By Lisa Keen
Keen News Service
The Log Cabin Republicans group announced Tuesday that it is endorsing Republican presidential candidate John McCain, and a top McCain campaign official showed up at the organization’s “big tent” luncheon Tuesday to thank the group.
According to the statement released from the national gay Republican group, its board voted 12 to 2 to endorse both McCain and his chosen running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Log Cabin national President Patrick Sammon said the group would not disclose who cast the dissenting votes.
The endorsement announcement came as the Republican National Convention got underway in St. Paul, when much of the media attention was focused more squarely on Palin, McCain’s vice presidential pick. The questions being asked most frequently concern her relative inexperience, the relevance of her “family values,” and just how carefully McCain scrutinized her fitness to become president.
But on behalf of Log Cabin, Sammon backed the full ticket.
“On the most important issue that LGBT Americans faced in the last decade -the federal marriage amendment – Senator John McCain stood with us,” said Sammon. “Senator McCain is an inclusive Republican who is focusing the GOP on unifying core principles that appeal to independent voters.”
The statement credited McCain with showing courage “by bucking his own party’s leadership and the president” by voting against the Federal Marriage Act (FMA) twice. The act sought to amend the federal constitution to ban same-sex marriage.
“He gave an impassioned speech on the Senate floor,” said Sammon’s statement, “calling the amendment ‘antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans.'”
Big Tent revival
The Republican National Convention opened only briefly Monday for its first day of activities. The party severely curtailed the agenda, saying President Bush, nominee McCain, and other party leaders needed to focus their attention on Hurricane Gustav, which was threatening New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.
But by Tuesday, it became apparent that the hurricane would not wreak the sort of devastation, as did Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the speeches turned to formalizing the party’s nomination of McCain and Palin. Those speeches -including a videotaped appearance by President Bush – focused mostly on McCain’s survival as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. Former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson spent some time defending the qualifications of Palin, saying that her “small town values” have prompted attacks against her and her family. Although he did not provide specifics, most media attention during the past week has focused on Palin’s willingness to devote her time and energy to the campaign when she has a four-month-old child with Down’s syndrome and on her 17-year-old daughter’s five-month pregnancy out-of-wedlock.
Log Cabin has mounted a presence and gained some media attention itself at the convention, even though its numbers are considerably fewer than LGBT delegates and activists at the Democratic convention in Denver. Scott Tucker, communications director for the group, said Log Cabin doesn’t have an exact number of LGBT delegates at the convention because the Republican National Committee “doesn’t keep those demographics.” But he said the group knows of “about two dozen” delegates there. Tucker added that, in all, there are “about 100 Log Cabin members, delegates, alternates and convention guests here with us at the RNC this week.”
Log Cabin hosted a “Big Tent” luncheon on Tuesday at which McCain’s national political director, Mike DuHaime, spoke. According to Log Cabin, DuHaime told the audience of about 200 that he was accepting the Log Cabin endorsement “on behalf of Senator McCain and the campaign.”
“Senator McCain is running an inclusive campaign,” said DuHaime, “and he’ll have an inclusive administration.”
Former U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe, an Arizona Republican who came out as gay during his last term in office, also spoke at the luncheon, describing his conversation with McCain just before he came out. Kolbe said that, when he told McCain that news of his being gay was about to become public, McCain’s response was “Jim, it doesn’t make any difference. You’re a great legislator today. You’ll be a great legislator tomorrow. And you’re my friend today. And you’ll be my friend tomorrow.”
Palin details emerging
But most attention during the convention surrounded Palin, who has less than two years experience as governor of Alaska. Prior to that, she was mayor for 10 years of Wasilla, a town whose population hovered around 5,000 during her tenure.
Time magazine quoted a former mayor of Wasilla, John Stein, as saying that Palin, during her tenure as mayor, attempted to ban books from the public library. A Wasilla resident’s public e-mail about Palin was widely circulated and also drew attention to the book-banning matter. In an e-mail response to this reporter, the Wasilla resident, Anne Kilkenny, said she didn’t know which books Palin was concerned about. But Stein told Time Palin’s concerns were religious in nature.
