Politics & Policy

Gay Republicans Disappointed in Buck

Ken Buck’s comment on the nature of homosexuality on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” debate continues to stir commentary and stoke backlash, including backers from his own party in the GLBT community.

The national arm of the Log Cabin Republicans issued this stern rebuke immediately following Buck’s comments on Sunday:

“Whether it is a Republican candidate for Senate or a liberal White House senior advisor, the suggestion that a person’s sexual orientation is a ‘lifestyle choice’ is ridiculous, harmful, and flat-out wrong,” said Christian Berle, Deputy Executive Director of Log Cabin Republicans.  “A person’s sexual orientation is no more a choice than whether or not they are left-handed, and too many people have been hurt because of failed attempts to change the way they were born.  It is unfortunate that Ken Buck chose to divert attention away from a platform of greater liberty and smaller government by indulging in anti-gay rhetoric.”

George Gramer, Colorado LCR president, chided Buck as well, ““Colorado Log Cabin Republicans do not agree with Ken Buck’s comments that being gay is a choice. We encourage him to stay focused on the issues of jobs, the economy, a strong national defense and energy self sufficiency.”

Earlier this month, the Denver County GOP released a video entitled “I am the Republican Party,” designed to exhibit the diversity of the Republican party in Colorado’s urban center–a diversity that breaks the mold and tears down stereotypes of Republicans perpetuated by the media.

Alex Hornaday, a lawyer and officer of the county party, took part in the video. Lynn Bartels, a political reporter for the Denver Post, led her coverage of the video’s release at a Republican fundraiser with this line:

I don’t know about you but I sit up and take notice when someone says he’s a “gay-marriage supporting, football loathing, David Sedaris reading” Republican.

Hornaday can be seen at 4:10, offering a longer version of the quote cited by Bartels:

“Like Mary Matalin, I’m in a relationship with a Democrat–who is also a man,” says Hornaday in the video.

Battle ‘10 caught up with Hornaday to ask about Buck’s comments, and if he still supported his candidacy:

Ken Buck’s comment yesterday, that he believes that being gay is a choice, was a great disappointment for me and other GLBT voters who also support Buck for Senate. Defensible, indefensible, mainstream, or not, are not the relevant questions; the fact is that the premise that same-sex attraction is a choice is objectively incorrect. In my particular case, it does not change my vote. I had no illusions that Buck would reflect my somewhat heterodox Republican positions on gay rights issues, and I support Buck’s candidacy for his positions in most other areas, which, thankfully coincide very nicely with my own. Nonetheless, I know there are many Colorado voters, unhappy with the current state of our government and economy, but still on the fence about supporting a Republican, who will use that moment as a justification for giving Bennet another shot. His problematic answer to what should have been a softball question about the very nature of homosexuality reveals that he has considerably more homework to do than I had anticipated.

Hornaday then noted the prevalence of gay rights issues as a motivating impetus for the formation of the Colorado Democracy Alliance, fueled in part by enormous donations from Jared Polis, now a Representative from Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District, and Tim Gill, a software mogul. Both men are gay and were outraged by Republican-backed measures early in the decade that threatened the GLBT community, and poured millions into defeating conservative candidates at all levels beginning in 2004:

Unfortunately, Ken did himself no favors as he explained his belief that homosexuality is a choice by, as his opponents will surely declare, comparing homosexuality to alcoholism. With little more than two weeks before the election, I’m confident, or perhaps I merely hope, that it will not prove terribly valuable to his opponents, but Buck’s mishandling of gay issues is quite dangerous in a state where the big money coalition for his opposing party was assembled precisely because of gay rights issues, especially when his lead seems to hover within the margin of error in what should be a cakewalk for Buck.

Hornaday told Battle ‘10 was prepared to cut Buck some slack on the comment itself. ”Giving Buck the benefit of the doubt one can say he was blustering, having been caught off-guard by a question that only tangentially relates to a set of issues that are not particularly consequential to most of the broad electorate in this election,” said Hornaday, though he went on to say that Buck should have been prepared ”to deal more comfortably and more competently with the entire panoply of issues that will face him as Senator, not just the issues he likes.”

Hornaday conceded Buck’s options were limited, but far from non-existent. If Buck can navigate the apology, Hornaday argued, he can quickly return to the driving focus of the campaign: the economic problems facing all voters–the same issues facing women or GLBT voters–and put this episode behind him as he wraps up the final two weeks on the campaign trail.

Hornaday’s biggest concern is the long-term prospect of Republican outreach efforts in the GLBT community:

I do not think we see much promise of the GOP making significant inroads into the GLBT community in the near future. Buck’s comment by itself is not going to appreciably impair that effort, but it does reinforce GLBT perceptions about Republicans that are the primary obstacle. For the one in four GLBT voters who like me already prioritize economic and/or security issues above identity politics issues and vote Republican, our persuasive task is not helped when one of our standard bearers make comments like Buck did.

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