?”
That's a common belief among not just party leaders like Dean, but many gay Democrats as well. Unfortunately, that assumption has real political consequences, primarily undermining whatever influence GLBT issues might be given within the party. Why take political risks on hot-button issues for a group that has nowhere to go?
Therein lies the primary criticism I've made against the Human Rights Campaign over the years because the gay Dems who run it work to reinforce the assumption that our movement is destined to be just another special interest captive within the Democratic Party. HRC's Joe Solmonese has actually said that's his goal.
Part of fixing that means pushing the Democratic Party to do better. The other part is improving the Republicans on gay issues, so Dean's arrogant assumption is challenged. Enter the Log Cabin Republicans, who issued a statement understandably taking umbrage at having their sanity questioned, especially in such drive-by fashion -- as if the question wasn't one for serious debate.
Nonetheless, it was faschinating to read the reaction from LCR director Patrick Sammon, who sounds like he's spent a lot of time this election year listening to Barack Obama:
“It’s unfortunate that the chairman of the Democratic Party would rather divide people than engage in a thoughtful debate about policy ideas or a vision for our country’s future. Americans deserve to know whether the two Democratic presidential candidates, Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, agree with these remarks,” said Sammon. “The chairman of the DNC should focus on what unites Americans instead of dividing us by race or sexual orientation.”
Si se puede, Patrick! If only Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman, the closeted previous chair of the Republican National Committee, thought more like you.
March 22, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Jamie Kirchick of The New Republic is making the case that John McCain wouldn't be "so bad" for gay voters, no matter who the Democrats nominate. I've known and respected Jamie for years and published his columns in the Blade when he was still a student at Yale, but he's trying way too hard here.
Much of what he argues will sound familiar to those who remember the Log Cabin Republicans' spirited defense of the Arizona senator, especially his "courageous" opposition to a federal marriage amendment, Let's remember that McCain attacked the measure as "un-Republican" because it violated states' rights -- a principle with a dubious civil rights history -- and not because it wrote intolerance into the U.S. Constitution.
Jamie tries papering over McCain's unprincipled flip-flop on Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson as "agents of intolerance" who had no place in the GOP. "Sure, McCain spoke at Falwell's Liberty University in 2006," he writes, "but he didn't pander." Oh really? Well it was certainly no random graduation appearance:
McCain's appearance came eight months after the founder of the Moral Majority visited him at his Senate office in what both men said was an effort to put their contentious past behind them. This weekend, Falwell rolled out the red carpet for his old adversary, assembling about 150 church leaders from around the country for a Friday night reception and later hosting a small, private dinner for the senator.
This was purely politics, breaking bread with the conservative leader he once called "evil." Asked on "Meet The Press" last year whether he still believed Falwell was an "agent of intolerance," McCain said: "No, I don’t. I think that Jerry Falwell can explain to you his views on this program when you have him on."
Jamie imagines that McCain's supposed hostility toward the religious right -- certainly kept well-disguised in recent years -- means he won't "feel the need to appease the anti-gay wing of his party." And yet there he was in 2006, endorsing Arizona's draconian anti-gay ballot measure, which not only banned gay marriage but also civil unions and limited domestic partnerships.
Kirchick tries to excuse McCain's support for the Arizona measure -- historic for being the only gay marriage initiative rejected by voters -- by reminding us that John Kerry had also backed state amendments banning gay marriage. Then again, Kerry was one of a handful of senators to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act, supported civil unions including federal recognition, not to mention ENDA, hate crimes and repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell." And last I checked, Kerry was the Democrats' nominee in 2004, not 2008, and both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are on record opposing even limited state marriage amendments, much less Arizona's bigoted overreach.
Kirchick cites several examples of McCain's personal comfort around gay people, and no doubt that's correct. But we've been here before, haven't we? Those who knew George W. Bush were universal in praising his comfort with gay people, in and out of politics, and yet look where it got us. Since when is the absence of personal discomfort in the presence of homosexuals somehow a qualification for the presidency?
Whatever gay Republicans and libertarians may think of McCain's views outside the realm of civil rights, the unmistakable reality is this: McCain's hostility to absolutely any form of legal protection whatsoever for gay relationships is consistent with his opposition to absolutely any form of protection for gays individually. That includes workplace protection, service in the military and even hate crime laws.
McCain's gay allies may be relieved that Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee didn't win the GOP nomination, but McCain's political record remains one of ardent gay rights opposition -- worse even that George W. Bush when he ran in 2000. This is progress?
(Photo of McCain and Falwell via New York Times)