Anti-Bush gay advocate loses post

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Cheryl Jacques, president of the Human Rights Campaign — whose political action committee mounted an anti-Bush effort this year — has been asked to step down, several homosexual activists said yesterday.

The reported move comes after sharp election setbacks for advocates of same-sex “marriage,” which was effectively banned by ballot measures in 11 states. President Bush’s re-election — despite HRC’s “George W. Bush: You’re Fired” campaign — is the probable reason for a change in the group’s leadership, which had been rumored for the past week.

“This election was cast as the biggest election of our generation, and we lost,” said Wayne Besen, a former spokesman for HRC. “People are upset, they’re hurt and they want some heads to roll.”

Washington insider Hilary Rosen, former Recording Industry Association of America president, is expected to step in as interim executive director of HRC, reported the Advocate, a homosexual journal.

A spokesman for HRC yesterday declined to comment on the reports. “Things are still in motion,” he said.

Washington-area Internet blogger Christian Grantham, citing sources connected to the HRC, was the first to report the shake-up, a decision he said was made Monday night by HRC board members.

The Advocate said it was not clear whether Ms. Jacques resigned or was fired from HRC, the nation’s largest homosexual rights group. At its Advocate.com Web site, the magazine cited insiders who said Ms. Jacques was told to be “out of the building” by yesterday.

Some HRC board members apparently were “not pleased” with Ms. Jacques’ handling of this year’s election campaign, said Andy Thayer of Dontamend.com, a homosexual activist group that has been at odds with the HRC.

“Some [HRC] board members are pretty conservative … and, frankly, want to maintain a lifeline to the Bush administration and were ticked off at Jacques signing off on anti-Bush slogans on bumper stickers and so forth,” Mr. Thayer said.

His group didn’t support either candidate because neither Mr. Bush nor Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry supported same-sex “marriage,” Mr. Thayer said. “So from our point of view, having the anti-Bush bumper stickers was just fine. The problem was there weren’t anti-Kerry ones as well.”

The choice of Ms. Rosen, who is reportedly close to former HRC President Elizabeth Birch, as the group’s interim director is probably a smart move, despite Ms. Rosen’s “Democratic Party baggage,” said Michael Petrelis, a San Francisco AIDS activist.

If the HRC’s anti-Bush campaign is a reason for the turnover, “how does it improve HRC’s standing with the Bush administration” to replace Ms. Jacques with a known Democratic partisan, Mr. Petrelis asked.

“On the other hand, if Rosen is the new head of HRC, I’ve got to give her a lot of credit for having incredible connections in Washington. … We’re talking major power broker,” he said.

“If you want instant Washington credibility, [Ms. Rosen] is a natural person to go to,” Mr. Besen said. “She definitely knows how to work in these tough circumstances.”

Ms. Jacques, a former Massachusetts state senator, took over as the group’s president in January after Ms. Birch, HRC’s longtime president, stepped down.

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