Box Turtle Bulletin

Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
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Posts for September, 2010

Sen. Cornyn finds “common ground” with Log Cabin Republicans

Timothy Kincaid

September 23rd, 2010

Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a social conservative who does not support marriage equality or repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, headlined a cocktail fundraiser for gay group Log Cabin Republicans last night. (Standard Times)

Texas Sen. John Cornyn told a Republican gay and lesbian group that he was amazed at some of the controversy surrounding his appearance at the group’s fundraising event Wednesday evening.

“I guess perhaps it speaks to the times we find ourselves in where people are so unwilling to find grounds of commonality where we do agree despite some honest differences and firmly held differences of opinion,” Cornyn told about 60 guests at the Log Cabin Republicans Political Action Committee.

Cornyn spoke on the issues on which he agrees with the group.

And he said he knows they all agree, as loyal Republicans, on the importance of limited government, lower taxation, free trade and common-sense laws that facilitate economic development, economic growth and job creation.

Cornyn was not scheduled to stay for the subsequent dinner, which featured five Congresspersons who are allies of Log Cabin. Rep. Pete Sessions, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, was unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict. He sent an aide with a speech he recorded for the group, which was played at the dinner.

The funds raised at the reception featuring Cornyn will be used to further Log Cabin’s goal of advancing the message of gay equality within the Republican Party.

Cornyn and Sessions No-Shows at LCR Dinner, Receive Awards Anyway

Jim Burroway

September 22nd, 2010

How convenient:

A Republican gay-rights group presented Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) with a leadership award Wednesday night despite his vote against a repeal of the ban on allowing openly gay people to serve in the military nearly 24 hours before the event. …Neither Cornyn nor Sessions appeared in person to accept their awards.

Cornyn did appear and speak at a pre-dinner reception, which was attended by only 60 people and closed to the press. I don’t know whether he was given his trophy at that time when nobody from the press was there to see it, but we hear that all the gays sang a lovely round of “Happy Birthday” for Mrs Cornyn. That moment of festivity occurred just one day after Sen. Cornyn voted to continue to keep LGBT people from serving in the military. After about 45 minutes, he then ducked out without commenting to the press.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)

The leadership awards that LCR gave to Sessions and Cornyn are named for Barry Goldwater, who had no problem speaking his mind in support of gay rights. This action is a blight upon his good name, especially considering that Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) was sitting right there at that very dinner. She was a founding member and remains the only Republican member of the LGBT Equality Caucus, where she serves as a vice-chair. She cosponsored the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act; she was the lead cosponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act; she is a sponsor of the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act; she actively supports repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and she voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment. Plus, she didn’t use the Republican Caucus meeting as an excuse to skip the dinner despite being the senior Republican woman in the caucus. She was honored with the Spirit of Lincoln Award, but if anyone deserves a leadership award named for Barry Goldwater, it’s her. Not the cowards who couldn’t be seen accepting it six weeks before the election.

Update: Chris Johnson at the Washington Blade caught up with Rep. Ros-Lehtinen after the LCR dinner:

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) told the Blade following her remarks at the National Log Cabin Republicans annual dinner in D.C. that she doesn’t know what will happen with pro-LGBT legislation as she took a dig at the current Democratic majority for not moving forward.

“I don’t know what will happen with Republicans,” she said. “I know what’s happening now. I don’t really get an opportunity to get to vote on those [bills] very often on the floor.”

Asked whether she thinks pro-LGBT legislation would advance in a Republican-controlled House, Ros-Lehtinen replied, “The Democrats are in control. I don’t know that they’ve gone forward. … I guess you should ask [U.S. House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi why they haven’t gone forward.”

Republicans are expected to gain control of the House in this year’s mid-term elections.

Log Cabin Republicans To Award Sen. Cornyn for Inspiring Pro-Gay Web Site

Jim Burroway

September 20th, 2010

The Log Cabin Republicans have announced a slate of awardsthat they plan on handing out at their National Dinner on Wednesday. Among those to be honored is Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), for providing inspiration for the name of Box Turtle Bulletin.

Okay, not quite. LCR will award him the Barry Goldwater Award “which recognizes leaders in the Republican Party who have served their nation with distinction in the model of the late Senator Barry Goldwater.” Sen. Goldwater, who was famoulsy supportive of his gay grandson, famously denounced the 1993 “Don’t ASk, Don’t Tell” policy, saying “You don’t need to be straight to fight and die for your country. You just need to shoot straight.” Cornyn, on the other hand, is famously un-Goldwaterlike in his opposition to overturning “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Sharing Goldwater Award with Cornin will be Representative Pete Sessions (R-Dallas), Chairman of the Republican National Congressional Committee. He holds a similarly un-Goldwaterlike position on DADT. “I think it’s a slap in the face to the members of the military to be driven down a road that is driven by a political agenda from the left in this country rather than a wise policy,” he said on the House Floor last May.

The Senate will conduct an important cloture vote tomorrow on the Defense Appropriations Bill, which contains language which would begin the process of repealing DADT. Sen. Cornyn will almost certainly vote against cloture. He and Sessions will then receive their awards on Wednesday. Sen. Goldwater will roll over in his grave shortly afterwords.

