How they made “family values” this year’s hottest political issue.

These days, Washington’s three big profamily, Christian-based activist groups are reminiscent of singer Barbara Mandrell’s crooning a few years ago that she “was country when country wasn’t cool.” Despite this year’s partisan division over “family values,” and after years of toiling to persuade the news media and politicians to treat family concerns as at least something other than a backwoods song of political corniness, these lobbyists have found the profamily tune rising to the top of the pop charts.

And Concerned Women for America (CWA), Family Research Council (FRC), and Christian Coalition (CC) are struggling to maintain control of definitions and the agenda in the midst of their apparent success.

“By itself, the label profamily no longer means a thing,” Gary Bauer, president of the Family Research Council, has stated bluntly. Even people intent on changing the traditional family to alternative structures have tried to incorporate the label, he warned. For example, Gregory King, spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign Fund, the nation’s largest homosexual advocacy group, told the Washington Times in August, “I personally think that most lesbian and gay Americans support traditional family and American values,” which he defined as “tolerance, concern, support, and a sense of community.”

Hardly any candidate this election year has seemed willing to venture forth without an umbrella of profamily rhetoric as protection in case of family-voter thundershowers. And chief among the cloud-seeders have been the Big Three profamily groups.

“No question, you can give them credit for the fact that ‘profamily’ is now fashionable,” said nationally syndicated columnist ...

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