Moonies, Mantras and Mary
Gay.com, August 4, 2000
By Michelangelo Signorile, Editor at Large
PHILADELPHIA The doublespeak coming out of this city on the last
night of the Republican National Convention was even thicker than the hideously hot and
humid air that plagued this town for four nights.
Accepting the Republican nomination for president, George W. Bush told us that his is
the party of "idealism and inclusion," a party where "tolerance" is a
virtue. This, of course, is the same party whose platform condemns reproductive choice,
affirmative action and allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the military.
"I believe in grace because Ive seen it, and peace because Ive felt
it, and forgiveness because Ive needed it," said the man who governs a state
that executes someone at least once a month.
"I believe in a God who calls us not to judge our neighbors but to love
them," claimed the governor whose state enforces a Draconian sodomy law that
criminalizes ones neighbors private sexual behavior.
If this is compassionate conservatism, what exactly do they consider regular
conservativism? Stoning? Water torture? Burning at the stake?
Of course, some will say that what we saw on display here this week are the
philosophies of the new George W. Bush, the one who has now reached out and become, as he
said himself after he met with gay Republicans last April, a "better" person.
Surely, now that hes seen the light, hell begin to change his positions,
Not according to at least one of his best buddies in Texas. "I honestly dont
think that Gov. Bush would believe that the [Texas sodomy] law should ever be
changed," Texas attorney general John Cornyn, a former Texas Supreme Court Justice,
told me when I caught up with him at the Texas delegation, front and center on the floor
of the convention. He then added his variation of the mantra that everyone at this
convention recites with frighteningly mechanical precision, lest they be banished to the
far reaches of hell by the campaign: "But the message here is that we have to respect
everyone no matter what their condition is. Weve got to treat everyone as a human
being and understand that weve got to treat people with respect."
Respect for people who openly engage in criminal activity?
"Well, thats an interesting way to put it," Cornyn responded, belting
out a nervous laugh.
And if Bush is a better person for meeting with gays, isnt it the next logical
step to decriminalize gay sex?
"Look, the fact that you meet with gay men and women is not to say that the laws
[against them] should be repealed," Cornyn answered.
Like a Moonie, he then added the mantra: "But the message here today is that we
respect people no matter what their lifestyle is."
Gay Republicans see all of this as progress.
"I see the progress in three stages," said Brian Bennett, a gay Republican
delegate from California who served as the chief of staff of former house member Robert
Dornan, once one of the most vocal anti-gay voices in Congress. Bennett was one of the
Austin 12, the gay Republicans who met with Bush last April.
"The first stage is the symbolic one, which he began with the meeting with us in
Austin. The second one is when you are brought into the party and have a seat at the
table, when the Republican officials ask for your help. The third step, and the most
difficult stage, is getting the Republican Party to accept or adopt gay positions. I
dont think well do that at the national level and the party will have to be
dragged by individual states."
But even if we believe that working within the Republican Party for change is something
that must be done, isnt it true that at this point in time the national Republican
Party is not one that will further gay rights by any stretch of the imagination?
"In all honesty," Bennett responded. "Id be completely without
integrity to say that wasnt true. If I were to vote strictly as a gay man, Id
vote Democratic. And if I were pro-choice and I m not, Im pro-life
I would vote Democratic. So obviously there are other issues that are important to
me in terms of how I vote."
And that perhaps shines the stark light on how Dick Cheneys openly lesbian
daughter Mary Cheney could stand by her father, and is likely to take a position in the
campaign as an aid. For Mary and others, Republican politics perhaps hold an allure and
speak to other issues they feel passionately about issues that they may even see as
superseding their own and others basic civil rights.
Mary Cheney sat in the stands near her parents and directly next to her sister
throughout Bushs speech, as the overcrowded convention floor exploded with
thunderous applause every few minutes. On the opposite side of Marys sister and her
husband was an unidentified woman that some people speculated was Marys partner.
Both this woman and Mary came onstage with the rest of the Cheney family, the Bush family
and aids to the campaign. And Mary, her hair pulled back and wearing a dark gray suit,
seemed absolutely jubilant, applauding and smiling broadly.
"Ive known Mary Cheney for a lot of years," Lynn Martin, former
Secretary of Labor in Bush-the-elders administration told me. Martin served in the
Republican-controlled Congress, as a member from Illinois, throughout the 1980s, one of
Ronald Reagans loyal congressional defenders. "Dick Cheney and I were in the
House leadership together, and we were in the (Bush) cabinet together. Ive known the
family and Mary very well. Mary is bright and wonderful and Dick and Lynn are very proud
Martin says she hadnt known until recently that Mary was a lesbian. "You
never know in todays world," she said. "I never thought about it. As more
and more gays and lesbians reveal themselves, sometimes we now say, Oh, I never
thought of that, but this must be why she never married, and all those things."
You have to wonder whether you want some people to "reveal" themselves if in
the end theyre going to be working for the very people who empower our enemies. If
Mary Cheney was happy for her dad as the crowd inside roared, and the polls outside soared
for Bush while Al Gores numbers continue to sink, religious conservatives were even
happier for themselves.
"The bulk of the votes are going to come from the conservatives," Gary Bauer,
the head of the gay-bashing Family Research Council who made his own unsuccessful run for
this nomination, explained, gliding through the halls of the convention, wearing a knowing
smile. He didnt seem concerned that the Bush campaign kept people like Pat Robertson
far away from the podium and the cameras, nor that mad-dog congressional gay-bashers like
Senate Majority leader Trent Lott and House Majority Leader Dick Armey were kept on very
short leashes. (No wonder. Armey still couldnt keep his mouth shut, reportedly
making another anti-gay crack about Barney Frank at a convention party.)
"We know where the votes are going to come from on Election Day," Bauer said
confidently. "The people who will put Gov. Bush in office if he wins are people who
are pro-family and pro-life." And no matter how much this four-day television
production has been about "inclusion," and no matter how many lesbian daughters
work for the campaign, they are still the ones to whom Bush will owe any victory.
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