- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 29, 2004

The clout of the homosexual voting bloc has grown significantly in the past decade, and its influence will be put to the test this presidential-election year with the debate over same-sex “marriage.”

In the 2000 presidential contest, about 6 percent of voters described themselves as homosexual or lesbian to pollsters for the Voter News Service, an increase from 1.3 percent who said so in 1990.

President Bush received 25 percent of the homosexual vote, or about 1.1 million, the most of any Republican presidential candidate, and he has made a point to reach out to the homosexual community — or at least not alienate them — as part of his message of “compassionate conservatism.”

But his announcement last week in support of a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of only one man and one woman has angered a subset of the homosexual community who consider themselves Republican.

The Republican Unity Coalition (RUC) was formed after Mr. Bush’s election by prominent members of the party with the mission of making homosexuality a “nonissue” for Republicans. Today, that seems a tougher goal for the group, who called the president’s position “a terrible betrayal of conservative principles.”

“We believe this amendment is divisive and distracting from far larger and more important issues and that it will ultimately fail in Congress,” the statement said.

Charles Francis, president of the RUC, said his organization stands by its position that it will “neither support nor defend” the president on this issue but declined to comment for this story on the homosexual community’s influence over the president.

A Harris Poll released Feb. 18 paints a picture of a homosexual community that is small, largely wealthy and highly political.

According to the poll of 748 homosexuals, 87 percent are registered voters and 76 percent are “absolutely certain” to vote in November.

However, few were inclined to support Mr. Bush. Only 7 percent described themselves as “conservative,” while 53 percent said they were “liberal” and 40 percent “moderate.” Only 11 percent were registered Republicans, while 62 percent said they are Democrats. Twenty-seven percent said they are independent.

Mark Mead, political director for the Log Cabin Republicans — the nation’s largest homosexual Republican organization — warned against the Bush team interpreting those numbers and predicting the homosexual community cannot influence the election.

Mr. Mead’s group spent $1 million on “gay friendly” Republicans in 2000, a 10-fold increase from what it spent in 1996. Even more will be spent this year, and the homosexual “marriage” issue gives the group more visibility.

“About a third [of the homosexual community] voted for Bush in 2000,” Mr. Mead said. “That’s to say nothing of their friends and family and how they will be influenced by the president’s decision to enshrine discrimination in the Constitution.”

Republican political consultant Arnold Steinberg, however, said it is difficult to determine the true political power of the homosexual community.

“If you look at certain constituencies, yes, some are more active beyond their numbers,” Mr. Steinberg said. “In the case of the homosexual community, the demographics are that it tends to be upscale and you have a disproportionate number of high earners who are not raising children.”

Overall, homosexual organizations gave $2.5 million to federal candidates in the 2000 election, five times as much as gun-control groups and $400,000 more than environmental organizations.

Mr. Steinberg suggests that such groups can have influence over a significant segment of “middle” voters — those who are not homosexual but have homosexual friends or sympathize with their issues — who could now turn against a president they would otherwise support.

“There are people in the middle, who, if they feel there is a harsh attitude toward the homosexual constituency, could become upset,” he said. “On this issue, from a political standpoint, whichever side comes across as most moderate will be politically triumphant.”

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