LGBT issues take center stage in N.H. debates

Newt Gingrich, left, and Ron Paul

GOP presidential hopefuls spend whopping 13 minutes discussing gay rights during 2 weekend forums

LISA KEEN | Keen News Service

There were two debates for the major Republican presidential candidates over the weekend weekend, and a question about same-sex marriage seemed inevitable. The events were taking place in New Hampshire — one of only six states with marriage equality. The most anti-gay candidate among the major GOP hopefuls — Rick Santorum — had just made significant gains in Iowa and some subsequent polls, making him seem a more viable contender for the nomination than ever before. And the gay-related questions came fast and hard.

On Saturday night, national ABC reporter Diane Sawyer pressed the candidates for a heartfelt, “personal” response to a question from a gay viewer in Virginia who wanted to know “what do you want gay people to do who want to form loving, committed, long-term relationships?” On Sunday morning, Boston NBC reporter Andy Hiller challenged them to Santorum and frontrunner Mitt Romney to say how they had ever “stood up for gay rights.”

Their answers broke little news but demonstrated the candidates’ awareness that they will have to adopt a kinder, gentler tone toward gays in order to win more votes in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary and, eventually, in the general election. But long-shot candidate Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the U.S. House, bared his teeth against the time spent discussing the rights of gays, claiming it showed a bias by the media for gays and against religious institutions.

Sawyer read a question submitted to Saturday’s debate via yahoo.com by a 30-year-old man named Phil in Virginia. The man’s question was this: “Given that you oppose gay marriage, what do you want gay people to do who want to form loving, committed, long-term relationships? What is your solution?”

“What would you say personally sitting in your living rooms to people who ask questions like this?” asked Sawyer. She directed the question first to Gingrich.

“I think what I would say is that we want to make it possible to have those things that are most intimately human between friends occur. For example, you’re in a hospital, if there are visitation hours, should you be allowed to stay? There ought to be ways to designate that. You want to have somebody in your will? There ought to be ways to designate that.

“But it is a huge jump,” said Gingrich, “from being understanding and considerate and concerned — which we should be — to saying we’re therefore going to institute the sacrament of marriage as though it has no basis. The sacrament of marriage was based on a man and a woman, has been for 3,000 years, is at the core of our civilization, and is something worth protecting and upholding. And I think that protecting and upholding that doesn’t mean you have to go out and make life miserable for others, but it does mean you have to make a distinction between a historic sacrament of enormous importance in our civilization and simply deciding it applies everywhere and it’s just a civil right. It’s not. It is a part of how we define ourselves and I think that a marriage between a man and a woman is part of that definition.”

Sawyer prodded former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman to talk about his support for civil unions.

“Well, personally, I think civil unions are fair. I support them. I think there’s such a thing as equality under the law,” said Huntsman. “I’m a married man. I’ve been married for 28 years. I have seven kids … and I don’t feel my relationship is at all threatened by civil unions.

“On marriage, I’m a traditionalist,” added Huntsman. “I think that ought to be saved for one man and one woman. But I believe that civil unions are fair, and I think it brings a level of dignity to relationships. And I believe in reciprocal beneficiary rights. I think they should be part of civil union rights as well.”

Local ABC reporter Josh McElveen then directed the discussion to Santorum, noting that 1,800 same-sex couples have obtained marriage licenses in New Hampshire under that state’s two-year-old law, “and they’re trying to start families, some of them.”

“Are you going to tell someone that they belong as a ward of the state or in foster care rather than have two parents who want them?” he asked.

“Well, this isn’t a federal issue, it’s a state issue,” said Santorum. “The states can make that determination, and New Hampshire — my feeling is that this is an issue that — I believe that the issue of marriage itself is a federal issue, that we can’t have different laws with respect to marriage, we have to have one law. Marriage is, as Newt said, a foundational institution of our country and we have to have a singular law with respect to that. We can’t have somebody married in one state and not married in another. …

“If we don’t have a federal law [banning marriage], I’m certainly not going to have a federal law that bans adoption for gay couples when there are only gay couples in certain states. So, this is a state issue, not a federal issue.”

McElveen followed up. What would happen to the marriages of the 1,800 New Hampshire gay couples if a federal ban on same-sex marriage is instituted?

Santorum responded as he has when asked the question in other forums.

“If the constitution says marriage is between a man and a woman,” said Santorum, “then marriage is between a man and a woman. And, therefore, that’s what marriage is and would be in this country and those who are not men and women who are married would not be married. That’s what the constitution would say.”

Sawyer jumped back in, asking Mitt Romney to explain what he would say in his living room to a gay couple “who would say, ‘We simply want the right to,’ as the person who wrote the e-mail said, ‘we want gay people to form loving, committed, long-term relationships.’ In human terms, what would you say to them?”

