Behind the Scenes at a Bush 'Sensitivity Session': When It Comes to Gays, the Governor Listened Well, but Has a Long Way to Go

Article excerpt

Imagine asking a presidential candidate to sit down for a sensitivity session on gay and lesbian issues. That's exactly what we did last week in Austin, Texas. George W. Bush invited us, a dozen gay Republicans, after he'd refused to meet with a gay Republican group that had criticized him. Our meeting set an important precedent: never again will a major-party candidate be able to run for president without addressing gay and lesbian issues.

Bush didn't like everything we had to say. I was struck by his lack of familiarity with the issues, as well as by his desire to learn. I described how my partner, Rob Morris, and I have been in a 17-year relationship. We both come from healthy, strong, religious families. Rob grew up in a conservative Republican family in Georgia; I come from a longtime Republican family in Wisconsin. I'm now the vice president of my Lutheran church. I wanted Governor Bush to understand that long-term, loving relationships, stable families, strong faith-based traditions and Republican voting histories are all part of the gay and lesbian community.

Our stories had an impact. Bush admitted that, growing up in Texas, he had not been as open to elements of America's diverse culture. He had a narrow set of friends and a firm set of traditions. But he was surprised and dismayed to hear that people saw him as intolerant. …