Gays Could Split Over McCain

Think you know Sen. John McCain?

That's what the nation's largest gay-rights organization is asking voters.

A maverick? An independent? A moderate?

Not so, the Human Rights Campaign argues forcefully in a new video at its Website that uses film clips capturing key moments in McCain's political career to back up its warning that a McCain presidency would mean "four more years of anti-gay policy in the White House."

As creepy music plays in the background, HRC ticks off such McCain-defining moments as his Senate votes against protecting gay workers from discrimination, against treating anti-gay attacks as hate crimes and against allowing gays to serve openly in the military.

HRC credits the Republican McCain for opposing efforts to amend the U.S. Constitution to prohibit gay couples from marrying, but also shows a 2006 TV ad in which he urged his home state of Arizona to pass a state constitutional amendment to ban any recognition of gay couples. (Voters rejected that amendment as too extreme -- it would have even stripped benefits from heterosexual retirees signed up as domestic partners.)

"He actually sounds pretty familiar," the video concludes, displaying "good buddies" photos of McCain with President Bush, who campaigned in 2000 as respectful of gay Americans but later did a turnabout to curry favor with social conservatives.

The HRC's gamble means that if McCain wins, the non-partisan group will likely find itself in the same spot it's been in the past eight years: unwelcome at the White House.

It's a similar gamble to one taken during the GOP presidential primaries by the gay Log Cabin Republicans, which aired a clever TV ad in Iowa that used Mitt Romney's own words to portray him as a flip-flopper on abortion, Ronald Reagan and other conservative touchstones. If Romney had made it to the White House, Log Cabin surely wouldn't have been welcome.

Now, the HRC's high-stakes strategy hints at a developing split within the gay community over McCain. Although the Log Cabin hasn't decided whether to endorse McCain, he's signaling he wants to be viewed as a Big Tent Republican comfortable with gay people. Take, for example, his warm-and-fuzzy appearance on Ellen DeGeneres' popular daytime show. The two gently sparred over marriage. Or, take his recent campaign ad spoof on Saturday Night Live, where he objected to wasteful pork-barrel spending for a device to jam "gaydar."

McCain seems intent on coming across as likable to election-deciding independents, who tend to be gay friendly, polls show. Notice how he's been nearly silent about the upcoming gay marriages in California.

Still to come are two McCain decisions that I bet will prove pivotal to winning (or losing) Log Cabin's endorsement -- influential among gay Republicans and a badge of moderation helpful with swing voters.

First, McCain's choice of a running mate. Picking Romney or Mike Huckabee would likely mean Log Cabin would withhold its endorsement, as it did in 2004 over Bush's full-throated advocacy of an anti-gay constitutional amendment. And, second, whether McCain actively pushes for passage of anti-gay state constitutional amendments in Florida and California.

So, would gay Americans be welcome not just in a McCain Republican Party but in a McCain White House? Only McCain can prove HRC's forecast wrong.


To view the HRC video, go to To view the "Saturday Night Live" John McCain "gaydar" spoof, go to =3-L1_1Mzhg4.


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