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The W - Current Events & Politics - Republicans and Democrats Can't Avoid Homosexual Politics--But Where are the Votes?
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Since: 2.1.02

Since last post: 3515 days
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#1 Posted on
From US News and World Reports

Gays Force The Issue
Republicans and Democrats are discovering they can't avoid homosexual politics. The question is, where are the votes?

By Dan Gilgoff
At a congressional fundraiser last summer, Bob Kabel got the chance to do what most Republicans only dream of: pose for a photo with George W. Bush. Then Kabel, a former chairman of the Log Cabin Republicans--the country's biggest gay GOP group--won an even rarer prize: a personal message from the president. "I know exactly who y'all are," Bush told Kabel. "I'm working so that people don't have heartburn over your issues." Kabel was moved, but the Republicans have suffered plenty of heartburn over his issues since then.

On the other side of the aisle, things have been a bit awkward as well. At a July 15 Human Rights Campaign forum for the Democratic presidential contenders, the moderator grilled Sen. John Kerry on why he supports gay "civil unions" but opposes gay marriage. "I think it's important to do first of all what we can do," Kerry said, suggesting it was the country, not himself, that wasn't ready for same-sex marriage. Howard Dean, who as governor signed a law making Vermont the only state to legalize gay civil unions, also stumbled over the gay-marriage question. He finally asked the moderator to change the subject.

Gay issues represent rocky terrain for Republicans and Democrats alike, but suddenly there's just no avoiding them. In June, a landmark Supreme Court ruling overturned a Texas antisodomy law and effectively legalized homosexuality. Last week, the Episcopal Church elected its first openly gay bishop. President Bush stepped into the fray late last month, saying he had lawyers studying how best to "codify" marriage as a male-female institution. In Canada, two provinces have recently begun minting gay-marriage licenses. And the United States may not be far behind: Decisions pending in the high courts of Massachusetts and New Jersey could soon legalize gay marriage there. As the 2004 elections inch closer, the recent march of events presents the two parties with starkly different challenges. For the Democrats, the trick is not coming off as too gay-friendly to a nation that's still wrestling with its views on gay rights. The Republicans, meanwhile, must mobilize a voter base of religious social conservatives without alienating swing voters by seeming intolerant.

Bush has tried to keep his distance from the string of recent controversies, but it hasn't been easy, and the president has at times seemed squeamish. "I am mindful that we're all sinners," he said in response to a press conference question last month. "And I caution those who may try to take the speck out of the neighbor's eye when they've got a log in their own." Bush kept mum on the Supreme Court decision in June and has hedged on whether he supports a constitutional amendment barring gay marriage, which has been introduced in the House of Representatives. Still, the president has quietly extended a hand to gays, appointing a gay ambassador to Romania and signing a bill that extends benefits to same-sex partners of District of Columbia employees. "We don't always agree" with the administration, says Log Cabin Republican Executive Director Patrick Guerriero, "but the lines of communication we have are unprecedented."

It's a far cry from the GOP of the early 1990s, which saw Pat Buchanan deliver a speech at the '92 Republican convention that assaulted Clinton-Gore for being "the most . . . pro-gay ticket in history." "The difference [in] attitudes toward gays between 10 years ago and now is night and day," says former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson, honorary chairman of the Republican Unity Coalition, a group bent on making homosexuality a nonissue within the party. "There isn't a person in the U.S. who doesn't have somebody among their friends, family, or associates who isn't gay." Indeed, 22 percent of Americans reported having a gay friend or acquaintance in 1985; by 2000, that number was 56 percent.

But social conservatives warn that GOP efforts to expand the "big tent" threaten to keep religious voters away from the polls in 2004. Bush political adviser Karl Rove has complained publicly that 4 million of 19 million white evangelical voters stayed home on Election Day 2000. Self-described "pro-family" groups say Bush hasn't done enough to stymie what they call the "radical homosexual agenda."

Not a gay-rights crusader by any standard, Bush worries social conservatives because he's seen as equivocating on gay-rights issues--declining to support Sen. Rick Santorum's warning this spring that legalized sodomy would lead to legalized incest and, so far, withholding support for a marriage amendment. "Politicians always try to go hunting in the base of their opponents to peel off a couple votes," says American Values President and former presidential candidate Gary Bauer. "But it will become increasingly untenable for a pro-family president to be agnostic on the question of how to preserve a traditional marriage." Indeed, Bush's recent remarks on the need to protect the legal definition of marriage signals a shift to the right. Gay groups, meanwhile, are also calling on Bush to clarify his positions. "It's going to be impossible to get through this campaign," says the LCR's Guerriero, "without being asked if gays and lesbians deserve the same rights as all Americans."

Delicate balance. If GOP architects get their way, though, both sides are poised for disappointment. "The president has handled this issue with great delicacy and sensitivity, and he needs to continue doing just that," says Republican pollster Whit Ayres. "Gay rights is not a major issue to anyone other than gays." Maybe.

