- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 7, 2004

Republicans and others who seek to ban same-sex “marriage” say they’re satisfied with the limited attention that speakers paid to the issue at the Republican National Convention last week.

Most of those interviewed say they’re pleased that President Bush mentioned the issue in his acceptance speech and that opposition to same-sex “marriage” is in the party’s platform.

“It was not shortchanged or overplayed; I think it was handled just right,” says Sen. Wayne Allard, Colorado Republican and sponsor of the constitutional amendment to ban homosexual “marriage,” which failed in a Senate vote this summer.

“The most important thing is that the president talked about it,” says Janice Crouse, spokeswoman for the Concerned Women for America’s Legislative Action Committee. “The thing America will be looking for is what will the president say and what is in the [Republican Party] platform, and both those statements are very clear.”

In his speech Thursday night, Mr. Bush briefly addressed the issue.

“Because the union of a man and a woman deserves an honored place in our society, I support the protection of marriage against activist judges,” Mr. Bush said to applause, although he didn’t mention the constitutional amendment that he supports.

“Bush threw just enough red meat to the base to get them excited, without going overboard and sounding too shrill,” one Senate Democratic aide says. “Republicans went to great lengths not to dwell on this issue.”

A few Republican leaders also mentioned the issue in their speeches, including Sens. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina and Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts. But prime-time speakers focused on national security.

“During prime time, I don’t think it got a lot of play,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins says. “But the president’s strongest applause lines were on marriage and the unborn, so it is an issue that resonates with the Republican Party.”

Some Republicans “would have liked to see maybe a little more emphasis on it,” Mr. Perkins says, but “I wouldn’t say we’re disappointed.”

Mr. Santorum says for election purposes, the Bush campaign wanted the convention’s focus to be on national security, so other issues such as marriage and even the economy were “pushed to the rear.” Though not thrilled with that situation, he wasn’t angry either.

“Had they focused on six issues, and not [marriage], I would have said, ‘Hey, wait a minute,’” he says. “But they didn’t; they focused on one issue.”

The Republican Party platform, on the other hand, includes a three-paragraph section titled “protecting marriage.” It defines marriage as the “special union of one man and one woman” and strongly supports the president’s call for a constitutional amendment defending marriage from “activist judges.” It supports House-passed legislation that would strip federal court jurisdiction over cases involving the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Christopher Barron, political director for the Log Cabin Republicans, a group of homosexual Republicans who oppose the constitutional amendment, says the party platform was “crafted and controlled by the far right,” while the main focus and speakers at the convention put forth a more moderate face.

“It was a tale of two cities, when it came to questions of the gay community,” Mr. Barron says.

Steven Fisher, communications director for the Human Rights Campaign, a homosexual rights group, says the convention showed Republicans are divided over the issue.

He notes that Mr. Bush’s position is different from Vice President Dick Cheney’s, whose daughter Mary is a lesbian. Mr. Cheney drew attention to the difference when he said he thinks states, not the federal government, should address the issue.

“It has divided the Republican Party, and it has divided the ticket,” Mr. Fisher says, adding that last week, Mr. Bush and other speakers “masked” their position in “the softest language possible, but underneath it is the hardest form of discrimination against families.”

At the Democratic convention in July, several speakers spoke of homosexual rights. Human Rights Campaign President Cheryl Jacques, a leader in the fight against the federal marriage amendment, was among featured speakers.

The Family Research Council’s Mr. Perkins says his impression was that on the same-sex “marriage” issue at the conventions, the Democrats “did more to emphasize their position than the Republicans did to emphasize theirs.”

The Democratic platform language states that party members “repudiate” Mr. Bush’s “divisive” constitutional amendment, “support full inclusion of gay and lesbian families in the life of our nation and seek equal responsibilities, benefits and protections for these families.”

Both Mr. Barron and the Senate Democratic aide note that the Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. John Kerry, has had his own difficulties with the marriage issue.

“He’s clearly trying to have it both ways on this issue,” Mr. Barron says, noting Mr. Kerry’s conflicting statements on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling that made same-sex “marriage” legal in that state. At the federal level, the senator has said a constitutional amendment on marriage is not needed.

In his speech at the Democratic convention, Mr. Kerry referred to the debate, saying, “Let’s honor this nation’s diversity; let’s respect one another; and let’s never misuse for political purposes the most precious document in American history, the Constitution of the United States.”

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