Zeroing in on concerns among some groups of gay voters, a YouTube.com video directed by a New York writer, theater director and part-time political activist takes aim at Rudy Giuliani and raises questions over the former mayor's support for gay Americans.
The 52-second video features three young, gay actors who all praise Giuliani's record on gays — with more than a hint of sarcasm.
One, wearing yellow-tinted sunglasses, a white-brimmed hat and a blue shawl says: "I am also so grateful for Rudy for the (New York) domestic partnership plan that he has implemented in this city because I have had no less, no less, than five domestic partners."
The purpose, says Ryan Davis, the director, is to point out what he calls the disconnect between what Giuliani has stood for in the past and what he is saying on the campaign trail. Davis, a gay Democrat, never has supported or worked for Giuliani (he worked for Howard Dean's presidential campaign in 2004), but he said at least he used to respect Giuliani's positions.
Giuliani was "over-the-top in support of gay rights, and then pulled back," Davis said.
Giuliani's campaign disputes that any shift has occurred over his perspective on gay rights, saying that his support for domestic partnerships has been unwavering and goes back through his mayoral administration. But, spokeswoman Maria Comella, adds, Giuliani always has opposed gay marriage.
"The mayor feels that domestic partnership is the right course, and supports the rights and responsibilites that are afforded, the rights and benefits that are afforded by one, and it's something that he's been consistent on over time, and that's not going to change," Comella said.
The leader of a gay Republican group, said the video does not do justice for homosexuals, and Giuliani's record to date has been one favorable for gays.
"I think that he has made it clear he believes in providing basic fairness for same sex couples. That's important. He also opposes efforts to write discrimination into the Constitution," Patrick Sammon, president of the Log Cabin Republicans.
Despite being a Republican, Giuliani historically has received high marks in the gay community. He signed domestic partnerships into law as mayor of New York but stopped short of endorsing same-sex marriage laws.
As the Republican primaries approach, Giuliani has been tailoring his message to appeal to more conservative wings of the Republican party. Recent comments by the candidate and his campaign staff have led some to believe his once strong message in favor of gay rights is eroding.
Davis said he was was 18 when he moved to New York from Salisbury, Md., about 2 hours east of Washington, D.C. He said he chose to move to New York because of it's acceptance of gays.
"They didn't care what you were doing with your life. As long as you weren't bothering them, they didn't bother you, and Rudy Giuliani seemed to embody that," and even took it a step further, Davis said.
Davis saw Giuliani participate in the city's gay pride parade. "I haven't seen Barack Obama in drag," he added, referring to Giuliani's dressing up as a woman at gala political dinners in New York and on "Saturday Night Live."
But Davis said a number of statements by Giuliani and his campaign about gay issues prompted him to film "Gays for Giuliani," which in the two weeks since it was posted has been viewed more than 50,000 times. Davis said in those statements, the former mayor has taken a softer view on civil unions and is no longer advocating for the reversal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy that does not allow openly gay men or women to serve in the military. Giuliani had criticized the policy in his 2000 bid for the U.S. Senate seat from New York.
In their rebuke, Davis and others note a 2004 interview on FOX News' "O'Reilly Factor," in which Giuliani said: "I am in favor of ... civil unions," but not gay marriage.
"That's a fair balance. Marriage should be reserved for a man and a woman," Giuliani said at the time. "So now you have a civil partnership, domestic partnership, civil union, whatever you want to call it, and that takes care of the imbalance, the discrimination, which we shouldn't have. At the same time, marriage has a whole history to it, including procreation and all of that."
Davis and other groups contrast that to comments earlier this year in The New York Sun about New Hampshire's civil unions law, in which Giuliani campaign officials were quoted saying it "goes too far."
Comella said that comments do not reflect a retreat because the mayor feels that the New Hampshire civil unions law too closely resembles gay marriage.
Critics also have criticized Giuliani's remarks at the June Republican debate in New Hampshire, in which he was asked if he believed it was appropriate that gay Arab linguists were discharged from the military as a result of the don't ask, don't tell policy.
"This is not the time to deal with disruptive issues like this. ... And I think we should rely on the judgment of our commanders in a situation like this. They know what's disruptive and what's not. And at a time of war, you don't make fundamental changes like this," Giuliani said.
Leading into the primary, the effect of losing support among the gay community might not be strong enough to sway the front-runner's chances. Up to 25 percent of gay voters say they are Republican, but only about 1 percent of voting Republicans are gay, Sammon said.
According to an analysis by the gay newspaper, The Washington (D.C.) Blade, Giuliani still is able to pull campaign donations from predominately gay areas. The paper identified him receiving $767,676 from 34 of the "gayest" neighborhoods around the nation identified by the paper. He trailed gay-neighborhood fundraising Democratic front-runners, Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, but was ahead of candidate John Edwards.
Sammon said his group does not make endorsements leading into the primary — and it has no intention of doing so this year — but he does not think that Giuliani's statements are alarming and his record has long favored equality.
Sammon also said that for gay Republicans — as it is in the rest of the Republican party — gay issues aren't the leading areas of interest in the coming presidential election. National security and smaller government tend to be the issues that resonate most strongly.
Furthermore, Sammon added he didn't think Davis' video did justice to gays, and instead played into stereotypes of gays.
"I was surprised to hear that this video had been produced by a gay person," Sammon said. "I'm just confused as to someone who, as an advocate for gay rights, would use a video to kind of spread stereotypes of gay people."