Acceptance comes slowly at GOP convention
Party seems to inch toward gays, but platform still opposes Ďspecial rightsí
by Bob Roehr
Philadelphia--Acceptance does not come easy for gay Republicans, but still it is coming at the national convention, which began July 31 in Philadelphia. While that partyís embrace of gays is decidedly less enthusiastic than that of Democrats, it is helpful to remember just how much things have changed in the GOP.
"We didnít even have rhetoric in 1992," said David Greer, president of the Pennsylvania chapter of Log Cabin Republicans. He was not counting the anti-gay vitriol spewed from the Houston dais by Pat Buchanan. "In 1996 we only had neutrality," Greer continued. "This year we have inclusion."
Eighteen openly gay delegates and alternates are accredited to this confab, up from five in 1996. Presidential candidate George W. Bush met with a delegation of gay supporters in April. He also chose Dick Cheney as his running mate even after learning that Cheneyís daughter Mary, 31, is a lesbian.
Mary Cheney was beside her father during the opening session of the convention. According to the online "Drudge Report," the Bush campaign fully expected her to be on stage on Thursday night with all of the candidatesí family members.
"It is one of the most exciting things to have taken place," said Rich Tafel, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans. "Had Bush been afraid of the social conservatives, Iím sure he wouldnít have selected Cheney. And Cheney himself could have said no if he were afraid. All of those are good signs for us, they point to a level of comfort."
"It is absolutely a godsend, to have a conservative American family, a lesbian daughter who loves her father, and a father who loves his lesbian daughter," said Tafel. "If they are in the vice presidentís house, I think it is going to be a really incredible role model for people."
Neither the media nor the religious right have made a big deal about Mary Cheney, though she has not exactly been made widely available to the press.
Some speculate that the campaign does not want to divert attention from the candidates. Tafel suspects that the right is finding out that, "It is one thing to attack legislation, quite another to attack a daughter and a family" while they are in the same room.
The Bush campaign and platform chair Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson had the greatest control over the subcommittee draft, said Carl Schmid, an openly gay alternate delegate from Washington, D.C.
"To their credit, it deleted most of the anti-gay statements contained in the 1996 platform," he said.
But the rank and file members who control many state organizations, particularly in the South, as well as the full platform committee, are far to the right of the presidential ticket. They inserted strong language opposing "special rights" and gays in the military, and praised both the Defense of Marriage Act and the Boy Scouts.
The Bush team was more concerned with maintaining party unity on controversial issues such as abortion and gay civil rights than it was with words on paper. It chose a course of least resistance.
Its actions seemed to endorse the sentiment of columnist Jim Pilkerton, a moderate who served in the Reagan administration. He wrote, "increasingly, platforms are to politics what those ĎDo Not Remove Under Penalty of Lawí tags are to pillows: something thatís always there, even though nobody quite knows why."
"What we are going to have to live with is a Bush administration, not an administration of these platform people," said Tafel.
However, both Bush and Cheney have poor records on gay and lesbian civil rights.
Bush is against adding gays to employment discrimination laws, allowing gays to adopt, and has said he will not have a White House liaison to the gay community. As governor of Texas, he helped kill a hate crime law, and he opposes repealing the stateís sodomy law.
Cheney supported the pre-"donít ask" military gay ban, and voted against the gay-inclusive 1988 Hate Crime Statistics Act when he was in Congress.
The announcement that unassuming Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., the only openly gay Republican member of Congress, would speak at the convention drew the wrath of the far right.
Phil Burress, chairman of Equal Rights Not Special Rights, the group that backed Cincinnatiís Issue 3, sent a letter to Republican National Committee chair Jim Nicholson calling for Kolbeís arrest for engaging in sodomy. Burress offered no evidence for arrest other than the fact that Kolbe is "a self-described homosexual."
Cathie Adams, president of the Eagle Forum of Texas and a member of the convention platform committee, told the Fort Worth Star Telegram that Kolbeís selection "is a quota . . . This is being done to pander to the homosexual agenda." She said that inviting thim to speak contradicted the "pro-family" plank of the platform.
"Apparently some Republicans donít feel safe in their homes with Kolbe talking about NAFTA [the North American Free Trade Agreement] in prime time," wrote Houston Chronicle columnist Julie Mason. She recounted his military service in Vietnam and the medal of honor he was awarded.
Some members of the Texas delegation even began talking of sending a message to Bush in a "quiet way" by walking out during Kolbeís speech, Tarrant County party chairwoman Pat Carlson told the Arizona Republic. "I think it is appropriate if we get a speaker like that who is not representative of most of the delegatesí beliefs."