“The answer is, ‘That’s a wonderful thing to do,’ and that ‘There’s every right for people in this country to form long-term committed relationships with one another,’” Romney responded. “That doesn’t mean that they have to call it marriage or that they have to receive the approval of the state and a marriage license and so forth for that to occur. There can be domestic partnership benefits or contractual relationships between two people, which would include, as Speaker Gingrich indicated, hospital visitation rights and the like. We can decide what kinds of benefits we might associate with people who form those kinds of relationships, state by state. But to say that marriage is other than the relationship between a man and a woman, I think is a mistake. And the reason for that is not that we want to discriminate against people or to suggest that gay couples are not just as loving and can’t also raise children. But it’s instead a recognition that society as whole — the nation — will presumably be better off if children are raised in a setting where there’s a male and female. And there are many cases where that’s not possible — divorce, death, single parents, gay parents and so forth. But, for society to say we want to encourage, through the benefits that we associate with marriage, people to form partnerships between men and women and then raise children, which we think that will be the ideal setting for them to be raised.”

The discussion had gone on for about six minutes, when Gingrich apparently signaled that he wanted to speak, and Sawyer gave him the floor.

“I just want to say, since we spent this much time on these issues — I just want to raise a point about the news media bias. You don’t hear the opposite question asked,” said Gingrich. “Should the Catholic Church be forced to close its adoption services in Massachusetts because it won’t accept gay couples –which is exactly what the state has done.”

“Should the Catholic Church be driven out of providing charitable services in the District of Columbia because it won’t give in to secular bigotry? Should the Catholic Church find itself discriminated against by the Obama administration on key delivery of services because of the bias and the bigotry of the administration?

“The bigotry question goes both ways,” said Gingrich, “and there is a lot more anti-Christian bigotry today than there is concern on the other side, and none of it gets covered by the news media.”

The audience, which had been silent throughout the gay-related discussion, suddenly burst into applause, and Romney gained the floor.

“As you can tell, the people in this room feel that Speaker Gingrich is absolutely right,” said Romney, “and I do, too. And I was in a state where the Supreme Court stepped in and said marriage is a relationship required under the Constitution for people of the same sex to be able to marry. And John Adams, who wrote the Constitution, would be surprised. And it did exactly as Speaker Gingrich indicated. What happened was Catholic Charities, that placed almost half all the adopted children in our state, was forced to step out of being able to provide adoptive services. And the state tried to find other places to help children –We have to recognize that this decision about what we call marriage has consequence which goes far beyond a loving couple wanting to form a long-term relationship that they can do within the law now. Calling it marriage creates a whole host of problems for families, for the law, for the practice of religion, for education. Let me say this, 3,000 years of human history shouldn’t be discarded so quickly.”

Actually, though none of the reporters on the panel mentioned this — perhaps because they did not know — the state of Massachusetts did not “force” the Catholic Church to close its adoption services. The state required that Catholic Charities, a separate, non-profit organization, to obey state laws if it wished to receive state funding for its provision of adoption services. The group said it could not obey the state’s human rights law, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. And, thus, Catholic Charities chose to stop receiving state funds, rather than provide adoption services to gay couples, the same as straight couples.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry also responded to the question, reiterating his support for a federal marriage amendment and criticizing President Obama for not defending the Defense of Marriage Act in court.

“That is a war against religion, and it’s going to stop under a Perry administration,” Perry said.

Less than 12 hours later, the six candidates were back on stage in New Hampshire, this time with a special edition of NBC’s Meet the Press.

NBC Boston reporter Andy Hiller tried to tackle Romney on his 1994 statement during the Senate campaign. He read Romney’s quote to Bay Windows, a Boston gay newspaper, in which he said, “I think the gay community needs more support from the Republican party, and I would be a voice in the Republican party to foster anti-discrimination efforts.”

“How have you stood up for gay rights,” asked Hiller, “and when have you used your voice to influence Republicans on this issue?”

Romney responded that he had appointed a gay person to his cabinet, appointed people to the bench, “regardless of their sexual orientation,” and “made it very clear that we should not discriminate in hiring policies, in legal policies.”

“At the same time, from the very beginning, in 1994,” said Romney, “I said to the gay community, ‘I do not favor same-sex marriage. I oppose same-sex marriage,’ and that has been my view. But, if people are looking for someone who will discriminate against gays or will in any way suggest that people who have different sexual orientation don’t have full rights in this country, they won’t find that in me.”

Hiller turned his question to Santorum.

“Senator Santorum, would you be a voice for gay rights in the party?”

