Gay GOP Group Readies for 2004 Elections
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A gay Republicans group says it is trying to get beyond the flap over Sen. Rick Santorum’s derogatory remarks about homosexual behavior, yet it is that very controversy that helped double the attendance at its annual convention.
Comments by the conservative Republican from Pennsylvania, the GOP takeover of the Senate last year and the upcoming presidential race were the main topics that lured more than 200 people to the Log Cabin Republicans’ annual convention, which ends here Saturday night. That’s more than twice the attendance of last year’s meeting.
Santorum has been a center of attention since an April 7 interview with The Associated Press in which he brought up a pending Supreme Court case over a Texas sodomy law and likened gay behavior to incest and polygamy.
``It was a reminder to all that we had work to do,″ Patrick Guerriero, director of the group, said Saturday about the increased attendance.
On Friday, about 200 gay members of the GOP met for more than an hour with three White House officials at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building _ Joseph O’Neill, the White House AIDS czar, Brett Kavanaugh, associate White House counsel, and Holly Kuzmich, associate director of the White House domestic policy council.
Ken Lisaius, a White House spokesman, downplayed the meeting, saying it was one of many policy meetings requested by groups looking for ways to further the president’s initiatives. The group talked about AIDS, education and judicial nominees for the federal bench, he said.
Guerriero said the Bush administration has invited gay Republicans to discussions about AIDS, judicial nominations and other policy issues. Still, the Log Cabin Republicans believe the White House could have distanced itself further from the Santorum controversy.
``If we were completely satisfied that the Republican Party was as inclusive as we wished, we would cease to exist,″ Guerriero said. ``It’s obvious that the issue of inclusiveness in the Republican Party is going to be a major issue.″
An estimated 1 million gay and lesbian Americans voted for President Bush in 2000, he said. The gay Republicans attending the annual convention, complete with get-out-the-vote workshops and congressional briefings, are convinced that gays and lesbians, if they don’t vote for Bush, could be partly responsible for ``losing the White House,″ he said.