'Gay Pride' Celebration at Justice Dept Draws Fire
(CNSNews.com) - The celebration of a homosexual pride event at the Justice Department on Wednesday is drawing fire from family groups, who oppose what they call "the use of taxpayer funds to sponsor an event that promotes sexual behavior."
After the Commerce Department withheld official sponsorship of a similar event on its premises - and President Bush turned down a request by a government employee group to recognize June as "Gay and Lesbian Pride Month" - family groups expressed disappointment that the Justice Department, under conservative Attorney General John Ashcroft, gave the go-ahead for the celebration.
Robert Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute with Concerned Women for America, said the turnaround suggested Republican strategists were more worried about offending homosexual activists than about remaining loyal to their pro-family constituents.
"I think this is part of the very dangerous and wrong-headed GOP game of trying to balance interests in the 'big tent,'" Knight said. "Apart from the immorality of this, the math doesn't add up. It's dumb politics.
"I think what they really fear is the mainstream media. They want a kinder, gentler face and may be willing to throw morality overboard to get it," he said. "But I hope saner voices in the administration will eventually prevail."
Family groups also are protesting the fact that Ashcroft's No. 2, Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, will speak at Wednesday's celebration in Justice's Great Hall on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Eugene Delgaudio, executive director of Public Advocate of the United States, a pro-family organization, is planning to deliver a request Wednesday to Thompson to reverse his decision. Afterwards Delgaudio will hold a news conference outside the Justice Department.
Permission to hold the event at Justice is one of a growing list of conservatives' concerns with Ashcroft on the subject of homosexuality.
As a newly-appointed attorney general, Ashcroft used his first official meeting in February 2001 to meet with representatives of the Log Cabin Republicans.
Ashcroft promised the group that sexual orientation would not bar anyone from employment in his office, giving credence to the idea that sexual orientation is a legitimate category that deserved special protection, family groups charged.
Later Ashcroft refused to meet with representatives of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX), a group that supports people who come out of homosexuality, although the attorney general appeared to take a pro-PFOX position during the debate on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in 1996.
"I do know that there are thousands of former homosexuals, individuals who once were engaged in a homosexual lifestyle, who have changed that lifestyle and have repudiated it and find themselves to be engaged in heterosexual lifestyles," Ashcroft is quoted as saying in the Congressional Record, Sept. 6, 1996.
As a senator, Ashcroft opposed the nomination of homosexual activist James Hormel as ambassador to Luxembourg in 1998. But since taking over the Justice Department, there have been no obscenity prosecutions under Ashcroft.
Calls to the Justice Department for comment on the homosexual pride event were not returned at press time.
Political analysts said, however, that public opinion of homosexuality is changing and suggested the event at Justice could be a way for the administration to shore up some of its moderate appeal and base.
"The fact of the matter is that gays are growing in number, growing in terms of getting out of the closet, and growing in terms of political influence," said John Zogby, an independent pollster.
"So it doesn't surprise me at all that a Republican-led agency of government would acknowledge this reality in American social as well as American political life," he said.
Zogby said the homosexual vote is estimated to be about the size of the Latino vote, or around 7 percent. Like the Latino vote, the homosexual vote is heavily Democrat, he said.
"But there are enough Republicans in there to make it interesting," he added.
Kevin Ivers, communications director of the Log Cabin Republicans, said hosting the event was consistent with the kind of Justice Department the attorney general said he would preside over.
"He made it clear that he is in favor of equal protection for all Americans and that's the kind of attorney general he's going to be," Ivers said.
"I think that the fact that the assistant attorney general is going to be speaking is a very positive thing," he added.
"It says a lot about the integrity of conservative philosophy that people who are secure enough in their beliefs and in their views on the issues should never be afraid to speak to any audience. That's how our president is and that's how our attorney general is. So this idea that there's something wrong with this I think is out of step with both the government and with the country," Ivers said.
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