Gore Endorsement Undermines HRC's Claimed Mission

Perpetuates Image of HRC as the Voice of the Gay Democratic Establishment; Bradley Better on Issues Checklist, No Credible Educational Effort on Republican Side

February 11, 2000 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Blogger Tumblr

(WASHINGTON, DC) – In the wake of a unanimous vote of the board of the Human Rights Campaign to endorse Vice President Al Gore (D) for President on February 9, the nation's largest gay Republican organization expressed no surprise at the decision, adding that the move perpetuates HRC's long-cited image as the voice of the gay Democratic establishment, not the "bi-partisan" organization it claims to be.

HRC Executive Director Elizabeth Birch told the Associated Press on February 10 that while HRC waited to endorse then-Governor Bill Clinton (D) in 1992 until after he had clinched the Democratic presidential nomination, the Gore campaign contacted her group a few weeks ago and asked for an early endorsement this year. Birch admitted that the unusual timing of the endorsement was deliberate as the crucial Super Tuesday primaries on March 7 were approaching, the first in which gay Democratic votes will be large enough to significantly influence the race.

"We thought we better make a decision while it is valuable and relevant," AP quoted Birch as saying. "Our candidate needs us."

Birch also told AP that Democratic challenger Bill Bradley, who has been better than Gore on key gay rights issues, was "late in the game" with his support of gay rights.

Bradley has called for the inclusion of "sexual orientation" as a protected class for employment, housing and other protections, while Gore supports limited legislation focused only on employment. Bradley has for years called for gays to serve openly in the military, while the Clinton-Gore administration authored the "don't ask, don't tell policy," which Gore staunchly defended until he changed his position in December to match Bradley's. Gay Democratic clubs around the country have been divided between Bradley and Gore, even after decisive wins by Gore in New Hampshire and Iowa, where the gay vote is seen as less influential then in Super Tuesday states like California,New York, Ohio, Massachusetts and Georgia.

"If you were a single issue gay Democratic organization, you'd have little choice but to support Bill Bradley. So, it is no surprise when a gay Democratic establishment organization makes an early and unanimous endorsement of the Democratic establishment candidate," said Rich Tafel, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans. "It is especially unsurprising after they publicly admit it was timed to do the most damage to Bradley, who scores better on many of the key issues on HRC's overall issues checklist. What is surprising, however, is that HRC still claims to be a bi-partisan organization. HRC has made some important inroads into the Democratic Party, and would be better off embracing its hard-won position as a powerful player there and not hold out the myths of bi-partisanship and that their issues checklist governs endorsements."

In their press release on the decision, HRC pointed to a number of items they said prove that "Al Gore understands words create dreams, but actions create results." Among them, HRC said Gore "fought within the Clinton administration to expand Medicaid coverage for people with AIDS," when in fact Gore announced the initiative in a fundraising speech in 1997 and never gave another address on the subject, nor were any steps taken by Gore or his administration to enact it. HRC credited Gore with committing to "provide money for better, life saving [AIDS] drugs," when in fact the Republican Congress has been forced to appropriate millions of dollars in additional AIDS drug funding every year since 1995 (increases supported by Bradley in 1995 and 1996) because the Clinton-Gore AIDS budget requests have consistently been inadequate. HRC also prominently cited the fact that Gore and his wife visited and read names at the AIDS Quilt and that his wife chaired the Washington, D.C. AIDS Walk as the first examples of how "Gore and his wife Tipper have been in the forefront in the fight against AIDS and the spread of HIV at home and abroad."

HRC did not hold their decision until holding a formal meeting with Senator John McCain, who has prominent openly gay elected officials in senior campaign positions and publicly reached out to gay Republican voters early in the campaign.

"If HRC were bi-partisan, they would have put a premium on having the courtesy of sitting down in a formal meeting with Senator McCain before making an endorsement, but it's clear that internal Democratic Party politics were more crucial to them," Tafel said. "The Republicans on HRC's board who voted to join in this internal Democratic Party struggle forfeited any credible opportunity to change HRC's image. The dramatic struggle going on right now in the Republican Party, which has captured the nation's attention, is likely to have a much greater impact on the future of gay Americans, and HRC has written off any chance of playing even a minor role in it."