A House Divided?

When Patrick Guerriero, the executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans arrived in New York for the Republican National Convention, he was prepared for the party's platform to include language endorsing President Bush's call for a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

But when the GOP platform committee went one step further and adopted language hostile to civil unions and domestic partnerships for gays and lesbians, language that was ratified Monday by the entire Republican convention, Guerriero and his fellow Log Cabin Republicans decided to launch a television ad beseeching Republicans to choose what the group calls the hope and inclusiveness of Ronald Reagan, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani over what the group calls the intolerance, fear and hate of Pat Buchanan, Jerry Falwell and Rick Santorum.

The ad will air on local broadcast stations in New York this week and nationwide on cable for as long as the group's fundraising can sustain it. The group would not disclose the size of the initial buy.

The straw that broke the camel's back for the Log Cabin Republicans came on Aug. 25 when the Republican Party's platform committee approved language stating that the legal recognition and accompanying benefits of marriage "should be preserved for that unique and special union of one man and one woman."

"We don't believe judges and bureaucrats should be allowed to recognize other living arrangements as the equivalent of marriage," said Haley Barbour, the governor of Mississippi and chair of the "Defending Our Families" subcommittee, when presenting his panel's recommendations to the full platform committee.

When members of the platform committee sought to move the party platform to the right of President Bush's positions on embryonic stem cell research, immigration and federal education spending, President Bush's allies, led by Bill Frist, the Senate Majority Leader and co-chair of the platform committee, were swift to block the move.

But they made no such effort when it came to issues pertaining to the rights of gays and lesbians, outraging Log Cabin Republicans.

Pointing to Bush's Aug. 12 comments to CNN's Larry King that civil unions are "up to states" and that "if they want to provide legal protections for gays, that's great. That's fine," as well as this week's inclusion of three gay-friendly Republicans--Sen. John McCain, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger--in the party's primetime speaking slots, Guerriero argued on Monday that Bush is trying to have it "both ways" on gay issues.

"You can't have it both ways," Guerriero said, "Live with the consequences."

Shortly after the GOP convention, a 25-member panel will decide whether the Log Cabin Republicans will endorse Bush for president. As a Republican organization, the group's bylaws allow it to either endorse the Republican for president or not endorse anyone. Besides, Guerriero says his members are "pretty solid" in their support of lower taxes and a strong defense, issues they don't believe Sen. John Kerry could represent them on.

Anticipating that Cheney will not seek the White House in 2008, Guerriero predicts the GOP will face a wide-open primary fight over gay rights that year and he wants to plant the seeds, in terms of financial resources and grassroots support, for a social moderate to win the party's nomination.

The Log Cabin Republicans are not the only group running ads against Bush on issues pertaining to the rights of gays and lesbians.

On Friday, the Human Rights Campaign launched a television ad that features video of Vice President Cheney speaking about the pride he has in his gay daughter and about his preference for letting states decide the definition of marriage. The ad closes by asking: "What if it were your daughter, Mr. President?" The ad is airing on New York media for one week. The HRC will not reveal the size of the buy.

Democrats are hoping that the GOP's rift with the Log Cabin Republicans over the hard-line platform and the President's recent rift with Cheney over same-sex marriage will persuade independents that Bush is an extremist who is willing to undermine the rights of gay Americans in order to pander to Christian conservatives.

Republicans strongly disagree.

They believe that activist judges could strike down the Defense of Marriage Act leaving states vulnerable to what the GOP platform calls "Massachusetts mischief on marriage."

Far less focused on the 14,000 Log Cabin Republicans than they are on the four million Christian evangelicals Karl Rove estimates stayed home in the 2000 election, conservatives are confident that the marriage issue is still a winner for the GOP.

Although the marriage amendment has stalled at the federal level, conservatives are emboldened by what is going on at the state level.

That confidence was on display Thursday at New York's Javits Center when conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly, the president of the Eagle Forum who was attending the GOP's platform committee hearings, touted Missouri's recent overwhelming approval of a same-sex marriage ban that came on the same day as a competitive gubernatorial primary on the Democratic side while talking with Frist.

"The Democrats moved heaven and earth to get this vote scheduled during the primary when their voters were out," Schlafly told Frist, "and it still passed."