NEW YORK (AP) – In Republican platform deliberations, moderates made much of the noise but conservatives proposed most of the amendments.

Religious activists and like-minded delegates tried over two days and one night of hearings to tug an already conservative document farther to the right.

At their urging, the party went beyond its unprecedented call for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage to go on record, too, as opposing all legal recognition of gay unions, including shared employee benefits.

They fell short in other areas, failing to put the party behind a complete ban on stem cell research, alter leading principles on immigration or persuade the GOP to seek the elimination of family-planning programs for teens.

Despite a substantial conservative presence on the 110-member platform committee, the imperative was to avoid letting the platform go far off track from the policies President Bush is taking into the election.

The result is a platform that celebrates Bush’s leadership in the war on terrorism, touts his “ownership era” tax and investment policies and affirms the party’s commitment to socially conservative principles.

“We debated,” said Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist, platform chairman, when the hearings ended. “We occasionally argued. But we did it in a way … that brought us together.”

The platform goes to the Republican National Convention on Monday, where the committee will reassemble to pass it and the convention will ratify it.

Republican activists who support gay and abortion rights loudly protested the restrictive policies, threatening to strain the unity that the party wants to show at its convention. Negotiations produced peacemaking language stating the GOP is open to diverse views.

The right wanted more, too. Among the steps pushed by conservatives:

• A ban on all research using embryonic stem cells. The committee turned that aside, sticking with language supporting Bush’s restrictions that allow federal money to be spent only for research using pre-existing embryonic stem cell lines.

• Elimination of family planning programs for teens. Conservatives strengthened the platform’s provisions in favor of teaching sexual abstinence but failed to insert language opposing family-planning programs.

• Definition of a traditional family. Conservatives objected to the platform’s observation that “families come in many different forms,” which they took to be an insufficient endorsement of families with a mother and father. They failed to get the line stricken from the platform.

Instead, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who led the panel on social issues, steered the committee toward language stating that families “exist in many different forms.” He told delegates he grew up without a father.

• Elimination of school-based mental health screening. The committee defeated this amendment at the urging of Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, who said schools need to be alert to mental health problems. He did not need to remind the hearing about the deadly 1999 shootings at Columbine High School.

• No Palestinian state. Citing a sacred covenant between Christians and Jews, Texas delegate Cathie Adams proposed eliminating the platform’s conditional support for a Palestinian state. The committee brushed that aside.

Delegates passed a separate amendment stating “Palestinians need a new leadership not compromised by terrorism.”

• Immigration restrictions. Some delegates were unhappy about the platform’s support for granting temporary legal status to millions of illegal aliens with needed job skills. But the committee made no substantive changes.


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