Political Notebook: Gay Republicans see hope for party
by Matthew S. Bajko
Now that John McCain is their party's presumptive presidential nominee, gay Republicans say they are "cautiously optimistic" that the GOP will move beyond using LGBT issues as a scare tactic to win votes and secure victory in tight races.
There is even speculation that should he win, McCain would be open to appointing out gays and lesbians to cabinet-level posts. He already has hired several for his campaign.
"I am cautiously optimistic about a McCain candidacy. We still need to be vigilant to make sure we are representing our issues in the party," said Charles Moran, 27, a former fundraiser for the California Republican Party and the current president of the Los Angeles chapter of the LGBT group Log Cabin Republicans.
Granted, McCain is not as pro-gay on certain issues as his Democratic rivals are, particularly when it comes to gays serving openly in the military. But gay GOPers point out that on other LGBT issues the former POW holds positions similar to Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
"What I keep trying to explain to people is he may have personal opinions on these issues but it is not a cause for him. That is progress of itself in the Republican Party," said James Vaughn , Log Cabin's California director.
Point Richmond resident B. James Bottoms , 36, said he supported McCain in 2000 and plans to work vigorously on behalf of his campaign this year. A former president of the L.A. Log Cabin chapter, Bottoms said he believes the "right wingers" of his party will have less sway over a McCain White House compared to the access and power they have wielded during President Bush 's eight years in office.
"He will be less committed to the right wingers," said Bottoms. "A victory for McCain could be a death knell for the right wingers."
Vaughn agreed, saying, "The phone line between the White House and the religious right will be cut."
Log Cabiners' optimism that their party is turning a lavender corner was buoyed last month at the California Republican Party's state convention, held in San Francisco. The party adopted a new platform that no longer calls for passage of a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
The change in stance on an amendment is a blow to conservative groups trying to place such a ballot measure before voters this November. And it reinforces gay GOPer's belief that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will oppose such a measure should it get on the ballot.
"My whole point about the platform is that no one really pays attention to the platform after it is drafted and approved except the media and Democrats, who use it as a bludgeon against moderate Republicans," said Vaughn.
The party does still define marriage as being between a man and a woman, though a push to strip that from the platform came close to passing this year. It fell short by only eight votes whereas any attempts to change the party's "pro-life" stance failed "overwhelmingly 2-1," leading Vaughn to believe "the GOP is less anti-gay than it is anti-choice/pro-life."
It was a far cry from 2004, the last time the state GOP readdressed its platform, when all attempts to strip anti-gay language from the party's platform failed.
"Four years ago there were no votes even allowed to change the language. The rhetoric was worse. And we were defeated almost overwhelmingly in any attempts to affect the platform," wrote Vaughn in a message to Log Cabin members last month.
Vaughn did trumpet that the new party position is similar to the view Clinton and Obama hold on marriage. And in time as younger Republicans move into leadership positions, he is hopeful that opposition to LGBT rights will become a thing of the past.
"The older, less tolerant members are, frankly, dying off and there is a new generation coming up behind them," said Vaughn. "We see this in the religious right leadership itself. The new leaders are not interested in social issues as much."
Log Cabin members themselves are divided on the issue based on polling the group has conducted. Support for marriage equality is strongest among members under the age of 32 and steadily drops off among older members.
The poll found that protecting the state's domestic partnership laws garnered the greatest amount of support. More than 75 percent said a top priority for Log Cabin should be defeating any ballot measures that would repeal such laws.
The issue will likely weigh heavily on Log Cabin's endorsement process in this year's state legislative races. Republican members of the Legislature remain largely opposed to LGBT issues, though there have been small cracks in that opposition.
Last year the state Senate Republican Caucus had a support position on one LGBT bill. And the newly elected minority leader, Senator Dave Cogdill (R-Modesto), scored a 10 on Equality California's legislative scorecard last year for voting for SB105, which created a tax worksheet for domestic partners who have to file their state taxes jointly this tax season. It was the first time Cogdill did not receive a zero rating since first being elected to the Assembly in 2000.
His counterpart in the Assembly, Mike Villines (R-Clovis) has scored a zero the last three years in a row. Both men's records are a stark contrast to Schwarzenegger's, who has signed into law more LGBT bills than any of his predecessors.
"It is unfortunate the Republican Party in California is going to have to continue to fall apart for the party to realize how out of touch with mainstream society they really are," said Bottoms. "The gay issue is the 'today's issue.' It will pass like any other social issue."
Vaughn is doing his best to see that that day comes sooner rather than later. He has pushed Log Cabiners to become "sacrificial lambs," candidates who run in heavily Democratic districts where Republicans have no chance of winning. This year he has recruited six such candidates for the Assembly and two for the Senate.
The reason being is the candidates are given seats on the party's platform committee. The goal is to stack the committee with enough gay Republicans so as to rid the platform of all anti-gay stances in four years.
As it was, four Log Cabin platform committee members failed to show up for the vote this year. Had they shown up, Vaughn said the platform could very well have come out without the anti-gay marriage language.
"The ones who show up run things. The right wing is always the ones who show up," he said. "They would rather be right than be relevant. It is a dwindling group of people who are getting more desperate, but they still rule the roost because they show up."
Vallejo man's mayoral bid ends
Gary Cloutier, the openly gay man who became mayor-for-a-week in Vallejo until a recount tossed him out of office, announced this week he was dropping his lawsuit seeking a court to name him mayor or force an election do-over. With the North Bay city near bankruptcy, Cloutier said it would be unfair to have the city pay for another election.
A Solano County court dismissed the former city councilman's suit Monday. Despite his short stint in office, Cloutier made history as the Bay Area's first openly gay elected mayor.
Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check http://www.ebar.com Monday mornings around 10 a.m. for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column takes a closer look at a gay man seeking an Oakland City Council seat and the fight for control of the local Democratic Party.
Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 861-5019 or e-mail mailto:.