But the Bush campaign was sending messages of its own. "They are not going to tolerate any shenanigans from the right, they really have been shutting them down," said Tafel. "It is really quite amazing."
Michelangelo Signorile, a columnist with Gay.com, said that both gays and the right have been shoved into the closet by campaign operatives.
So when Kolbe stepped to the podium, there was no walkout. A few members of the Texas delegation, seated on the floor of the arena directly in front of the speakerís dais, took off their cowboy hats and bowed their heads in prayer.
Kolbe intoned, "Through free trade, we have exported our principles, as well as our products, sharing Americaís freedom and democracy with the world."
He clearly is not a master orator and is not accustomed to using a Teleprompter to read speeches. Nor did his topic of foreign trade, of which he is an acknowledged expert, rate high on the scintillation meter. But Jim Kolbe did his part to earn a footnote in history.
by Anthony Glassman
Washington, D.C.óThe Democratic Partyís platform will have strong gay civil rights content, thanks to a meeting of the platform committee on the weekend of July 29.
Among the openly gay members of the platform committee are Elizabeth Birch, executive director of the Human Rights Campaign, Cynthia Smith of Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats of New York, and Michael Milliken, a board member of the National Stonewall Democratic Federation.
The Democratsí platform, which was referred to as a reflection of Al Goreís priorities, builds on the 1996 platform in commitment to AIDS funding for research and treatment, and its support for the lesbian and gay Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
It goes further than in past presidential races, however, most notably in expressing support for federal hate-crimes legislation including sexual orientation, gender, and disability, and calls for the "full inclusion of gay and lesbian families in the life of the nation" with "an equitable alignment of benefits." It also takes a stand against military discrimination against gay men and lesbians.
"Al Gore is committed to equal treatment of all service members and believes all patriotic Americans should be allowed to serve their country without discrimination, persecution, and violence," reads one of the amendments to the partyís platform.
"Weíre proud and pleased that the Democratic Party platform reflects such broad and unprecedented support for the rights of gay and lesbian Americans," said Milliken. "As a statement of where the major parties are on fairness for all Americans, the differences couldnít be more stark."
"By contrast, according to the GOP platform, under a George W. Bush administration, weíll go back to the days of his father and Dick Cheney, to an administration where gays are ignored and where their rights are diminished," said Daniel McGlinchey, political director of the National Stonewall Democrats.
by Jim Baxter
Boulder, Colo.--Health care providers, activists, and others gathered here July 19-23 for the second Gay Menís Health Summit. Over 400 people--including two dozen women--came from 37 states and a handful of countries to participate in over 100 workshops and programs.
"Last yearís summit had more discussion of what the issues were," said Harold Levine, a New York consultant for SmithKline Beecham. "This year had more Ďhow-to,í more specifics."
The focus on leadership training and organizing skills was in anticipation of the regional and local gay menís health gatherings planned for next year.
"The rubber really hits the road on a local level," Levine said, "through physicians, community-based health care organizations, clinics and AIDS service organizations."
"People came together last week eager to do some local organizing, " said author and activist Eric Rofes. "Over the next year, summit participants will blanket the nation with gay menís health projects like we went coast-to-coast with HIV prevention projects in the mid-1980s."
Healthy People 2010
"Healthy People 2010," the federal governmentís agenda on health and prevention objectives, received particular attention with a plenary session and several related workshops.
Marty Rouse, assistant to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, said the main reason he came to the summit was to explain the Health People 2010.
"The document comes out every ten years as a health prevention plan for America, and this is the first time sexual orientation has been added to the list."
"Being included in this document means that federal and local governments must address our health concerns and alleviate health disparities based upon sexual orientation," said Randall Sell, assistant professor at Columbia Universityís Mailman School of Public Health.
During the plenary, members of the audience responded angrily to issues they said were overlooked in the report, citing the absence of needle exchange, condom distribution in prisons, and the exclusion of gay men and lesbians from specific categories such as cancer.
"This is the same federal administration that insisted on yet more research on needle exchange and then did absolutely nothing when the research was provided. What makes us think that the late addition of the category of sexual orientation is going to make HHS have any more spine when it comes to politically tricky questions of what we do in bed?" asked Richard Elovich, former director of HIV prevention at Gay Menís Health Crisis and an organizer of needle exchange in New York City.
"Furthermore, the inclusion of sexual orientation alone without a question about sexual practices misses the point when we know tens of thousands of homosexually active people--particularly young blacks and Latinos--donít identify as gay."
