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VIEWS Michelangelo Signorile

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Dear Mary

An open letter to the veep's gay daughter.

Excuse me for being blunt, but my rights are at stake at the moment, as our born-again president has told his theocratic mentors that he'd sell us—you, me and millions of other homos—down the river. So let's get to the point: What the hell happened to you? Are you just another spoiled rich brat—the lesbian Paris Hilton—worried about getting a chunk of those 30 million Halliburton bucks should Dad's heart conk out? I mean, this is one of those moments of truth, Mary, one in which the fundamentalist forces of darkness either march into the White House—enshrining antigay discrimination into the U.S. Constitution—or are beaten back. And so far, you've been working for the enemy, darling.

You may be banking on the idea that people will cut you some slack.

'None of us can imagine how hard it would be to find ourselves between our family and our community,' one of your friends—a mutual friend of ours, actually—told The Advocate last year. 'It would cause anyone tremendous heartache.'

You may think that kind of sympathy will carry through this election season. Don't count on it.

Quite frankly, you owe us, Mary. Big time. And you better believe that people—including many a gay Republican, at least if my e-mail inbox is any indication—will be coming to get you, demanding that you fork over that debt, pronto. Unless you speak out now, every time your father or the president or Karl Rove stokes antigay hatred in the coming campaign, folks will be pointing fingers at you and asking, 'What the fuck, Mary?!' Perhaps you don't have a conscience and none of this will affect you. But the next time you walk into a gay public place, be prepared for a chorus calling you everything from a quisling and a betrayer to a selfish, fiendish, nasty example of a human being.

It would be one thing if you had simply slithered away into the background when it was announced that your father would be Bush's running mate in 2000. (People can't, after all, pick their parents, as Patti Davis and Ron Reagan Jr. are painfully aware.) Instead, you became active in the Bush/Cheney campaign. As the lesbian poster child, you helped sell the snake oil of 'compassionate conservatism.' You went along with the program, tricking people into thinking that your father and W. would be tolerant on gay rights. Your father even said during the campaign that the whole issue of gay unions should be left to the states (though he told the Denver Post this month that he would now support an amendment to the Constitution that could very well strip gays of most legal rights, from domestic-partnership benefits to adoption rights). As one of Dad's political advisors, you helped bring in votes from moderate straights and gay Republicans.

Yes, Mary, I'm laying part of the blame for the 2000 election fiasco on you. Had the election not been so close, it wouldn't have been so easy to steal. And it was close, in part, because you conned a lot of people. The 25 percent of gay voters who cast a vote for Bush/Cheney—not to mention the moderates of all sexual orientations—would have made the difference in Florida and New Hampshire (as gays made up at least four percent of the electorate in both states), giving the election to Al Gore. I hear from the voters you misled every day via my Web site and radio program—gay Republicans and others who are infuriated with the president, with your father and with you, Mary.

Some people—mostly Democrats, actually, who sometimes are just a bit too generous, if you ask me—have mildly defended you, claiming that you truly, if na├»vely, believed you could make a difference. Shortly after the election, you joined the board of the Republican Unity Coalition, the gay/straight alliance. But at about the same time the Christian zealots began complaining that Bush wasn't harsh enough toward gays, you left RUC and went as far underground as your father, who runs things from his mystery bunker as often as the White House.

And now you've joined the re-election campaign, just in time to hear the president and your father say that they would support a federal marriage amendment.

What is it like, I often wonder, to have your own father court the very religious zealots who believe your kind are emotionally disturbed child molesters? What does it feel like to have your own father empower people who, if they could have their way, would force you to go through 'conversion therapy'? What is it like to know that your own family takes cash from people who think you'd be better off dead, and think you're going straight to hell when that happens?

Those who defend you say that you must feel absolutely terrible. They surmise that maybe you actually left RUC in protest, realizing that change in the party wasn't possible, thus washing your hands of the entire matter. For that reason, they say, you shouldn't now be blamed for trying, nor held accountable for your father's positions. But the fact that you went to work for the re-election campaign says otherwise.

So here's my theory, and maybe you can confirm it for me: The gay marriage issue is splitting the Republican Party; Dad and his crowd have told you that they've got to appear to be supportive of a constitutional amendment at this point, while they're still firing up the religious right base. Once they have that constituency nailed down and they enter the general election, they'll move toward the middle; they'll say that there's no need for the amendment, as the Defense of Marriage Act takes care of it. You'll then be hauled back out of the closet to help snatch those moderate and gay Republican voters.

Let's put aside the fact that Dad and company have lied before. Even if this scenario proves true, in the process there will be a lot of political gay bashing, the kind that fuels the Christian right as well as thugs on the streets. The impact of that can't be underestimated, and yes, Mary, blood will be on your hands too. I'm sure you think that's unfair of me. But life is unfair. Just think: You could be a poor dyke getting your head bashed in a rough, urban neighborhood every day of your life. Instead, you're a woman of privilege who has done a lot of damage and now needs to take responsibility for it by stepping down from the campaign and speaking up. History, Mary, will judge you by what you choose to do in the coming months.

Michelangelo Signorile hosts a daily satellite radio show on Sirius OutQ, 149. He can be reached at .

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