Sunday, August 22, 2004

GOP doesn't stand for 'gay old party'

Poll: Ohio convention delegates share Bush's stance on same-sex marriage

By John McCarthy
The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - Gay marriage, which President Bush wants to ban in the U.S. Constitution, has little support among Ohio delegates to the Republican convention who responded to an Associated Press survey.

A total of 65 of 91 voting convention delegates, or 71 percent, responded to the survey.

Asked "do you favor or oppose gay marriage?" 34 of the delegates, or 52 percent, said they opposed; none answered that they favored; and 31, or 48 percent, provided another answer.

Nationally, 2.4 percent of the GOP delegates surveyed said they favored gay marriage, 70 percent opposed it and 27 percent gave another answer.

Forty-two percent of Democratic delegates surveyed nationwide, including 41 of the Ohio delegates, said they favored gay marriage.

Many of those giving another answer said that while they opposed gay marriage, they supported so-called civil unions in which gay and lesbian couples may share some of the benefits of marriage, such as employer benefits for partners, legal protection and the execution of living wills. Others said what two people do is none of their business.

"I'm going to pass on that. I'm not for or against it," said Roger Bennett, a 67-year-old farmer and real-estate agent from Wilmington.

Some of those who oppose gay marriage cited Bush's proposal to put the legal definition of marriage as between one man and one woman into the Constitution. A similar amendment to the Ohio Constitution could be on the ballot Nov. 2.

"Marriage is an institution that cannot be undermined in this country. For all reasonable people, that means a man and a woman," said Douglass Corn, a 45-year-old financial planner from Cincinnati. "The moral fiber of our country needs to be strengthened, not torn apart."

Ronald Beshear, 57, also of Cincinnati and a financial services manager, said he agrees with Bush on the definition of marriage.

"I'm not puritanical, but I think a lot of the issues we face encompass moral decay," Beshear said. "I believe life begins at conception and in marriage between one man and one woman."

Voters should not be surprised by the views of the convention delegates, mostly because they tend to feel more strongly about positions their leaders embrace than most voters do, said Paul Beck, chairman of the political science department at Ohio State University.

"One of the major dividing lines between the two parties in American politics has to do with what we might call moral policy. Gay marriage has pushed its way onto the agenda," Beck said. "You certainly wouldn't find that divide among the rank-and-file of the parties. These (delegates) are party activists."

Results such as those the survey produced could hinder Republicans who want to reach out to gays and lesbians, Beck said.

"What we're seeing happening is gay Republicans seeing what their party has hammered out. They are very upset," Beck said. "It's not specifically the issue of gay marriage, but the intolerance and the stigma."

Messages seeking comment were left at the Columbus office of Log Cabin Republicans, an advocacy group for gay Republicans.

Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett said his delegates were not out of the mainstream.

"You look at the make up of our delegation it's pretty balanced. We don't give them a litmus test. They're party people in a sense. I wouldn't say they're hard-core politicians," Bennett said.

The party has made inroads in gaining support among gays and lesbians since he took over the Ohio post in 1988, Bennett said.

"As long as I've been chairman of Ohio, we've had a large Log Cabin membership," Bennett said. "Am I out there bashing? No. I reach out to everybody."

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