GOP Candidates Confronted on Gays, Inclusion

Bauer Attacks McCain for "Big Tent" Comments

March 8, 1999 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Blogger Tumblr

(WASHINGTON, DC) – Inclusion of gays in the Republican Party continued to emerge as a top issue in the 2000 GOP presidential race as more prospective candidates, fresh from announcing the formation of exploratory committees, were confronted by journalists on weekend talk shows.

On Fox News Sunday, reporter Juan Williams asked Senator John McCain of Arizona about the inclusion issue.

"Senator McCain, last week we had Dan Quayle on, and we asked him about whether or not he would embrace support from the Log Cabin Republicans," Williams said. "This week we saw another terrible murder of a gay man in Alabama, Billy Jack Gaither. How do you feel about the Republican party's stand on these kinds of issues with homophobia in the country?"

"Well, obviously Juan, I oppose discrimination of any kind," McCain responded. "All of us are horrified when American citizens are harmed in any way or discriminated against. I embrace all sectors of the party. I seek every voter's support, and I believe that the great strength of the Republican party in the past has been that we're an inclusive party and not an exclusive party."

On CNN's "Evans, Novak, Hunt & Shields," columnist Bob Novak asked anti-gay activist and presidential candidate Gary Bauer on his views on inclusion. Novak asked about McCain's speech before the California GOP convention last week in which he called for a "big tent that admits everybody."

"Well I – you know, when I hear that phraseology, it's like fingernails on a chalkboard for me," Bauer responded. "I think that, over the last five years, all this talk about big tent has sent the signal to the American people that my party, the party of Lincoln and Reagan, doesn't really care about anything except how many people we can get in the front flap of that tent... I'm going to fight those that want to come into the party and rip it away from its conservative moorings."

"So if a homosexual – an open homosexual is a conservative," Novak asked, "you don't exclude him from your party or your campaign, right?"

"If we start excusing people from the party because they're lacking in one area or another, that the door will be – there won't be anybody in the room," Bauer said. "It's a fallen world. But I want everybody to come in that believes in those traditional values, in the sanctity of life and family values and smaller government and lower taxes."

In contrast to Bauer's attempt to appear willing to accept gays in the Republican Party, Log Cabin Republicans pointed to a fundraising letter Bauer wrote in 1998 he excoriated Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson by name for his support of openly-gay Washington, D.C., Councilmember David Catania (R), who won an upset victory in 1997.

"An RNC spokesman said, "We were and are fully supportive of him, without equivocation," Bauer wrote in the letter. "The party bureaucrats have thrown in the towel! They have given up!"

"Gary Bauer has built a career on bashing gays," said Richard Tafel, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans. "Even when he tries desperately to appear open-minded, he cannot hide is total contempt for those who disagree with his extreme views. He is everything the Republican Party must not be, or it will face a disastrous defeat in the next election."

"Senator McCain's comments are encouraging and we applaud him for them," Tafel said. "I think all of the candidates have further to go in making their positions on gay-bashing completely clear, and we will continue to press them throughout the campaign."