Gay Republicans turning away from Bush

By Adam Staley Groves
Iowa Presidential

Lifelong gay Republican Michael Simonson says his friends describe the “rightward direction” of the Republican Party as “kooky.”

Over the years and in the backyards of his neighbors, Simonson and other active party members have coordinated support for Republicans such as former President George H. W. Bush in 1992.

But in increasing numbers, gay Iowa Republicans such as Simonson are looking for candidates other than the former president’s son, President George W. Bush, to support in the 2004 presidential election. Simonson said he has donated $500 to the campaign of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.

“Republicans are no longer fiscally sound,” Simonson said. “Dean is fiscally conservative.”

Eric Burmeister, a lifelong Republican who has attended every Iowa caucus since the late 1970s, was a strong supporter of the president’s father. He says he is voting for Dean in 2004.

“The Republican party is beginning to sell out its position to the far-right voters,” said Burmeister, an openly gay Des Moines attorney. “Democrats are becoming more like the traditional Republican candidates.”

Republican national committeeman Steve Roberts said gay Republicans feel less than welcome by the Christian Coalition, which has an effective presence inside the party. The Bush administration’s recent leadership against civil unions reaffirmed the tension between the Christian Coalition and the party’s gay members, he said.

“Our problem is the Christian Coalition,” said Roberts. “Civil unions are not a big issue.”

Among some gay voters, the issue of civil unions has ignited cross-party support for Dean, who as governor signed legislation in 2000 making civil unions legal in Vermont. However, gay Republican supporters of Dean in Iowa say civil unions are not a major issue.

For example, Burmeister praised Dean for signing the Vermont legislation but said he is not a one-issue voter, adding that “using politics to establish a social agenda is repugnant.”

Curt Stamp, a Log Cabin Republican and central committee delegate in 2000, said he “cannot support the president at this time” because of issues he considers more important than civil unions.

“If I had to vote today, I would have a hard time voting for the president,” he said, adding that he was not “actively seeking a Democrat” to support.

Stamp said the economy, Iraq and Supreme Court nominations are more important than civil unions. But “if you lined up a Republican candidate and a Democratic candidate, and (they) were the same on a dozen issues except civil unions, I would choose the one for civil unions.”

E-mail Adam Staley Groves at [email protected]

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