The Democrats, meanwhile, are hoping to derail Bush's big-tent strategy by painting the president as intolerant, while trying not to appear too far to the left on gay rights themselves. Most of the nine Democratic presidential contenders back some sort of gay civil unions, though the early front-runners, like Kerry, Dean, Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman, and Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri, oppose gay marriage. The Democrats unanimously support initiatives that Bush has kept quiet on or has opposed: outlawing workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation, extending the federal hate-crimes law to protect gays, and--with the exception of Bob Graham--repealing the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Unlike Bush, the Democratic contenders are depending on gays for campaign contributions. But appearing to be aligned with gay groups may have drawbacks. So some strategists suggest the Democrats' fervor over gay rights will subside as the election nears. "Most people don't care about this issue," says Democratic consultant Douglas Hattaway. "The average voter is wondering why the president is talking about gay marriage when millions . . . are out of work and soldiers are getting killed in Iraq."

What the jockeying over gay politics really reflects is the search for any advantage among those crucial blocs of swing voters. Bush's strategy is aimed less at appealing to gays--who composed roughly 5 percent of the vote in 2000 and who voted 3 to 1 for Al Gore--and more at live-and-let-live swing voters, namely suburban women and independents, who experts say are turned off by a perception of intolerance. Though most polls on gay rights don't break down responses demographically, women tend to be more in favor of gay rights than men, while Hispanics--a fast-growing segment of the swing vote--tend to be socially conservative. Polls on gay issues have generally revealed an increasingly tolerant public, though there's evidence of a backlash since the Supreme Court struck down Texas's sodomy law. Last spring, a Gallup Poll found the country evenly split over gay civil unions. But asked last month whether homosexual relations between consenting adults should be legal, 48 percent of Americans said yes, down from 60 percent in May. Those expected court decisions in New Jersey and Massachusetts could move the poll results yet again. Political operatives from both parties will be watching closely.

And Marking Out
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Big Brother

Since: 9.12.01
From: ミネアポリス

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#2 Posted on | Instant Rating: 8.65
Hey Drop, no more posting articles without telling us WHY you're posting them or giving us an opinion or context or SOMETHING, okay?


Since: 2.1.02

Since last post: 3515 days
Last activity: 2382 days
#3 Posted on
Apologies, Zed.

I thought this article presented an interesting dilemma for all parties involved. I think the idea that Bush has secretly supported some iniatives privately, but not others publically sepakes volumes to covert/overt political agendas and manuevering.

How do conservatives balance their relgious founded platform and not seem intolerant? Can more liberal politicians cater to the "gay" vote and not seem like hippies? *Is* there a middle ground? Should there be?

Is there even enough of a vote to cater to? Is it suicide to even attempt to cater to it? I don't think that the issue can be altogether avoided and I also don't agree that people are so more concerned with other issues that they don't care abotu this one way or the other.

And Marking Out

Since: 3.1.02
From: Philly

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#4 Posted on | Instant Rating: 0.00
As with many issues, I see three potential voter blocs here:

* those who are passionately in favor of gay marriages and/or civil unions, and will vote accordingly

* those who are passionately against gay marriages and/or civil unions, and will vote accordingly

* those who don't really care that much about gay marriages or civil unions; some lean towards approval, some lean towards disapproval, but as long as it's not affecting their lives directly, most are content to let it be Somebody Else's Problem[tm] and ignore it

The ambivalent group is by far the largest of the three. However, the fact that they _don't_ care that much about the issue makes them difficult to court effectively. If one guy is painted as a moderate and the other as an extremist, the moderate usually wins.

This leaves both sides with a quandry. The Democrats can't come out and say "full marriage rights for gays NOW" openly, any more than Bush can say "it's evil and against God's will" openly, because that'd be handing the other side valuable ammunition.

    Originally posted by Dr0p
    I don't think that the issue can be altogether avoided and I also don't agree that people are so more concerned with other issues that they don't care about this one way or the other.

It can't be avoided, and shouldn't be avoided. But much like every other civil rights movement, nothing will be decided in one fell swoop; there will be incremental gains and setbacks from either side's perspective.

The proposed Constitutional amendment reeks of desperation, like a quarterback whose team is behind throwing the bomb on every down (trying to get it all back in one play). It won't go through, any more than one legalizing gay unions in every state would go through.

And if neither side commits to an all-or-nothing maneuver, the stakes won't be high enough to REALLY motivate that in-the-middle group to come out and vote. There are lots of issues that people care about that aren't enough (in and of themselves) to make or break a candidacy.

(edited by vsp on 18.8.03 1021)

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Boudin blanc

Since: 7.2.02

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#5 Posted on
But what about voters who swing both ways?

(Sorry, I couldn't resist....)

"It's hard to be a prophet and still make a profit."
- Da Bush Babees

"Finally, a candidate who can explain the current administration's position on civil liberties in the original German."
- Bill Maher on Arnold Schwarzenneger

"You know, I'm a follower of American politics"
- President George W. Bush, 8 Aug 2003
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Tito Puente is no doubt composing a fiery mambo about this as we speak.
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