White House hosts Log Cabin meeting
Gay 'briefing' is first of its kind in GOP administration, but officials not lobbied on rights bills

Rick Santorum
Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), chair of the Senate Republican Conference, hosts a Log Cabin Republican leadership delegation to discuss legislation and judicial nominations. LCR officials have committed the group to helping push Bush administration judgeship nominees through the Democratic-controlled Senate. (Photo courtesy of Log Cabin Republicans)

By LOU CHIBBARO JR.

About 50 leaders of the national gay group Log Cabin Republicans attended a White House briefing on April 18 at the invitation of Bush administration advisors, representing the first time such a meeting has been held in a Republican administration.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul OíNeill hosted a separate briefing for Log Cabin officials that same day at the Treasury Department, where he discussed President Bushís economic policies, according to Log Cabin spokesperson Kevin Ivers.

"The running theme of these meetings was to acknowledge that we have been a part of their team," Ivers said. "They feel we have a role to play in advancing the administrationís policies."

"It was a good give and take," said Jim Wilkinson, special assistant to the president and deputy White House communications director, who was among the White House officials attending the meeting. "They had a lot of questions, and hopefully, they viewed our responses as helpful."

Among the White House officials conducting the briefing, in addition to Wilkinson, was Mary Matalin, assistant to the president and counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney, who discussed political issues facing the administration on the eve of the 2002 congressional elections. Lezlee Westine, assistant to the president and director of the White House Office of Public Liaison; Brad Berenson, White House associate counsel; and James Wilkinson, deputy director of White House communications, also joined in the briefing, Ivers said.

Also participating were Scott Evertz, the openly gay Log Cabin leader whom Bush named last year as director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy; and Maria Cino, the former Bush campaign political director who serves now as an official at the Department of Commerce.

The briefing was held at the Old Executive Office Building, a building next to the White House where many members of the White House staff have their offices.

Ivers said that while the briefings discussed some gay issues, the main focus was on the presidentís major domestic and foreign policy issues and ways that Log Cabin members can help the administration advance those policies.

No gay rights lobbying

Ivers said Log Cabin members did not press the White House officials on the pending gay civil rights bill known as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, saying Log Cabin chose to discuss ENDA with Republican congressional leaders in separate meetings last week.

Senate Democrats said they will bring ENDA to the Senate floor for a vote sometime between now and October. Bush declined to support ENDA during the 2000 presidential campaign, although he said he opposes discrimination based on sexual orientation. The White House has yet to say whether Bush would sign ENDA or a separate bill authorizing the federal government to prosecute anti-gay hate crimes if the two bills reach the presidentís desk.

"They touched on all issues of importance to the administration, including AIDS and judicial nominations," Ivers said, in recounting the briefing by White House officials for Log Cabin leaders.

In a separate briefing at the Treasury Department, OíNeill reviewed U.S. economic policy and noted that corporations and other private sector employers were continuing to make progress in providing domestic partner benefits for their employees, Ivers said.

Ivers said the Log Cabin officials committed themselves to play an active role in helping the administration push through the Democratic-controlled Senate a large number of the presidentís nominations of federal judges. Senate Democrats have sought to block many of these nominees, saying they are too conservative.

"Many of these judges have excellent records on gay issues," Ivers said. "We will be putting out press releases highlighting the good judges" and the reasons why gays should support them, he said.

Log Cabinís involvement in pushing the presidentís nomination of federal judges is likely to draw the wrath of gay Democrats and some gay civil rights groups, including the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force. NGLTF and other gay groups have joined mainline civil rights groups in opposing several Bush judgeship nominees.

The White House briefing for Log Cabin officials came during the groupís annual convention, held in D.C. April 17-21. In addition to the White House briefing, Republican leaders of the Senate and key GOP House members hosted their own briefings for Log Cabin members. Among those meeting Log Cabin officials was Senator Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which assists the election campaigns of Republican senatorial candidates.

Senators Rick Santorum (R-Penn.), chair of the Senate Republican Conference, and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), a supporter of gay rights legislation, also hosted briefings for Log Cabin members, Ivers said.

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee; openly gay Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.), chair of the House Foreign Operations appropriations subcommittee; and Rep. Clay Shaw (R-Fla.) were among the House GOP leaders that met with Log Cabin members.

"We have worked hard to be on the inside and part of the Republican team, and now we have made it," said Paul Wright, president of the Log Cabin Republicansí Michigan/Lower Peninsula Chapter. "At the White House, on the Hill, from the Republican leadership, we heard that Log Cabin is on the team," Wright said. "As part of the Republican team, we have a responsibility to deliver and weíre making it our top priority."

In a statement released last week, Log Cabin said it raised nearly $50,000 at a black-tie fund-raising dinner held in conjunction with the groupís Washington convention. The statement said the money would be used to support Republican congressional candidates in the upcoming election.

FOR MORE INFO
Log Cabin Republicans
1633 Q St., N.W.
Washington, DC 20009
202-447-5306
www.lcr.org

President Bill Clinton (D) met personally with gay movement leaders at the White House in 1993, the first time any U.S. president had held such a meeting. Clinton met on a number of other occasions with gay leaders at the White House and in various cities during his eight years in office.

The White House briefing for Log Cabin members took place during the same week that Senate Democratic leaders hosted their own meeting with more than a dozen leaders of gay advocacy groups, including the National Stonewall Democrats.

News Reporter Lou Chibbaro Jr. can be reached at lchibbaro@washblade.com.



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This article appeared in the issue of:
May 3, 2002