NEW YORK – On the eve of the Republican convention, some GOP gay rights supporters frustrated by their party platform's hardline stance against same-sex unions say they are torn over whether to back President Bush in this fall's election.
While most say they back the president on issues such as the economy and the war on terror, gay rights supporters such as Jeff Bisseri, a California delegate, expressed anger over the language adopted by the platform committee last week.
"It's just getting worse and more offensive," said Bisseri, head of the California chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans (search), a pro-gay group. He was among those who attended a Log Cabin gathering Sunday billed as the "Big Tent" event attended by prominent Republican gay rights supporters like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (search) and Sen. Arlen Specter (search), R-Pa.
Bisseri, like many others at the gathering, said they were supporting Bush at the convention, but were unsure on whether they would stay away from the polls come November in protest.
Many Republican gay rights supporters were already angry about Bush's backing of a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage, which fell apart in the Senate last month.
They became even more upset after the Republican platform committee called for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, and went a step further in voicing opposition to all legal recognition of gay unions, including shared employee benefits.
"It was certainly a slap in the face," said Mark Schulte, 39, of New York.
No one at the event said they would turn to Democratic challenger John Kerry, who also opposes gay marriage but is against a constitutional amendment banning same-sex nuptials, wanting states to decide the issue. Kerry also backs civil unions.
Log Cabin officials haven't ruled out a fight on the convention floor over the issue, though several members at Sunday's function expressed doubt that would happen.
Log Cabin officials say 1 million gays voted for Bush in the 2000 election, though it is unclear how much the gay vote could hurt the president this fall. States with large gay populations, such as New York, California and Massachusetts, went solidly Democratic four years ago.
The group's executive director, Patrick Guerriero, says an announcement on whether or not Log Cabin will endorse Bush this year will likely come in the next week.
Specter, who has supported legislation that would expand federal penalties for acts of violence against homosexuals, drew wild applause from the crowd as they sipped on glasses of wine and nibbled on hors d'oeuvres.
"Frankly, I don't know if it will be politically advantageous or not. But when you talk about gay rights, that's a civil rights issue and you ought to not count votes on it," Specter said.