The Human Rights Campaign dug up a questionnaire that Palin submitted to the conservative Eagle Forum in 2006, when she was a candidate for governor. The Forum asked whether Palin would support expanding hate crimes laws. Palin replied, “No, as I believe all heinous crime is based on hate.” She also stated that she did not support the Alaska Supreme Court’s ruling that the domestic partners of gay state employees should get the same benefits as the spouses of straight ones. And she listed “preserving the definition of marriage” as her Number 2 priority concerning families, as governor.
The Log Cabin group issued a press release Aug. 29, after McCain revealed Palin as his vice presidential choice, calling the Alaska governor a “mainstream Republican” and an “inclusive Republican who will help Sen. McCain appeal to gay and lesbian voters.” Jimmy LaSalvia, director of programs and policy for the group, told Reuters news service, in a video posting, that Palin vetoed a bill that sought to ban benefits to the partners of gay state employees -“did the right thing, and now, state employees, are able to have health benefits.” He said that record plus Palin’s statement that she has gay friends “makes us optimistic that she will be more moderate on gay issues than, say, George Bush or some other prominent Republicans.”
Palin did veto the bill, which was an effort to undermine an Alaska Supreme Court decision that said the state constitution required equal benefits to all state employees. But she did so saying she was convinced that the only legal way to undo the court decision was through an amendment to the state constitution. She then supported a ballot measure that did so.
But Log Cabin also acknowledged having “honest disagreements” with the Republican ticket on a “number” of gay issues and said the group would “continue our conversation with [McCain] and other Republican leaders about issues affecting gay and lesbian Americans.”
The organization has for months indicated that it has had a “long and friendly association” with McCain. Sammon said McCain has “always shown a willingness to reach out and dialogue with Log Cabin….”
“We know that will continue when he is President,” said Sammon.
Although gay Republicans are often portrayed as being more concerned with personal economic concerns rather than gay civil rights issues, Log Cabin argues that it’s important for the community to have representatives in both major political parties. And the organization has been able to boast that about one-in-four LGBT voters supported President Bush in 2000 and 2004.
“I expect Senator McCain will receive strong support from gay and lesbian Americans,” said Sammon, in his statement Tuesday. “LGBT people are not single-issue voters. Gay rights issues are a critical part of the equation but so are many other issues impacting our daily lives -foreign policy, the economy, jobs, energy policy, health care reform, and taxes. Gay and lesbian Republicans believe Senator John McCain is the most qualified person to lead our country.”
God bless the irony
A New York Times/CBS poll of 854 of the 2, 380 delegates at this week’s Republican convention found that about a third describe themselves as white evangelicals, similar to Republican voters overall. Asked whether same-sex couples should be allowed to legally married, only six percent of the delegates polled said yes. Forty-three percent expressed support for civil unions and 46 percent said they did not support any form of legal recognition for same-sex couples. (A similar poll of Democratic delegates found 55 percent in support of marriage recognition, 35 percent for civil unions, and only five percent saying they wanted no recognition of same-sex relationships.)
Like the Democratic party platform this year, the Republican platform does not mention the words “gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.” Unlike the Democratic platform, the GOP document mentions “homosexuality” – one time, in a statement supporting the “don’t ask/don’t tell” policy. Like the Democratic platform, the GOP platform states that “Republicans recognize the importance of having in the home a father and a mother who are married.” In fact, a GOP sentence justifying the statement is nearly verbatim a statement in the Democratic platform: “Children in homes without fathers are more likely to commit a crime, drop out of school, become violent, become teen parents, use illegal drugs, become mired in poverty, or have emotional or behavioral problems.” But while the Democratic platform opposes the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the Republican platform exclaims that “A Republican Congress enacted the Defense of Marriage Act, affirming the rights of states not to recognize same-sex ‘marriages’ licensed in other states.” It urges support for a constitutional amendment to “prevent activist federal judges from imposing upon the rest of the nation the judicial activism in Massachusetts and California.” The Republican platform also expresses support for groups that oppose equal rights for gays, including gay couples adopting children.
Apparently, the Republican Party did not get the memo some decades ago about “America, the Beautiful” songwriter Katharine Lee Bates. Bates is widely assumed to have been in an intimate relationship with another woman professor at Wellesley College for 25 years. The 2008 Republican Party platform begins with a quote from Bates’ poetry, about heroes who “more than self, their country loved.”
2008 Keen News Service