New York — Bit by bit, the evidence accumulates, and some conservatives are dismayed at what they see: a Republican administration sending low-key but clear signals that gays are welcomed in its ranks and respected as a voting bloc.
To many gay activists, the Bush administration's overtures are encouraging, though timid. Among staunch social conservatives the so-called pro-family lobby there is frustration and a sense of betrayal.
"You'd almost think they were Democrats trying to infiltrate what makes the Republican Party distinctive," said Robert Knight, executive director of the Culture and Family Institute. "The record so far has been pretty bad ... shockingly so, given the support Bush received from evangelical Christians."
The grievances date to Bush's cautious openings toward gays during last year's campaign. Since taking office, his administration has:
l Appointed openly gay men as head of the Office of National AIDS Policy and as ambassador to Romania, the highest appointments ever for uncloseted gays in a Republican administration.
l Retained executive orders Bill Clinton issued to ensure equal treatment for gays in the federal work force.
l Decided not to lobby against an amendment approved by the House of Representatives last month that permits domestic partnership benefits for gay employees of the District of Columbia.
Some conservatives were particularly angry that the partner of Ambassador to Romania Michael Guest was acknowledged by Secretary of State Colin Powell during last month's swearing-in ceremony.
Conservative ire also was directed at Scott Evertz, the new AIDS policy director. A former gay activist in Wisconsin, Evertz predicted the Republicans' share of the national gay vote estimated at 25 percent for Bush last year would grow.
Evertz said Bush remained in sync with social conservatives on most issues but was politically wise to move toward the middle on gay-related matters.