- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 1, 2000

PHILADELPHIA America's culture wars are "hopefully" over, and Texas Gov. George W. Bush is the "compassionate leader" who will hear the concerns of homosexuals, Republican strategist Mary Matalin told a gathering of gay Republicans yesterday.
"We are here to honor gay and lesbian Republicans," Mrs. Matalin told a gathering of 200 homosexual activists at a downtown hotel. "Huge numbers of gays and their families support Republican politics, but they've felt shut out from the Republican Party."
Mrs. Matalin was speaking at a private event not sanctioned by the Republican Party.
In her 10-minute speech, Mrs. Matalin did not specify which parts of the Republican Party take issue with homosexual agenda items, but starting with this convention, she promised, "The loud voice of the few will not drown out the voice of the many."
The Matalin speech was music to the ears of the mostly male, business-suited crowd of Republicans. Many of them sported blue buttons with an April 13 quote from Mr. Bush: "I'm a better man now," taken from a press conference in Austin minutes after Mr. Bush had met with about a dozen homosexual activists.
Mrs. Matalin, who is known for her rousing defenses of GOP positions, as well as her marriage to Democratic strategist James Carville, redefined the party's positions as open to all points of view.
"Conservatives know family values don't mean intolerance," she said. Neither do they mean divorce, illegitimacy or "leadership based on situational ethics and moral relativism."
Neither, she concluded, do they mean Republicans should "shift the blame and start bashing homosexuals." In fact, she said, Mr. Bush himself had said he would "welcome gay Americans into this campaign."
Mr. Bush and platform committee chairman Gov. Tommy G. Thompson of Wisconsin were given credit for keeping language out of the party platform implying that homosexuality is an "assault" on military tradition and values. However, the platform still opposes legal standing for sexual preference.
Nevertheless, Rich Tafel, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, a homosexual group, joked that eight years ago during the GOP convention in Houston, the number of like-minded Republicans could fill a phone booth.
"And the speakers were better in the original German," he said, referring to the 1992 convention. Now, "people are comfortable coming out as Republican." Dan Stewart, the Republican mayor of Plattsburg, N.Y., elected in November as an out-of-the-closet homosexual, declared himself pleased with the speech.
"It's outstanding that gays have finally broken the ceiling of the Republican Party," he said. "Lots of things are happening. We're putting in some changes."
As for the Christian Coalition, which has always opposed homosexual-friendly policies such as same-sex "marriage" and hate-crime laws, "They're coming to the realization that inclusion of gays in the Republican Party is a reality," he said.
Another speaker, Human Rights Campaign Director Elizabeth Birch, told the crowd she had infiltrated Christian Coalition meetings.
"Gay and lesbian people aren't born into all Democratic families," she said. "Some are born into Republican and very conservative families."
Speakers also touted a "unity reception" starring Mrs. Matalin to be held Aug. 13 in Los Angeles on the eve of the Democratic National Convention. The organizing committee includes a varied roster of California Republicans, including state Republican Party Chairman John McGraw; state Sen. Jim Brulte, the minority leader; and Ward Connerly of the University of California Board of Regents.

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