“I would be a voice in speaking out for making sure that every person in America, gay or straight, is treated with respect and dignity and has equality of opportunity,” said Santorum. “That does not mean that I would agree with certain things that the gay community would like to do to change laws with respect to marriage, with respect to adoption, and things like that. So, you can be respectful — this is the beautiful thing about this country. James Madison called the First Amendment … the perfect remedy — and that is that people of all different backgrounds — diversity, opinions, faith — can come into the public square and can be heard, and can be heard in a way that’s respectful of everybody else. But just because you don’t agree with someone’s desire to change the law doesn’t mean you don’t like them, or hate them, or that you want to discriminate against them, but you’re trying to promote things that you think are best for society. And I do so, and I if you watched the town hall meetings that I’ve been doing all over New Hampshire, I do so in a respectful tone, I listen to the other side, I let them make their arguments, and then we do so in a very respectful way. And you know what, we may not agree. That’s why we leave it open to the public to be able to elect members of Congress and the Senate and the President who support their ideas.”

“What if you had a son who came to you and said he was gay?” asked Hiller.

Without hesitation, Santorum, who has four sons, the oldest of whom is 18, said, “I would love him as much as the second before he said it. And I would try to do everything I can to be as good a father to him as possible.”

The audience applauded.

Later in Sunday’s debate, second-place challenger Ron Paul, in a discussion of entitlements, interjected that he doesn’t like to use the term “gay rights,” as had been used by Romney and Santorum.

“I don’t like to use those terms –gay rights, women’s rights, minority rights, religious rights,” said Paul. “There’s only one type of right. It’s your right to your liberty. And I think it causes divisiveness when we see people in groups. Because for too long, we punish groups, so the answer then was, ‘Well, let’s relieve them by giving them affirmative action.’ So, I think both are wrong, if you think in terms of individuals and protect every single individual.”

Jon Huntsman, too, chastised candidates for playing “the blame game” in referring to gays and unions.

“Everybody’s got something nasty to say,” said Huntsman. “You know what the people of this country are waiting for … they want a leader who is going to unify, who’s going to bring us together. Because, at the end of the day, that’s what leadership is all about. It’s not about taking on different groups and vilifying them for whatever reason. It’s about projecting a vision for a more hopeful tomorrow.”

In all, there were about 13 minutes of discussion of gay-related issues in the 210 minutes of weekend televised debate.

“Gov. Romney and Sen. Santorum today provided thoughtful and constructive answers to the questions they were asked about gay Americans,” Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said later. “If only they had been that thoughtful when they crafted their various policy positions.”

© 2012 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  John Wright

GOP hopefuls pledge to investigate gays if elected

Is this what a gay Republican looks like?

We all know that good traditional GOP values include family and limited government. So of course it makes sense to demand of GOP presidential candidates that they insist on pursuing a divisive family issue by creating needless bureaucracy. (Insert sarcastic eye roll here.)

I think that’s what frustrates me the most about Republicans: Not that we have disagreements over policy (I hardly walk lock-step with Dems on all issues, for that matter), but that the astounding hypocrisy of their positions goes unnoticed by their followers.

The height of hypocrisy this week is a demand by those bigoted hatemongers at the National Organization for Marriage that GOP presidential candidates sign a pledge to investigate the gay community for making their malicious members feel bad for being homophobes. Well, sorry, but I think you should feel bad for being a racist or a hater, though you certainly have a right to do it. That’s what America is about.

What’s remarkable is, three frontrunners — gay closet-bride Michele Bachmann, gay-sex by-product namesake Rick Santorum and politically desperate flip-flopper Mitt Romney — have signed the pledge.

You can read more about it here, but really, that’s all you need to know.

Who’da though Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry could look like progressives next to these morons?

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Republican presidential candidates split over right-wing ‘Marriage Vow’

Tim Pawlenty

But candidates’ refusal to sign pledge not an indication of a shift in views on gay marriage

LISA KEEN | Keen News Service
lisakeen@me.com

The campaigns of Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney and four other GOP presidential candidates said this week they would not sign the bizarre pledge that at least two other GOP competitors did sign — a pledge that promises the candidate will vigorously oppose even “court-imposed recognition” of same-sex marriage.

The refusal of Romney and the other candidates does not signal a change in their opposition to same-sex marriage, but does appear to suggest the GOP field may be re-evaluating how far it is willing to go to appease the party’s far right wing.

The pledge, called “The Marriage Vow,” is being circulated by a Christian-oriented political advocacy group — The Family Leader — that organized the successful recall of three Iowa Supreme Court justices because they ruled in favor of marriage equality.

The rambling two-page pledge, which includes two additional pages of footnotes, calls on candidates for state and federal offices to “vow” that they will not receive any campaign support “from any of us without first affirming this Marriage Vow,” that they will “uphold and advance the natural Institution of Marriage,” and remain faithful to their own spouses.

