As a gay voter in California, I've been assiduously courted by Al Gore, who very much wants me to help elect him president. But Gore's recent statements about the Elián González case have convinced me I can't trust him to defend my rights or anyone else's.
This may seem odd at first. On the surface, the grim tug-of-war that's turned this unfortunate child into a pawn for competing political interests has nothing to do with gay and lesbian civil rights. But the vice president has made it clear he's willing to put politics ahead of families, and that's scary.
Gore came out in favor of legislation that would grant permanent resident status to Elián, his father Juan Miguel González and other family members living in Cuba.
But such status - which Juan Miguel has said he doesn't want - isn't the kindly gesture of family reunification its supporters would have us believe it is. Its effect would be to rip the case out of the hands of the Immigration and Nationalization Service, which has correctly ruled that Elián should be returned home to his only living parent, and place it in the jurisdiction of Florida's family courts.
It would give new life to the attempt by relatives who had little, if any, contact with the boy before his mother drowned trying to take him out of Cuba to take custody from his father and permanently tear apart what is left of Elián's immediate family. They want to do this simply because they don't like the government of the country where Juan Miguel lives.
That position is popular in Florida's politically influential Cuban exile community. And Gore, who needs Florida's electoral votes to win in November, has decided to pander to those voters even if it means breaking up a family.
And that's where gays and lesbians come in. Our families have been under relentless political attack for years. Conservative politicians, looking at poll results showing that voters are uncomfortable with gay parents, have pushed measures to bar gays and lesbians from adopting.
In a handful of particularly heartbreaking cases, judges have taken custody of children away from loving and dedicated lesbian or gay parents based on the notion founded in nothing more than prejudice that a gay person is by definition an unfit parent. Gays and lesbians have more experience watching our families get ripped apart for the sake of politics and prejudice than any other group of Americans.
That is why what we need more than anything else from our next president is courage.
The courage to stand up to narrow-mindedness.
The courage to preserve families even when it's unpopular.
The courage to say that the bond between a parent and child is more important than polls, focus groups or electoral calculations.
The courage to do what's right for a child too young to stand up for himself even at the risk of alienating a group of voters whose support seems crucial.
Instead, Gore has forged a profile in cowardice. And he's given gay and lesbian voters an unmistakable signal that he'll throw us overboard at the first hint of political trouble. A vote for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader is looking better every day.