Republicans will start their national convention Monday with a new Party platform that supports President Bush's reelection campaign. Included in that platform is language that supports Bush's call for constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
Log Cabin Republican political director Christopher Barron discussed the Republican Party platform as well as the convention.
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The transcript follows.
Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.
Christopher Barron: Hi all... thanks for your questions...
No offense, but it seems to me that any gay man who supports President Bush would be primarily concerned with material/financial matters and not their own rights as human beings or members of society.
Is this an accurate characterization of gay Republicans? If not, what are some of the most obvious differences between gay Democrats and Republicans?
Christopher Barron: I dont think its fair to characterize gay Republicans as being primarily concerned with material/financial matters... gay Republicans care about a wide variety of Republican issues, smaller government, individual liberty, personal freedom, strong national defense, lower taxes, personal responsibility, etc...
If memory serves, the Bush Administration has previously indicated a willingness to accept civil unions. Does the Log Cabin organization have a position in this regard? Are civil unions an acceptable compromise, or do they fall short?
Christopher Barron: The President has said he would allow states to make "arrangements" short of marriage, unfortunately the discriminatory Constitutional Amendment that he supports would jeopardize civil unions and domestic partnerships in addition to banning same sex civil marriage, so the President's rhetoric has not matched his record on this issue
Is your group planning to endorse Lisa Marie Cheney for Congress in Virginia's 8th District?
Christopher Barron: We did endorse Lisa Marie Cheney, and we expect to endorse close to 50 Republicans for House and Senate this year. Lisa Marie Cheney is a great candidate and will make a great Representative for northern Virginia
In reading about about how the party platform was made, it sounded like those who supported gay rights weren't offered much of anything. I remember reading in 2000 that the Bush campaign made a real effort to reach out to gay voters and at least get some of the harsher rhetoric towards gays toned down, do you feel they are doing that now?
Christopher Barron: This year's party platform as it relates to gay and lesbian issues is outrageous. I was in the committee hearings and watched as Gary Bauer and the radical right helped craft this vicious and mean-spirited platform. The Party and the President should be embarrassed at this Platform.
What's it like to work within a political
party that appears not to be doing
anything for you?
Christopher Barron: First, I dont believe your assessment is correct. There are courageous inclusive Republicans all across this great country of ours. Working to help defeat the FMA in the Senate, working to pass Hate Crimes in the Senate, working to extend benefits to gay and lesbian couples in the states. McCain, Giuliani, Pataki, Snowe, Collins, Chafee, Specter, Sununu, Schwarzenegger, etc. are examples of courageous inclusive Republicans.
Falls Church, Va.:
Thanks for taking questions today. I have been a Republican since I was a child and began following politics. When I moved out of the small town I grew up in to go to college, I bcame friends with a much more diverse group of people--not all of them straight, white, Republicans. I learned a lot from them and sympathized with their experiences, especially watching some of my friends come out of the closet. I stayed a Republican though, generally disagreeing with the party's stance on gay issues but agreeing with policies on trade, defense, and the economy. A few weeks ago, my uncle got married to a wonderful man who I, and my family (also Republicans) care about very much. Now I'm in a quandry. I've as of late been moving from Republican to undecided and the fact that I'm so excited about their marriage makes me feel as though I am definitely undecided. I don't even know if I will vote this year, because I disagree with the Democrats in general and the Republicans on gay rights issues. So I'm hoping that you can give me some information about your experiences in the party that will make me feel better about being a Republican in favor of gay marriage.
Christopher Barron: I can empathize with your quandry, but i would urge you not to abandon the GOP. We need more fair minded Republicans, not less. History is on our side.
Grand Rapids, Mich.:
I am a life-long Republican and I am gay.
Although I am always disappointed at what churns out of the platform committee, I must say that this year the tone was much milder and even slightly receptive to persons of all sexual persuasions. This IS progress!;
With wonderful moderates such as Giuliani, McCain, Pataki and "Ahhhnold" in the wings, 2008 is most promising, indeed.
Therefore, I deem it wise for gay Republicans to stay with the Party; hold your noses; vote for Bush and start planning for the exciting days ahead.
Christopher Barron: As someone who was in the platform hearings I can tell you first hand that the tone was not milder and more receptive to gays and lesbians. The platform language and the process is an outrage, and we as gay Republicans should not allow the radical right to continue to hijack our party and our platform. 2008 certainly is full of potential. We have a number of inclusive Republicans who make up the first string for the 2008 race.
Are the Log Cabin Republicans going to endorse George W. Bush for president?
Christopher Barron: The organization will announce its decision on whether or not to endorse the President's re-election in the days after the convention. We have made it clear that the President's support for the FMA, his campaigning on it, and this outrageous platform has severely jeopardized his ability to retain the Log Cabin endorsement.
Can you tell me what is the estimated national gay vote? What percentage of total registered voters are thought to be gay? Also, can you break this down by Democratic, Republican, Independent? Thanks
Christopher Barron: In 2000 the gay vote was estimated to be slightly over 4 million. Just over 1 million, or roughly 25%, of the gay and lesbian vote went to the President. Roughly 70% went to Gore, and the rest to Nader.
New York, N.Y.:
I've heard a few gay Republicans say Kerry/Edwards do not support gay marriage so that issue is basically a wash. But please read an excerpt from an online article published on www.thenation.com and please comment:
"It is true that Kerry and Edwards -- and Hillary Clinton and other leading Democrats -- run screaming from gay marriage as political and policy matters. But it is also clear that the Democrats do not abuse the issue in demagogic fashion and are not explicitly fueling and exploiting the obsessions of gay-bashers to win elections. The folks in this fancy restaurant are smart enough to recognize such a difference. They choose not to acknowledge it."