Rouse defended the document, saying "This is a long, long process. Iíve already traveled to 25 cities, I came to the Gay Menís Health Summit, and because of that, the community is more aware of this document than any other community. Weíve done that because the secretary understands this is a new area, and people werenít ready for it."
"Itís easy to point the finger at Bill Clinton or Donna Shalala or their gay representatives at the summit," said Rofes. "But itís much harder to face the facts about gay menís own pathetic health organizing of the past decade and admit that--while itís so important that weíve built an infrastructure and lobbying groups to fight HIV--weíre tragically unfocused, under-resourced, and unprepared to tackle other health challenges at the federal level.
"If Healthy People 2010 is not the document we want it to be, itís because we have not created the multi-issue, multi-cultural gay menís health movement to force the feds to include gay men of all colors in a central way," he said.
Focusing on specifics
"The Gay Menís Summit is very valuable," said longtime AIDS researcher Vickie Mays, a psychology professor at the University of California, "because it allows you to become very focused on what the issues are for gay men and to move forward on a gay menís health agenda. I was quite excited by the work that was being done on developing a black gay male health agenda."
A special all-day intensive for men of color was organized at the Summit by members of MOCHA, Men of Color in HIV and AIDS of Chicago, funded by the Office of Minority Health.
"We did a session around building leadership in gay men of color communities, one on substance use and models of addiction, and one on gay youth," said MOCHA director Rashad Burgess.
A coalition of African-American gay men came together during the summit and drafted a black gay menís health agenda.
"Our objectives are to increase the health and welfare of black gay men, the development of health and social indicators, gather data to show comparisons and changes in black gay menís health," Burgess said, "and to raise the quality of health care for black gay men, whereby they receive the best of the best health care."
Reaching across boundaries
There was a strong emphasis at this yearís summit on talking across boundaries--between generations, between races, between gay men and lesbians.
"Thereís been a tendency to position the gay health discussion as the AIDS dinosaurs vs. the new, holistic thinkers on gay health," said Daniel Wolfe, author of Men Like Us: The GMHC Complete Guide to Gay Menís Sexual, Physical and Emotional Well Being. "For lots of us, this summit was powerful precisely because it moved beyond ideological posturing to let us talk about a new vision of gay health, to draw on lessons of the womenís movement, or the pre-AIDS health movement, as well as the history of HIV organizing."
Wolfe facilitated several workshops, including "Never Forget: Memory, Gay Cultures and the Generation Gap" and "Homespun Health: Reports From the Front as it Was Back Then."
"It was a pleasure to talk with a group of men so respectful of the womenís movement and its accomplishments," said Shane Snowdon, LGBT resources coordinator at the University of California, San Francisco. "I heard more praise for the feminist health movement at Boulder than I have at womenís meetings, where all too often we focus on how much remains to be done and where weíve gone astray."
Other workshop topics included holistic approaches to health care, substance use and party culture, gay life and health over 40, and under 30, suicide and eating disorders among gay men, cybersex and its impact on real-life sex, and issues among gay people in rural areas.
"It was amazing to watch the five days unfold," Rofes said. "Now the hard work of linking local communities and getting them to expand health work with gay men beyond HIV and AIDS begins. Iím convinced people left Boulder ready to galvanize activism and program-development work in their local communities."
A national Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Health Summit was discussed for 2003.
Jim Baxter is editor and publisher of the Front Page, a lesbian and gay newspaper serving North Carolina since 1979.
HonoluluóThe University of Hawaii has decided to drop the word rainbow from the names of their teams, which will now be known only as the Warriors. The teamsí logos will also no longer have a rainbow in them.
"That logo really put a stigma on our program at times in regards to itís part of the gay community, their flags and so forth," athletic director Hugh Yoshida said after the new logo was unveiled last week.
Now, the university is being accused of homophobia by gay and lesbian groups and being criticized by some native Hawaiians.
"A statement like that I can understand coming from student-athletes, but to come from the athletic director, I am surprised and disappointed," said Ken Miller of the Honolulu Gay and Lesbian Center.
The old logo, with the letters UH and a rainbow of blue, green, red and yellow was replaced by an H adorned with Polynesian kapa designs signifying strength and unity.
Miller wants the athletics program to undergo sensitivity training.
"The issue is sensitivity and the fact they would use the gay community as a scapegoat," Miller said.
Yoshida, who earlier said his comments were taken out of context, issued a statement July 28 apologizing to anyone he may have offended.
"I understand why some people might consider some of the comments to be derogatory, even if no harm was intended," he said. "We remain committed to our policies on diversity and inclusiveness."
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