Platform Battles Risk GOP Unity; Gay Unions, Immigration Divisive

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Byline: Ralph Z. Hallow, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Immigration and homosexual "marriage" are shaping up to be the most contentious issues facing Republican platform writers in the weeks before the party's national convention, convention officials said.

Just as Sen. John Kerry's campaign kept the Democrats' platform negotiations low profile in order to convey a message of party unity during the Democratic convention, the Bush campaign seeks to project an image of consensus at its convention, which begins Aug. 30 in New York.

Also as the Kerry campaign did, the president's team is managing the work of the platform committee from behind the scenes.

"Obviously, immigration is one of the issues we'll be discussing," said platform spokeswoman Ginny Wolfe.

Asked whether there was an effort to keep immigration and same-sex "marriage" off the committee's plate, she said, "Historically, our platform delegates always have spirited debates, but I'm not going to predict what they're going to be about this time."

However, one Republican who is close to the platform process but asked not to be identified said Bush representatives working with the platform writers "will try to prevent extremism in language on gay rights by some evangelical groups and on immigration by some of our conservatives."

And referring to Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, he added: "Obviously, there will be more of a fight on Tom's issue."

Mr. Tancredo has led efforts in Congress to strengthen enforcement of immigration laws and has publicly opposed President Bush's plan - announced in January - to grant "guest-worker" status to some illegal immigrants.

Several Republicans associated with the platform-committee activities who requested anonymity described an effort by the Bush forces to head off any language that might seem "unwelcoming" to immigrants or intolerant of homosexuals.

These Republicans also said members of the platform committee will meet in New York Aug. 24 and 25 - less than a week before the convention - to discuss and adopt the platform. The platform work must be completed by the time the Republican National Committee has its meeting on Aug. 26 and 27. The platform adopted by the committee then will be formally adopted the next week by the full convention.

Religious conservatives generally are pleased with the president's opposition to expanded embryonic stem-cell research and same-sex "marriage" and his support for the ban on partial-birth abortions.

"We expect them to keep the same pro-life language that has been in the platform since 1984," said Phyllis Schlafly, chairman of Republicans for Life, who said she also would defend the party's current position on marriage. …