GOP Pride Marchers Endure Derision

GOP Pride Marchers Endure Derision

Log Cabin members remain opponents of a Constitutional amendment as the taunts fly

With Pres. George W. Bush having repeatedly called on Congress to pass a Constitutional amendment that would ban marriage for same-sex couples, the 2004 Gay Pride March put the Log Cabin Republicans square in the crossfire between their political party, many of whose leaders revile gays and lesbians, and their own community, the bulk of whose members deeply distrust Republicans.

The Log Cabin contingent, comprised of less than 20 people including two political candidates and their campaign staffs, endured profanity and boos during the parade, derision that only grew louder and more frequent below 23rd Street.

A Heritage of Pride announcer on the reviewing stand just above 23rd tried to get a cheer for the group as it walked by.

“We have to give them one big round of applause,” she said. “It’s the only one they get all year.”

When the crowd did not respond the announcer said, “The Republicans have been particularly bad this year. It’s real fucking hard.”

As the group marched on, the majority of the spectators who packed the sidewalks had no response. Here and there the Republicans were applauded and, in at least two spots, received ecstatic support, but mostly endured scathing verbal abuse, unlike the multitude of other groups who participate in the parade.

Just below 23rd Street, one man screamed at the group, “You people are crazy, you people are crazy. Get a life.”

When he was challenged by one of the marchers, the spectator replied, “Everyone feels the way I do. They’re just being polite.”

At 18th Street and Fifth Avenue a group wearing buttons supporting Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, booed as the Log Cabin contingent walked by. Two blocks later another group booed loudly, with one person yelling, “Take your Bush back!”

The gay Republicans gamely countered the boos by blowing whistles, a tactic they frequently had to employ on Sunday.

At 11th Street and Fifth Avenue, as the group passed, one woman stood silently and used both hands to alternately give the thumbs down sign then flash her middle fingers. A man yelled out, “Are you going to give me equality? I think not.”

Similar comments met the Republicans until the end of the march.

Stephen Sherock, president of Log Cabin’s New York City chapter, said that the group is verbally attacked every year though he thought this year had been more intense, which might be due to the efforts of conservative Republicans to pass the Federal Marriage Amendment.

“I’d have to say that probably has something to do with it,” said Sherock who was wearing a large button that memorialized Ronald Reagan, the former president. “I certainly didn’t do anything to make these people mad.”

The two politicians who marched with the group said they enjoyed the march, but they were shocked by the conduct of some spectators. Emily Csendes, who is opposing Democratic State Senator Thomas K. Duane, who is gay, and Peter Hort, who is running against Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler, a Manhattanite who supports same-sex marriage, said they were surprised that a community that prides itself on tolerance and diversity would respond so negatively to Republicans.

But if some spectators at the march misbehaved, the insults were nothing in comparison to the offensive that social conservatives in the Republican Party launched against moderates in their midst. The conservatives want to drive them out. In Pennsylvania’s April Republican primary, they ran conservative Rep. Pat Toomey against Arlen Specter, a longtime moderate Republican. Specter survived, but just barely.

More recently, FRC Action, the political arm of the Family Research Council, a right-wing group, sent out a June fundraising appeal that called Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor, and Gov. George E. Pataki “Republicans in Name Only” or RINOS. Calling New York City, which will host the Republican Convention in August, the “home turf for the most anti-conservative elements of the Republican Party” and “the belly of the beast of East Coast liberalism,” the group sought to raise $100,000 to counter the influence of the RINOs at the convention. Referring to the marriage amendment, the letter states “[T]hese pro-homosexual, anti-traditional marriage RINOs will be pulling out all the stops at this year’s convention to impose their extremist agenda on the Republican Party—an agenda that would destroy the party by driving away millions of conservative voters like you who want the GOP to take a strong, principled stand on issues like this.”

Sherock said that moving too far to the right would be a losing tactic for his party.

“The Republican Party is always successful when it employs a big tent strategy,” he said. “The Republican Party loses when it tries to exclude people… Go back to Ronald Reagan who was probably the modern version of the most inclusive president. That is the model we should follow.”

According to Sherock, the national Log Cabin organization will spend more than $1 million on television ads this year to oppose the marriage amendment.

Bloomberg, who marched from 48th Street to 23rd Street separate from the Log Cabin contingent, was greeted mostly by loud applause and cheers. However, a handful of people booed the mayor, including two who said they belonged to the “National Traditionalist Caucus.” One held a sign saying “Politicians whores to the core.”

At a press conference following the parade, Bloomberg declined to respond to the FRC Action letter.

“That’s what is great about America,” the mayor said with a smile. “Everybody gets to say and write whatever they want.”

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