Among the 14 specific positions called for in the Marriage Vow is an “Earnest, bona fide legal advocacy for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) at the federal and state levels.” The 1996 federal law bans federal recognition of same-sex marriages and asserts that individual states can ignore marriage licenses issued by other states to same-sex couples.

The Marriage Vow also requires candidates to give a “steadfast embrace” to a proposed amendment to the federal Constitution to ban same-sex marriages nationally.

In an apparent reference to the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, the Marriage Vow has a candidate promise support for “safeguards” for military personnel from “intrusively intimate commingling among attracteds (restrooms, showers, barracks, tents, etc.).”

And one footnote contends there is no “empirical proof” that same-sex “inclinations are genetically determined, irresistible and akin to innate traits like race, gender and eye color . …”

The Marriage Vow does not limit itself to gay-related issues. It also calls for candidates to say “robust childbearing and reproduction is beneficial to U.S. demographic, economic, strategic and actuarial health and security,” to support the “downsizing” of government, and to support the protection of women from “sexual slavery, seduction into promiscuity, and all forms of pornography and prostitution, infanticide, abortion and other types of coercion or stolen innocence.”

A spokesperson for the Romney campaign told the Wall Street Journal, in an article published July 13, that Romney “felt this pledge contained references and provisions that were undignified and inappropriate for a presidential campaign.”

Jimmy LaSalvia, head of GOProud, a national conservative gay group, said Romney “should be praised for those comments, and for keeping his campaign focused on the issues that the American people care about the most: jobs and the economy.”

R. Clarke Cooper, head of Log Cabin Republicans, the national gay Republican group, said the pledge is “outside the scope of mainstream views.”

“Republican presidential candidates seriously seeking to win the general election are wise to avoid such an extreme position,” said Cooper. “Divisive and sometimes off-the-wall rhetoric on social issues will obscure a solid conservative fiscal message. Americans will not vote for somebody who has demonized their family, friends, neighbors and colleagues.”

Other Republican presidential candidates who have, thus far, balked at signing the pledge are former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman.

Johnson issued a statement calling the Marriage Vow “offensive to the principles of liberty and freedom on which this country was founded.” His website includes a video urging that it is un-American to discriminate against others “for the way they were born” or to use the federal government to “override the decisions of the states.”

Pawlenty posted a statement July 13 on his campaign’s website July 13, saying that, if elected president, “I would vigorously oppose any effort to redefine marriage as anything other than between one man and one woman.” But while he said he “deeply respects” the Family Leader’s commitment regarding marriage, he would “prefer to choose my own words” concerning marriage and would “respectfully decline” to sign the pledge.

Gingrich, in an appearance before the Family Leader July 11, reportedly said he would offer some edits to “sharpen” the pledge. The Des Moines Register said Gingrich said he wanted to review the document and was “working out some details.”

The only two Republicans to have signed the pledge — Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania — came under heavy scrutiny for having done so.

Bachmann and Santorum both had to address criticism for signing the Marriage Vow because the pledge originally included a sentence implying that African-American children were better off during slavery times than they are now, under the administration of the first African-American president.

According to the Huffington Post, the pledge originally included this sentence: “Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President.”

Huffington Post noted that the sentence has since been removed, and Bachmann told Fox News on July 12 that the sentence “was not on a document that I signed.”

“I just want to make it absolutely clear,” Bachmann told Fox News, “I abhor slavery. Slavery was a terrible part of our nation’s history. It’s good that we no longer have slavery. And under no circumstances would any child be better off growing up under slavery. That isn’t what I signed. That isn’t what I believe. What I signed was a statement that affirmed marriage as an important part of our nation. And I agree with that.”

The Human Rights Campaign issued a statement July 12 calling Bachmann’s signing of the pledge “a dangerous level of extremism.”

Bachmann, Santorum, and four other Republican presidential hopefuls have also signed the “Pro-Life Citizen’s Pledge,” promising that their nominees to the federal courts will be committed to “not legislating from the bench,” that their executive branch appointees — such as Cabinet positions — will be “pro-life,” and that they will “advance pro-life legislation to permanently end all taxpayer funding of abortion.”

The other four candidates include Gingrich, Pawlenty, and Reps. Ron Paul of Texas and Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan.

All but McCotter, who just recently announced his candidacy for the nomination, spoke before the Family Leader’s “Presidential Lecture Series,” as did candidate Herman Cain. Romney did not.

The head of the Family Leader organization, Bob Vander Plaats, was the organizer of the successful campaign last year to oust three Iowa Supreme Court justices who were part of the unanimous decision that the state constitution requires that same-sex couples be treated the same as heterosexual couples in the issuance of marriage licenses.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Campaign posted its own petition for GOP candidates July 12, asking HRC supporters to sign a statement urging GOP presidential candidates to speak out publicly against therapy that alleges to change gays into straights.

© 2011 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  John Wright