Why the Cornyn meeting matters

This commentary is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect those of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin

Timothy Kincaid

July 30th, 2010

No one does homophobia like a Texas Republican. This year’s party platform is so ragingly anti-gay that it looks like it could have been drafted by any of the colorful people who make a living off of scaring folks about The Homosexual Agenda.

So, then, why is Texas Senator John Cornyn speaking at a fundraiser for the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay group? And, more importantly, what does this say about the current and future state of gay politics within the Republican Party?

For many conservative Republicans, Log Cabin is seen as an enemy to the Party. They are not “real” Republicans but rather (in the words of American Family Association’s Robert Knight) a Trojan Horse:

“It’s important to understand that the Log Cabin Republicans aren’t really a Republican group; they’re a group of homosexual activists who are inside the Republican Party, trying to neutralize the party on the issue of homosexual activism,” he explains. “It’s sort of a voluntary disarmament that they’re advising the Republicans to undertake.”

And for some Republicans, an organization of gay Republicans is no more valid than a club of Republican murders or Republican pedophiles. They would no more acknowledge Log Cabin’s existence than they would of the Republican Socialists Club – it’s an impossible contradiction in terms.

Conservative Republicans – or more accurately, purist Republicans – have long pretended that LCR didn’t exist. And when they did mention the group, it was as an illustration of Who We Are Not Like or in mockery. The term RINO (“Republican In Name Only”) is often applied as a slur against fiscally conservative people who didn’t follow the party’s social agenda.

And this is why it is important that Log Cabin receive official recognition from ranking officials within the Party and by Party structure. As the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Cornyn’s presence provides authentication, it says “you are real Republicans.” It says that Robert Knight is wrong, the disagreements between Cornyn and Log Cabin are defining.

And that is a very important acknowledgment. And it adds to a process that is changing the dynamic. Instead of being outsiders, vile scum whose opinions do not even matter (who cares what a rapist has to say?), gay Republicans are becoming family with whom they do not agree. Instead of being dismissed out of hand, your voice can be heard even if it does not immediately persuade change.

And, even more importantly, it sends a message to moderate members of the party that being friendly with gay activists is not political suicide. It says that you can consider pro-gay perspectives and still be considered “a good Republican”. (And I think that we have been seeing this for a while without giving it proper attention).

What will this do on a personal level? Will this shift Cornyn’s opinions or votes? Probably not. But it may change his future language.

Will this result in a change in policy? Probably not. But it may make it less easy for the American Family Association to make wild claims about “what gays are like”. And it may make it more acceptable for rogues to “just disagree” with the party position and support our community on some issues.

Our community says over and over and over that coming out is the most important thing to bring about social advancement. Nothing changes minds more than exposure to a real living gay person whom you like.

And that is also true in politics. Nothing – absolutely nothing – will change Republican Party positions on gay issues more quickly or more effectively than being exposed to gay people. And that is why this is such a tremendously important step.

Does This Mean We Need To Rename BTB?

Jim Burroway

July 30th, 2010

Texas Sen. John Cornyn (R) says he wants to find common ground with Log Cabin Republicans and will “drop by” the group’s political action committee reception before a September fundraiser in Washington, D.C.:

“Some things we won’t agree on,” Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said. “But I think it’s always better to talk and then try find those things we can agree on rather than just assume there’s no common ground whatsoever.”

Cornyn said same-sex marriage is “absolutely” one of those things he and LCR members don’t agree on, but he’s happy to talk to them.

“I don’t want people to misunderstand and think that I don’t respect the dignity of every human being regardless of sexual orientation,” Cornyn said.

In that vein, he thought attending the fundraising event was something he should do, he said.

John Wright at The Dallas Voice reminds us that we shouldn’t expect too much from the exchange:

We’re sure some will try to argue this is a sign of progress, but we mustn’t forget Cornyn’s strong support for a federal marriage amendment, his vote against hate crimes last year, his stated opposition to DADT repeal, and his all-but-certain vote against ENDA if it ever reaches the Senate floor. Cornyn has received a zero on every Human Rights Campaign Congressional Scorecard since he took office.

Wright sees this latest development as “nothing more than pandering for votes and money from gay Republicans across the country.” I would tend to agree, since there seems to be no hint of concession on any of the issues that directly concern LGBT people. Cornyn is chair of the GOP’s Senate campaign committee.

It was during the 2004 debate over the Federal Marriage Amendment that Cornyn’s famous “Box Turtle” quote entered the lexicon. A prepared draft of the speech he was to give to the Heritage Foundation on his support for the proposed amendment contained the line:

It does not affect your daily life very much if your neighbor marries a box turtle. But that does not mean it is right… Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife.

When he actually gave the speech, he skipped the line. But the Washington Post, working on the prepared draft released by Cornyn’s office, published the statement as provided. In the ensuing outcry over the comparison between gays and box turtles, Cornyn protested that he didn’t actually say the lines that his office had been released to news media. The Post later published a clarification.