Christopher Barron: Lets be clear, Kerry and Edwards are far from perfect on gay issues. Any gay and lesbian voter has to recognize that as a simple statement of reality. Neither support marriage, Kerry supports an amendment to ban marriage in Massachussets, and both Kerry and Edwards supported the anti-gay amendment in Missouri even though it did not provide for any benefits for gay couples and the law in Missouri was already clear. Yes, Kerry/Edwards are better than Bush is on gay and lesbian issues, but at least be honest about both candidates positions.
I understand that there are Republican senators and congressmen who believe in the importance of gay rights. But these individuals are virtually required to vote for their party's leadership in the House and Senate. The leadership has endorsed an offensively anti-gay platform, and it's highly unlikely that a Republican Majority Leader would allow pro-gay legislation to move efficiently through Congress. Given this, am I better off voting for Democratic candidates for Congress? What can be done to encourage moderate Republican candidates without further empowering the right-wing fringe?
Christopher Barron: You are most definetely not better off voting for Democrats. First, it was a Republican Senate that voted overwhelmingly to pass hate crimes legislation this year, and no legislation gets passes in our system without bi-partisan support. So it is important that we have fair minded Democrats and Republicans. You can help Republican moderates by supporting them financially, volunteering for their campaigns, joining your local party, running for elected office, etc. The far right is far better than us in the sensible center in organizing. We have to do a better job.
San Francisco, Calif.:
It sounds like the LCR slogan this year is "(only) Four More Years (we hope)".
Is it really realistic to believe that another win by the religious right and four more years moving in that direction will leave the GOP and America more open to gay rights?
You think the 2008 platform will call for a repeal of the FMA?
Christopher Barron: The reality is that no matter what happens there is going to be a battle in the GOP in 2008. The race for 08 will essentially begin the moment this race is over. If the GOP nominates an inclusive Republican then 2008 could reall be the great leap forward for our party on gay and lesbian issues.
Fort Worth, Tex.:
I am in a quandey as to why the Log Cabin and other supportive human rights organizations have focused on the marriage issue until it has risen to its current emotional levels. I would have expected the Log Cabin to emphasize greater economic equality for gay partnerships and demonstrate that the "M" word is not an essential ingredient. When it comes down to it, its just good sense and won't exacerbate the conservative right.
Christopher Barron: First, we did not choose this fight. But sometimes you do not get the luxury of choosing your fight. We are facing a Constitutional Amendment that would desecrate our founding document by writing discrimination into it. This is NOT about marriage. This is about protecting our Constitution.
I'm confused. Why would you think the Democrats oppose "individual liberty, personal freedom, strong national defense, lower taxes, personal responsibility, etc?" Certainly in this year of all years Democrats stand taller on matters of individual liberty, personal freedom, national defense and personal responsibility (be responsible for not sending thousands of our soldiers into Iraq when you have 'miscalculated'). I can understand not wanting to necessarily be a one issue voter, but this year strikes me as unique from the past. As an aside, Gary Bauer should be ashamed of himself.
Christopher Barron: I agree with you on one point. Gary Bauer should be ashamed of himself. I strongly disagree that Democrats "stand taller" on those issues. I believe that a smaller government and lower taxes mean greater freedom for all. I certainly do not trust Pelosi and Kennedy and Kerry on questions of national defense and national security.
If Log Cabin Republicans doesn't end up endorsing the President, will you endorse John Kerry?
Christopher Barron: Absolutey not. We are a Republican organization and ONLY endorse Republicans
I can accept your support of traditional Repbulican stances on issues like taxes, the size of government, defense, etc, and the need to work for change within the party. And kudos to the handful of brave moderates who still try to defend the equality and dignity of all Americans. Nevertheless, when you enter the voting booth, shouldn't we stand against candidates who so easily disregard our common humanity? Vote for a third-party candidate if you can't vote Democratic, but "plugging your nose and voting for Bush" just because he's Republican seems self-defeating.
Christopher Barron: All Americans should address the broad range of issues that face this country when they enter the voting booth in November.
Silver Spring, Md.:
Last October, Mr. Guerriero stated that the Log Cabin Republicans could not endorse any Republican candidate -- including George Bush -- who backs a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Six months ago, Bush announced his support for just such an amendment.
Yet as recently as this morning's Post, we read about the Log Cabin Republicans' demand "that President Bush square his actions with his rhetoric of inclusiveness or risk losing their endorsement."
The Log Cabin Republicans boldly drew a line in the sand, and George Bush crossed it. Yet six months later the LCRs are still considering an endorsement.
This diminishes the group's credibility in the eyes of both non-gay Republicans and non-Republican gays.
How will you overcome this?
Christopher Barron: The organization has made it clear for months that we traditionally make decisions about endorsement on the Presidential level AFTER the RNC. We are doing just that, our Board will make a decision in the coming days.
St. Mary's City, Md.:
I wish your group well in opposing Bush's gay marriage ban. I'm a straight man and I believe that gays and lesbians should be able to get married under the law.
To Bush's credit, he hasn't engaged in Falwell and Robertson-style gay baiting. Still, it's wrong for him to pander to Christian voters this way, and wrong to stomp on the gay population's hopes and aspirations in the process. I'd like to see more GOP moderates stand up to Bush and this type of divisive politics.
Christopher Barron: Thanks for your well wishes. We know that for far too long moderates have sat quietly by and watched as the far right hijacked our party. I can tell you that moderates in our party are fighting back, thats why we launched a national advertising campaign today in response to the outrageous platform language.
Christopher Barron: OK all, gotta run, thanks for the great questions, check out www.logcabin.org and learn more about our organization and our new ad campaign!