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Republican Party (United States)  
 
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Following failed attempts by the Party leadership to convince Carpenter to resign, religious conservatives within the Party bankrolled a conservative Republican to oppose him. Although Carpenter outspent his challenger by a large margin, raising over $256,000, more than any House candidate in Oregon history, anti-gay arguments during the campaign won the day, and Representative Carpenter was defeated by 54 votes.

Indeed, a number of congressional and gubernatorial elections in 1998 saw efforts by Republican candidates to paint their opponents as too close to the homosexual lobby, even though some of these Republican candidates, including a number in Virginia, received direct financial and volunteer support from groups such as LCR.

Sponsor Message.

Meanwhile, Republican congressional candidates in states such as Florida, Illinois, and California, were increasingly meeting with glbtq groups, attending glbtq fundraising events, and campaigning in glbtq areas. Thus, by the late 1990s it was clear that the Republican Party was increasingly divided on glbtq issues, and the support of moderate Republicans was often soft.

Divisions in the Party

These divisions were quite apparent during the 2000 election cycle, which in many ways was the most glbtq-friendly ever. For example, even as the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee ran anti-gay television ads against Democratic U. S. House candidate Jim Matheson in Utah, the top Republican presidential candidates, Senator John McCain and Texas Governor George W. Bush, softened their anti-gay rhetoric. Senator McCain even hired glbtq staff members and supported the campaigns of glbtq candidates in his state. Senator McCain's support should not have been surprising, considering that LCR had hosted a series of fundraisers in late 1999, raising $40,000 for the Senator.

Activists in the 2000 election cycle were increasingly visible in state parties, with the greatest number ever being elected as delegates to state party conventions and the national convention.

Nevertheless, the National Republican Congressional Committee encouraged Republican candidates in 2000 to stir up anti-gay sentiment. The NRCC Issues Book 2000 instructed candidates to explain their opposition to gay civil rights by arguing that the laws "would allow radical homosexuals to impose their lifestyle choices upon everyone else at our workplaces and schools...[T]he discussion of sexual behavior over the water-cooler at work does not deserve special protection from Washington."

Still, both Senator McCain and Governor Bush met privately with LCR representatives during the campaign, and Senator McCain accepted contributions from LCR without hesitation. Moreover, the Republican Party Convention in 2000 focused on diversity within the party, even going so far as to feature the first openly gay elected official to speak at a Republican convention, Congressman Jim Kolbe (R-AZ).

Many delegates who disapproved of Kolbe's homosexuality made their objections known by walking out or turning their backs during his speech. Nevertheless, during the general election, LCR spent almost $500,000 in targeted voter turnout activities, including radio ads promoting George W. Bush's record in battleground states, targeting independent swing voters, women, and suburbanites.

President George W. Bush had suggested during the 2000 presidential campaign that he would not appoint open homosexuals, but the strong electoral support provided to him by groups such as LCR seems to have convinced him to appoint fifteen openly glbtq people to his administration by October 2003, often over the objections of religious conservatives. Furthermore, in April 2002, President Bush invited 50 LCR leaders to an official White House briefing in an effort to acknowledge LCR's campaign support in 2000. This was the first time a Republican administration invited glbtq activists to the White House.

The election of President Bush and his presumed mandate for unifying the country inspired some Republicans to ensure the Republican "big tent" was open. In August 2001 former Wyoming Republican Senator Alan Simpson and other Republicans met in Cody, Wyoming to form the Republican Unity Coalition, a group of heterosexual and homosexual Republicans determined to incorporate fully gay men and lesbians into the Republican Party and to end sexual orientation bias. Prominent members of the group's advisory board include former President Gerald Ford.

But in 2002 and 2003 glbtq issues continued to divide the Republican Party. A number of Republican congressional candidates "gay-baited" their opponents during the 2002 mid-term elections. However, groups such as LCR continued to grow, establishing chapters in all 50 states and maintaining a staff of more than two-dozen full-time professionals. In addition, gay Republican D. C. Council member David Catania was noted in 2003 as a key campaign fund-raiser for the Bush reelection campaign, recognition that included his selection as a delegate to the 2004 Republican National Convention and as a member of the convention's platform committee.

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