Gay Republicans are stung by President Bush’s support for a ban on same-sex marriages and are divided over where to turn in November, with many weighing party loyalty against outrage. “I’m going to have a hard time going with Bush. In my good conscience, I don’t know how I can support him,” said Shawn Gardner, one of several hundred party members attending this weekend’s annual convention of the Log Cabin Republicans (news – web sites), a gay GOP organization that backed Bush in 2000.
“It’s difficult for me to reconcile him having turned his back on an organization that supported him,” said Gardner, who was among an estimated 1 million gays who voted for the president four years ago.
Many gays see the proposed amendment banning gay marriage as an assault on equal rights.
The Log Cabin Republicans have aired 30-second TV ads in several states featuring Vice President Dick Cheney (news – web sites) and a remark he made in a debate four years ago: “People should be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to enter into.”
Concern about the proposed amendment has cut into organizational and financial support for Bush, Log Cabin leaders said.
“The nation is in the midst of a culture war, and conservative gays and lesbians are on the front line,” said Patrick Guerriero, executive director of the organization. “We have shifted all of our resources and energy to protect the Constitution from being messed with.”
The president has jeopardized what should have been an automatic endorsement from the group, said Guerriero.
Bush called for speedy enactment of an amendment banning same-sex marriage after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to prevent gay couples from marrying.
California’s Supreme Court has indicated it’s considering how to deal with the 4,000 couples who were wed in San Francisco before the marriages were halted last month. An Oregon court is considering whether to allow same-sex weddings to continue in the county that includes Portland.
Chris Barron, political director for the Log Cabin Republicans, said it’s unclear whether the group will endorse Bush. A decision by its 23-member board is expected around the time of the GOP’s national convention in New York, which begins Aug. 30.
“We would never endorse a Democrat,” Barron said.
If gays desert Bush in November, it’s unclear how much it would hurt him. Several states with a large gay turnout voted solidly Democratic in 2000, including New York, California and Massachusetts.
Exit polls in 2000 found Al Gore (news – web sites) received 75 percent of the votes from self-identified gays and lesbians, with Bush picking up 25 percent.
John Karczynski, vice-chair of the Orange County chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans, said he was disappointed in Bush’s support for the amendment.
“I’m still voting for Bush … but I have serious issues with the current team the president has put around him to cultivate the religious-right support,” he said.
A lot of gay Republicans intend to stay with Bush, but they will vote “with their eyes closed,” Karczynski added.
Recent national polls have found at least half of Americans oppose gay marriages, but fewer support amending the Constitution to ban it.
A Los Angeles Times survey of 1,616 adults around the country, conducted during March 27-30, found that 55 percent of those polled agreed with the statement “If gays are allowed to marry, the institution of marriage will be degraded.”
About half favored a U.S. constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union between a man and a woman, while 42 percent opposed it. The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.