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Gay Republicans Press for Tolerance at Convention

By K Kaufman
Capital News Service
Monday, Aug. 30, 2004

NEW YORK - Ryan Greenawalt sees no contradiction in being a gay Republican. The 25-year-old Baltimore resident joined lesbian and gay Republicans from across the country over the weekend in New York City to support an "inclusive party."

Just how inclusive the Republicans are, or want to be, has become a point of contention as party members gathered in New York for the 2004 national convention that will renominate President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

According to the Log Cabin Republicans, the national organization of lesbian and gay GOP members, an estimated 40 to 50 of the 4,853 delegates are openly lesbian or gay.

The party's prime-time lineup is also packed with moderates, such as New York Gov. George Pataki, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele.

At the same time, Greenawalt and other Log Cabin Republicans are charging that the party's platform has been "hijacked by the radical right." The organization had been closely monitoring the platform committee, which last week rejected a moderate "unity" plank calling for a more tolerant approach to issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.

Instead, the committee passed a strongly worded statement not only supporting a constitutional ban on gay marriage, but opposing any legal recognition of same-sex partnerships, such as civil unions or domestic partner benefits.

Greenawalt, a lifelong Republican who grew up in a conservative family in Towson, said such intolerance is "damaging to the party and damaging to (gays and lesbians). We need to move from the right to the middle."

The controversy simmered beneath the surface of Log Cabin's "Big Tent" event on Sunday, which featured speeches by high-profile Republican moderates, including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, and Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

Maryland Republican Party Chairman John Kane also attended with his wife, Mary, basking momentarily in the media spotlight and speaking in support of party "outreach" to gay and lesbian members.

Republican "core values," he said, like "less taxes, less government and personal responsibility . . . are not straight or gay."

Nor, he said, should everyone have to agree with everything in the party's platform. "I'm from a family of nine kids. For us to agree on everything would be dysfunctional."

To Greenawalt, the noncommittal line espoused by Kane and other moderates is a "front." The convention's lineup of moderate speakers is "not the true face of the Republican Party," he said. "These guys (are supposed to be) the future of the party; that's not real."

Log Cabin is taking its message to Republican delegates with a TV ad that will be aired in New York and nationally during the convention. The 30-second spot begins with a video clip of recently deceased President Ronald Reagan and mixes images of moderate Republicans Sen. John McCain and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani with pictures of conservatives like Jerry Falwell and signs saying "God Hates Fags."

Announcing the ad at a press conference Monday, Log Cabin Executive Director Patrick Guerriero said, "The party cannot have it both ways. . . .The radical right agenda has nothing to do with defending marriage, and everything to do with marginalizing gay and lesbian families."

While the group certainly won't be backing Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry anytime soon, the Log Cabin Republicans will not decide whether they will officially endorse Bush until after the convention, Guerriero said

Copyright 2004 University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism

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