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GOP warned to shun agenda of gays

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GOP leaders warned to shun agenda of gays

By Ralph Z. Hallow


Top Republicans "flirting" with the agenda of homosexual activists are endangering President Bush's re-election bid next year, social conservatives have told the White House. Top Stories

In a sometimes-stormy private meeting at Republican national headquarters, 11 of the most powerful social conservative leaders passed their message to the president through Republican National Committee Chairman Marc Racicot, one of the targets of their concern.

The leaders were appalled that Mr. Racicot addressed the March board meeting of the Human Rights Campaign, a group promoting legal protections for homosexuality.

"We were concerned that Bush didn't really know what his party operative was doing in flirting with that group and he could put Bush's entire re-election campaign in jeopardy," Free Congress Foundation President Paul M. Weyrich said in an interview after the meeting with Mr. Racicot.

Religious conservatives strongly oppose the drive by homosexual activists and their allies to win marriagelike legal status for same-sex unions, an issue that Mr. Bush may be forced to confront later this year.

"We urged party leaders not to put President Bush's re-election at risk in 2004 by shrinking from the cultural wars now," said Gary Bauer, a Reagan White House domestic policy adviser, who attended last week's meeting with Mr. Racicot.

Social conservatives at the meeting also criticized the "tepid response" by the RNC to attacks on Sen. Rick Santorum after the Pennsylvania Republican was interviewed about a Supreme Court case involving a Texas sodomy law. Mr. Racicot "insisted that they had been stout in their defense of [Mr. Santorum], yet they did not issue any statement defending Santorum," Mr. Weyrich said.

Mr. Weyrich said he warned the RNC chairman that "if the perception is out there that the party has accepted the homosexual agenda, the leaders of the pro-family community will be unable to help turn out the pro-family voters. It won't matter what we say; people will leave in droves."

The meeting with Mr. Racicot was attended by Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, as well as representatives of such groups as the Family Research Council (FRC), Concerned Women for America (CWA) and the American Family Association (AFA).

Some of those representatives concluded that Mr. Racicot, Mr. Bush's personal choice to head the Republican National Committee, was "dangerously naive" on homosexual activism.

The Republican flirtation with the homosexual agenda "divides its friends and unites its enemies," Mr. Land told Mr. Racicot.

Social conservative leaders told Mr. Racicot they had been pleased generally with Mr. Bush's words and actions on social-policy issues but couldn't assure that their rank-and-file members would retain the same degree of enthusiasm for Mr. Bush if the president and his party appeased the homosexual lobby.

"If the Republicans continue to drift in that direction, we will walk," the Rev. Donald Wildmon, president of AFA, told Mr. Racicot. Mr. Wildmon's AFA owns and operates about 200 radio stations across the country and provides programming to about 20 affiliated stations.

Those at the meeting reminded Mr. Racicot that Mr. Bush nearly lost the 2000 election because between 4.5 million and 6 million religious conservative voters who had voted in previous elections stayed home. These "no-shows" were skeptical that Mr. Bush was the man he claimed to be in his presidential campaign.

"If more pro-family people return to the fold next year, Bush can survive even a bad economy," Mr. Bauer, president of American Values, told Mr. Racicot. "And these folks tend to vote for the rest of the ticket as well. If more leave the fold, historians will be writing about how both Bushes were very popular after a war and how both were subsequently defeated the following year."

Mr. Racicot did not return repeated telephone calls seeking comment.

One participant at last week's meeting who asked not to be identified said, "Racicot at first was a little hostile, saying, 'You people don't want me to meet with other folks, but I meet with anybody and everybody.' "

Mr. Bauer retorted, "That can't be true, because you surely would not meet with the leaders of the Ku Klux Klan."

When Mr. Wildmon asked the RNC chairman if he would meet with the North American Man-Boy Love Association, Mr. Racicot replied that he had never heard of the notorious pedophile group, Mr. Weyrich said.

Mr. Racicot, former governor of Montana, also "professed ignorance" when asked about the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), which promotes pro-homosexual policies and programs in schools, Mr. Weyrich said.

"Racicot is a good man but painfully uninformed about the agendas of some of the various interest groups," said Gary Palmer, president of the Alabama Policy Institute. "While some left the meeting feeling aggrieved by Racicot's response, I felt he is in our camp, and a guy that we can work with on pro-family issues."

Two events on the political horizon could put the president at risk on social issues, said Mr. Bauer. One is the nomination he makes if a Supreme Court justice retires before the 2004 election. The other is the likelihood this summer of a national debate on same-sex "marriage," which the Massachusetts Supreme Court is expected to declare lawful.

Mr. Bauer predicted that such a ruling in Massachusetts would set off a constitutional crisis. If, for example, two men who "married" in that state then moved to a state like Louisiana that prohibited such unions, the couple could bring a federal challenge of the Louisiana law under the clause in the Constitution that each state shall grant "full faith and credit" to the laws and judicial proceedings of every other state.

"It is going to be imperative, at that moment during this summer, for the party of Lincoln, without shame or embarrassment, to be willing to stand up in defense of traditional marriage," Mr. Bauer said.

The meeting's other participants were Robert Knight, director of CWA's Culture and Family Institute; Ken Connor, FRC president; Dr. Jack Willke, president of Life Issues Institute; Rick Scarborough, national co-chairman of Vision America; the Rev. Lou Sheldon, president of the Traditional Values Coalition; Ron Shuping, senior vice president of the Inspirational Network; and Mike Farris, who represents the Home School Legal Defense Association.

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