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Gay bashing wins at Dorchester

Homosexuals are Kevin Mannix. Meal Ticket for 2006?

Lyndon Johnson was a student of Southern politics and also its ultimate practitioner. Johnson once gave a discourse on how Southern politicians used race as a diversion. LBJ said that whenever a Southern senator or congressman was in trouble, he would cry Nigrah, nigrah, nigrah.

For Republicans, homosexuals now serve that purpose.

Oregon Republicans meeting at last weekend's Dorchester conference stepped up to the plate by voting 188-89 against the concept of civil unions.

Nary a word about rising tuition that is pricing college out of the hands of many Oregon students and not a peep about deteriorating highway infrastructure. But the Dorchester participants stood solidly against giving committed gay relationships legal protection and opportunity.

Would the GOP have done that to interracial couples? No. Would they have taken civil rights away from women? Not on your life. But gays are an easy target, so the Dorchester gang went right for it.

This discussion didn't just come up. It was the tactic of GOP party Chairman Kevin Mannix, in his perpetual quest for statewide office. And why not? The gambit has worked well for President George W. Bush.

Mannix has never run for office on the merits. When he challenged Attorney General Hardy Myers in 2000, he used the big smear. The moderate Ron Saxton was a serious challenger for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2002, so Mannix misrepresented Saxton in order to defeat him.

Now it's clear that Mannix sees gay bashing as his meal ticket for a return match with Gov. Ted Kulongoski in 2006.

Meanwhile, the substantive question about civil unions comes down to a matter of basic human decency. The Oregonian last week pictured two women who had been partners for 45 years. Their partnership is not a threat to anyone's marriage. If anything, its longevity should be an inspiration. But under the law, these women don't have the right of survivorship. If one of them is in the hospital, the other will be treated officially as a stranger.

The Dorchester Conference used to be about leadership. Staking a claim on gay bashing is not leadership; it is preaching to the lowest common denominator.
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