If you think figuratively of the Republican Party as a family, then you'd have to say that, in one respect, the national convention is a tense summer family reunion.
Why, Uncle Jim stood up and made a speech, and that never happened before. Meanwhile, Cousin Mary is coming to town to join the fun, and she might bring along her "friend."
Hey, guess what? Turns out even Republicans have gay and lesbian relatives. The question for the GOP now seems to be: What should we do with them?
U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe is an eight-term congressman from Arizona who spoke for four minutes Tuesday night on free-trade issues. But just as important is what Congressman Kolbe never said.
That the openly gay lawmaker took the floor before hundreds of delegates was supposed to telegraph the Republican Party's new, inclusive outlook.
When some of the Texas delegation bowed heads in silent protest, it was of course quite another message that was conveyed.
Meanwhile, there is considerable speculation on the possible campaign role of one of vice-presidential hopeful Dick Cheney's two daughters, Mary Cheney, 31, a lesbian.
As Time magazine reported, campaign spokesmen were happy to discuss the personal life of 34-year-old daughter Elizabeth, a married mother of three - but not so in Mary's case. And over the weekend, Lynne Cheney scolded political reporter Cokie Roberts when she started to ask about the daughter who "declared she's openly gay."
"Mary has never declared such a thing," snapped Mrs. Cheney. "I'm surprised, Cokie, that even you would want to bring it up on this program." Both her girls, she insisted, are hard-working and decent, "and I simply am not going to talk about their personal lives."
But you have to wonder: Had Cokie brought up Elizabeth would Mrs. Cheney have gladly burbled on about the grandkids?
The GOP this week pitches itself as an open-armed representative of myriad interests, but the truth is found in its rigid platform.
As the Washington Post editorialized: "Alongside the uplifting platform passages that denounce discrimination and pay homage to the country's diversity are firm statements of party principle that slam the door on the rights and interests of some of the very people to whom the party now makes such a show of appealing."
Still, optimists exist.
Chuck Larkins, secretary-treasurer of Lucas County's recently formed chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans, said this of the Texas delegates' protest:
"I watched them, because I thought some of them might actually walk out. But Kolbe wasn't speaking on anything to do with gay issues. Still, [the speech] is certainly a step forward for the party. I think the campaign, as opposed to the delegates of the convention, is very dedicated to making sure there's an inclusive party."
Will it be fair, I asked Mr. Larkins, for political observers to gauge the GOP's gay tolerance by analyzing Mary Cheney's campaign role?
"I can tell you what I hope for, and that is, if she is to be part of this campaign, that her first assignment ought to be staying in Philadelphia next week and attending the Log Cabin [national] convention. I think that would make a very dramatic statement."
Roberta de Boer's column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Readers may contact her at 724-6086, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.