Thursday, June 05, 2003

Log cabin syrup?

Richard Goldstein:

Under the Republicans, gays get the glad hand while phobes get the power

The most vivid proof is Bush's willingness to nominate men with anti-gay records to lifetime terms on the federal bench. Rick Santorum's wrath is nothing compared with the impact of these and other right-wing appointments. Bush's judicial agenda could pose the greatest threat to gay rights in a generation. ...

The same administration can shmooze homocons and nominate Bill Pryor to the 11th Circuit. As Alabama's attorney general, Pryor filed a brief in the current Supreme Court sodomy case warning that voiding these statutes opens the door to "activities like prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, child pornography, and even incest and pedophilia." Missionary Position Rick couldn't have said it better. ...

Stacking higher courts with right-wingers could have a devastating impact on gay-rights claims. As Arthur Leonard wrote in Gay City News, the Supreme Court hears "only a handful of major gay cases over the course of a decade, while courts of appeals are deciding dozens of cases affecting gay litigants every month." What's more, a Supreme Court vacancy may occur as soon as this summer. If Bush's record is any gauge, he won't disqualify a judge with a hostile record on gay rights.

For all its interest in Santorum, the press hasn't explored his ample anti-gay record. It shows that his beef goes far beyond homosex. Santorum played a central role in moving Bush's charitable-choice proposal. When asked about the provision allowing religious groups to discriminate against gay people while taking federal funds, Santorum said, "I will make that stand." Eventually he backed down, but only because the provision would have doomed the bill.

Every time the administration blows an air-kiss to a gay group, the religious right erupts, as it did after the Racicot meeting. Then some prominent Republican drops an anti-gay zinger. Santorum's bombshell may well have been a calculated attempt to deflect criticism from the right. But when you factor in Dick Armey's reference to his colleague from Massachusetts as "Barney Fag" and Trent Lott's comparison of homosexuals to kleptomaniacs, the pattern of contempt is clear.

Despite this dissing, the Republicans can tempt gay voters with an implicit promise: If you prove useful, we won't roll back your civil rights. Yet, by lending support to a party dominated by the religious right, gay voters help to assure that such a rollback will take place. It may not happen in Congress, but it will certainly occur in the courts. The next time a state passes a law voiding gay civil rights, it might not be overturned. But Bush will go on shaking hands with queer compadres.

Most gay voters know the difference between a smile and progress. That's why they are the third most loyal Democratic constituency, after blacks and Jews. Seventy- five percent of them voted for Al Gore in 2002. Still, Bush got about a million gay votes, and the Republicans hope to top this number by quietly courting gays in crucial states like Florida (where the GOP recently ran an openly gay candidate for the statehouse). The outing of Florida Republican Mark Foley, a candidate for the U.S. Senate, makes the party of Santorum seem even more simpatico.

Gays comprise 9 percent of voters in large cities. You'd think the Democrats would fight to retain this potent base. But there are signals of a new discretion on their part. Though Democrats have spoken out against Bush's anti-gay nominees, their protest has yet to reach the filibuster level. Then there's Hillary Clinton, who lay back on Santorum and has refused to say whether she would support General Clark's promotion. Her caution echoes a recent piece in the Democratic Leadership Council publication Blueprint arguing that the party must rectify its failure to attract swing voters, "especially middle-class white men." Read straight middle-class white men.