Presidential race, anti-gay petition collide

Posted on 24 Jan 2008 at 10:39pm
By Lisa Keen – Keen News Service

Florida lost Democratic delegates, but group there seeks signatures for same-sex marriage ban



Left: John McCain, Right: Rudy Giuliani

The next ballot contest for candidates in the hotly contested race for the Democratic presidential nomination is Saturday, Jan. 26, when Democrats face off in South Carolina.

That vote will be followed by a Republican primary in Florida on Jan. 29 and caucuses in Maine on Feb. 3.

The Human Rights Campaign is focusing much of its attention on Florida where an anti-gay group must collect a final 22,000 signatures to get the 611,000 they need to put their proposed marriage ban amendment on the ballot this November.

Gay groups are hoping to turn out hundreds of their own supporters to the voting places to educate voters on the spot and persuade them not to sign the petitions. Equality Florida and Fairness for All Families said they will be asking voters instead to sign a petition pledging to vote “no” on the amendment.

Florida will also be a key contest between the Republican
candidate who used to have the most supportive record on gay issues former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and the candidate who now has it Arizona Sen. John McCain. And their positions on gay marriage are a key difference.
McCain has consistently opposed a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Giuliani initially opposed it. But last year he shifted to the right, saying, “If a lot of states start to do that three, four, five, six states, where we have that kind of judicial activism then we should have a constitutional amendment.”

The race for the nomination remains extremely close for now, in both parties.

Much of the media was focused last weekend on Hillary Clinton having secured the most votes during the Nevada caucus while Barack Obama won the most delegates from that state to the Democratic National Convention.

The two frontrunners are in a virtual tie in the delegate count, and by many accounts, the caucusing in some parts of the state erupted into ugly shoving and shouting matches between the two camps.

That spirit spilled over into the Monday night, Jan. 20, debate on CNN, where even jaded reporters seemed aghast at how hard the two frontrunners were prepared to hit each other with negative barbs.

Clinton and Obama have been the predominant favorites among LGBT voters. And though last night’s bitter quarrel between Clinton and Obama may have helped him, John Edwards, who appears to have only pockets of support among gays scattered throughout the country, especially in Texas, has fallen behind. Edwards won only 4 percent of the vote in Nevada and has only half the delegates that that either Clinton or Obama has.

Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich, the only two candidates for either party who have said they would support equal rights in marriage licensing for gay couples, have won no delegates. Because he has refused to sign a pledge to fully support the party’s eventual nominee, whoever it is, Kucinich is not even on the Democratic Primary ballot in Texas even though country singer and Texas legend Willie Nelson filed suit seeking to force the party to put Kucinich’s name on the ballot.

Gay civil rights advocates have made their voices heard throughout the primary season so far. In Nevada, more than 150 gay civil rights supporters gathered outside the Clark County Government Center in Las Vegas on the eve of the Jan. 19 at an event staged by the Human Rights Campaign and other gay organizations in the state and featuring “Grey’s Anatomy” television actor Kate Walsh and various elected officials.

Among the GOP candidates, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney who vowed that he wouldn’t let that state become the “Las Vegas for gay marriage” won the Nevada caucuses with 51 percent. McCain won in South Carolina but came in third in Nevada with only 13 percent of the votes, behind U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas with 14 percent.

Romney now leads the GOP field with 66 delegates, followed by McCain with 38, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee with 26, former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson with 8, Ron Paul with 6 and Giuliani with one.

Although scattered news reports quoted the occasional Republican voter indicating he was motivated by a candidate’s stand on gay marriage (they all oppose it), Huckabee continues to experience considerable flack over his recent statements linking his religious beliefs to his goals as president.

National Public Radio reporter Michelle Norris told NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, Jan. 20, that even many evangelical Christian voters in South Carolina were put off by Huckabee’s well-publicized remarks against gays and gay marriage.

Huckabee told a Michigan audience last week that, in regards to gay marriage and abortion, he believes the U.S. Constitution should be amended to reflect “God’s standards.” When the spiritual Web site Beliefnet.com questioned his remarks as radical, Huckabee replied, “The radical view is to say that we’re going to change the definition of marriage so that it can mean two men, two women, a man and three women, a man and a child, a man and animal.”

The national organization of the LGBT Democratic group Stonewall Democrats has yet to endorse anyone in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, however, held candidate screenings last week and has endorsed Hillary Clinton.

Patrick Sammon, president of the national gay Republican group, Log Cab Republicans, said the group hasn’t endorsed a candidate yet and that its bylaws prevent local clubs from doing so, even in the primaries. He declined to comment on which candidates gay Republicans seem to be favoring.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 25, 2008

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