The Republican Party's platform approved at the party's convention in New York City in August denounces same-sex marriage and abortion while endorsing abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.
"Abstinence from sexual activity is the only protection that is 100 percent effective against out-of-wedlock pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, including sexually transmitted HIV/AIDS. Therefore, we support doubling abstinence education funding," the platform says. "We oppose school-based clinics that provide referrals, counseling, and related services for contraception and abortion," it continues.1
"The Republican Party is choosing to throw hundreds of million of dollars into these programs that have never been proven to be effective. Some studies even show that they may be causing harm to young people," said Bill Smith, director of public policy for SIECUS. "Taking it one step further, the platform even opposes the mention of contraceptive methods in a health care setting. Knowing what we know about the sexual behavior of young people and the benefits of comprehensive sexuality education, ignoring their needs in such a pervasive way is unconscionable," Smith continued.
On Same-Sex Marriage
The call for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage marks the first time the party has addressed this issue in its platform. The last platform supported defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
"We strongly support President Bush's call for a Constitutional amendment that fully protects marriage, and we believe that neither federal nor state judges nor bureaucrats should force states to recognize other living arrangements as equivalent to marriage," the platform proclaims. "We further believe that legal recognition and the accompanying benefits afforded couples should be preserved for that unique and special union of one man and one woman which has historically been called marriage," it continues.2
"It's one of the most discriminatory platforms in modern history," said Cheryl Jacques, president of the Human Rights Campaign.3
On the subject of abortion, the GOP's platform is unequivocal. "[T]he unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution…we support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life," the platform reads.4 It goes on to commend the President for his support of crisis pregnancy centers and parental notification laws.
The platform also "applaud[s] President Bush for signing legislation outlawing partial birth abortion and for vigorously defending it in the courts."5 Three federal courts have found that law to be unconstitutional.
"The pro-choice Republicans made their usual quadrennial, noisy effort but I don't think the [platform committee] spent two minutes [on the abortion plank]," said Richard Lessner of the American Conservative Union.
The "Unity Plank"
The platform committee did add a "unity plank" to the document which acknowledges that "we respect and accept that member of our Party can have deeply held and sometimes differing views."6 Two prominent, moderate Republican groups, the Log Cabin Republicans and Republicans for Choice, had requested the plank but noted their disappointment that it did not specify the divisive social issues of abortion, stem-cell research, and same-sex marriage.7
"I say we are still treated like a mistress who is given crumbs at the table," Ann Stone of Republicans for Choice said.8
Many commentators pointed out that the party's conservative platform is not evident by the primetime speakers chosen for the convention such as Gov. Schwarzenegger (R-CA) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). "It's the truth behind the façade of their convention," said Stephanie Cutter, spokeswoman for John Kerry. "It reflects the divisiveness and extreme policies of the last four years, while the public speakers paint a very different picture."9
Christopher Barron of the Log Cabin Republicans, a group representing the interests of gay Republicans, said "You can't craft a vicious, mean-spirited platform and then try to put lipstick on the pig by putting Rudy Guiliani and Arnold Schwarzenegger on in primetime."10
Meanwhile, prominent Republicans downplayed the conservative politics outlined in their platform. "We are the party of the open door," said Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS) who was subcommittee chair of the social issues section of the platform.
"Our platform highlights the principles that unite our party," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN).11
- 2004 Republican Party Platform: A Safer World and a More Hopeful America, p. 81. Available online.
- Ibid, p. 83.
- R. Toner and D. Kirkpatrick, "Social Conservatives Wield Influence on Platform," The New York Times, August 31, 2004.
- Platform, p. 84.
- Ibid, p. 85.
- Toner and Kirkpatrick.
- D. Kirkpatrick, "Committee Adopts Draft; Some Grumble," The New York Times, August 27, 2004. Toner and Kirkpatrick.
- C. Woodward, "Republican Party Moves Toward Adopting Platform that Takes Firm Stand Against Gay Unions," Associated Press, August 25, 2004.
- Toner and Kirkpatrick.