ALAN KEYES owns one of the most frothing mouths of the Republican Party, which is really saying a lot on some moral issues. Mention homosexuality and you can barely see his face for the white of his foam. He should consult Dick Cheney for a chill pill.
During his 1996 run for the White House, Keyes said, ''If we accept the homosexual agenda, which seeks recognition for homosexual marriages, we will be destroying the integrity of the marriage-based family." In his 2000 run, he said the granting of civil unions means ''you've legitimized pedophilia." For all this outrage about pedophilia, it is curious that Keyes, a radio talk-show host, can barely be found on the record railing against the Catholic Church during the clergy child sex abuse scandal.
During the 2004 party convention in New York, Keyes gave a radio interview where he said homosexuality is ''selfish hedonism." The interviewer asked Keyes if that meant that Mary Cheney, the lesbian daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney, was also a selfish hedonist. Keyes said: ''Of course she is. That goes by definition. Of course she is."
The next day, Keyes added: ''If my daughter were a lesbian, I'd look at her and say, 'That is a relationship that is based on selfish hedonism.' I would also tell my daughter that it's a sin and she needs to pray to the lord God to help her deal with that sin."
That addition was very peculiar to his daughter. Maya Marcel-Keyes said her parents had already told her she was a sinner after finding out she was gay near the end of high school. ''It was kind of strange that he said it like a hypothetical," Maya told The
Maya so loved her parents that even though they made it clear they disagreed with her being gay, she took a deferral from college to support her father in his inept, sacrificial Illinois race last fall against Barack Obama for the Senate. But last month, Maya attended protests during the Bush inauguration. She told the Post her father had sacrificed her. She said he kicked her out of his apartment and cut off her tuition to Brown University.
On Monday, Maya told a Maryland gay rights rally in Annapolis that ''liberal queer plus conservative Republican just doesn't mesh well." The response from the father, via a public relations statement was, ''My daughter is an adult, and she is responsible for her own actions."
This whole episode is noteworthy for several reasons. Keyes himself is considered to be on the fringe right of the Republican Party, yet his party played out his personal politics. The party fueled the antigay backlash from the legalization of gay marriage in Massachusetts that resulted in voters in 11 states passing a ban on same-sex marriages. The backlash was so strong that the Log Cabin Republicans, the nation's leading gay Republican group, refused to endorse President Bush for reelection.
It is also important because even with the nasty big-picture politics, the Republicans, one by one, have been forced to hang a softer family portrait. The most prominent family, of course, is that of the vice president. In both the 2000 and 2004 election campaigns, Cheney embraced rather than rejected his daughter. He said of his two daughters, ''We have enormous pride in both of them." He continued that he did not care for a federal constitutional ban against gay marriage, which Bush is for.
''Freedom means freedom for everyone," Cheney said at a 2004 campaign event. ''People ought to be able . . . to be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to."
In his speeches, Alan Keyes has proclaimed: ''There is a kernel of dignity in every person in this room." By his actions, he has denied the dignity of his own daughter. While he may be a fringe politician, his is the spirit that still rules in the ballot box.
The search for dignity has been left up to the daughter. She told The Washington Post: ''I love him. He's my father." She has written, ''They say most parents would be thrilled to have a child who doesn't smoke, have sex, do drugs, hardly drinks . . . does well in school, gets good grades, gets into the Ivy League . . . goes regularly to church, spends free time mentoring kids." She obviously would be thrilled with a father, and a nation, that searches for that kernel instead of throwing her out as a weed.
Derrick Z. Jackson's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.