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Gay republicans debate candidates

Colleen Slevin

DENVER – Justin Meyer admits it’s difficult to be a gay Republican these days.The 24-year-old financial manager was excited to see Rudy Giuliani jump into the 2008 presidential race both because of how he led New York City and his support for gay rights. But he’s angry at Giuliani for recently coming out against civil unions and doesn’t understand why other members of the Log Cabin Republicans, the nation’s largest gay GOP group, were still touting him as the group gathered for its annual convention Friday.”Rudy doesn’t love us in the press and his public statements, so what’s going on?” said Meyer, who said he would stay home if the election was held today.Other Log Cabin members are more hopeful that Giuliani is the candidate that can unite the party and reach out to independents and defeat a Democrat. Rob Schlein and his partner David Keeton of Dallas say they support Giuliani because he’s the best candidate to lead the whole country. Someday, Schlein thinks Giuliani would also be a good salesman for civil unions.”We’re working from within. That’s the way to do it,” said Keeton, a small business owner.Keeton said he used to vote for Democrats but said he decided to “vote my pocketbook” after President Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act and supported the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy for gays in the military.Frank Ricchiazzi, who helped found the Log Cabin group 30 years ago, said Republicans realize that Giuliani would have the best chance of beating Sen. Hillary Clinton. He thinks the party’s candidate won’t be decided until the convention so he said there’s no reason for Giuliani to change his views to win in state primaries.”Mainstream Republican voters and moderate voters are going to vote for you. Don’t tilt to the right,” said Ricchiazzi of Laguna Beach, Calif., who wore an “I Love Rudy” button.Ricchiazzi said he was a little worried after watching Giuliani in Thursday night’s debate, citing his remarks on abortion.With a record of supporting abortion rights, Giuliani said “it would be OK” if the Supreme Court upholds the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion. “It would be OK to repeal it. It would be OK also if a strict constructionist viewed it as precedent,” he said.Following the GOP’s losses in the November elections, in both Congress and the statehouses, Log Cabin members think this is the perfect time to pick a candidate who’s focused on values that will appeal to the largest number of voters, including limited government, low taxes and a strong defense, rather than social issues like gay marriage or immigration.”We need candidates who are appealing to people’s hopes and not their fears,” group president Patrick Sammon said.Sammon said he doesn’t expect anyone to run on a platform that includes gay rights but he does hope an “inclusive candidate” will be nominated. Nationally, the group has been focused on passing laws to protect gay and lesbians from job discrimination, overturning the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and adding gays and lesbians to hate-crime legislation.Mitt Romney, who reached out to the Massachusetts Log Cabin chapter in 1994, didn’t appear to have much support among Log Cabin members. When running against Sen. Ted Kennedy, Romney promised to be a stronger supporter of gay rights than his rival but later, as governor, criticized a court ruling establishing gay marriage in Massachusetts.Schlein and Keeton said they recently met Romney at a fundraiser and had their picture taken with him. They weren’t surprised when Romney told the crowd that he opposed gay marriage but they were offended when he added that he was also opposed to civil unions.”We’re part of the Republican Party, but he just alienated people who had paid $1,500 for a table,” Keeton said.Meyer said it would be easy for GOP candidates to change his mind and get him to the polls. He said they could even chose just to remain silent on gay issues.”They don’t have to do much. They just have to stop pandering to the anti-gay movement,” he said.


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