Kinder, gentler Republicans?

Primary candidates who are the most anti-LGBT didn’t fare well in New Hampshire. Could the GOP voters be moving toward tolerance?

David-Webb

David Webb
The Rare Reporter

The results of the New Hampshire primary must seem like political nirvana for LGBT Republicans who have held their noses while pulling voting machine levers during past presidential elections.

The presidential candidates who in recent weeks and during the televised weekend debates expressed the most tolerant views toward LGBT issues came out on top in the primary, and the ones who didn’t wound up in last places.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whose vitriolic anti-gay messages border on the absurd, finished dead last with less than 1 percent of the vote — just where many gay and straight Republicans and Democrats think he belongs in an enlightened society.

It’s doubtful that many voters chose former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as the frontrunner because he said in the debates he would champion LGBT rights — with the exception of marriage equality. But it is possible New Hampshire voters sent a message that they are tired of candidates pandering to conservative extremists who can’t think beyond antiquated religious teachings while the country’s economy collapses around them.

Incredibly, while Romney vowed he would never discriminate against LGBT people or “suggest they don’t have full rights in this country,” and that they should have the right to form long-term committed relationships in some form, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Perry couldn’t resist the opportunity to throw scraps to their conservative religious bases. The three outspoken anti-gay candidates finished fourth, fifth and sixth respectively, if not as a result of their bigotry then perhaps as just desserts for it.

In a similar vein as Romney, Congressman Ron Paul and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman made statements indicating tolerance and support.

Paul said he objected to the use of the term “gay rights” by candidates on the stage, saying it leads to divisiveness and punishment of LGBT people who are entitled to individual liberty along with everyone else.
Huntsman said he supported civil unions, and he also accused most of the other candidates of all “having something nasty to say” about LGBT people.

Romney.Mitt

Gov. Mitt Romney

In his response to the moderator’s question about what gay people who want to form long-term relations should do, Gingrich said he advocated allowing contact that is “intimately human between friends,” such as hospital visits. Then he accused LGBT people who want to get married of trying to make straight people “miserable.”

Similarly, Santorum condemned same-sex marriage and adoptions by gay parents while making some conciliatory statements about “respect and dignity” for all people. When asked what he would do if one of his sons told him he was gay, Santorum said he would tell him that he still loved him.

But that statement left some LGBT viewers wondering if in such a case the son would soon find himself shipped off to a homosexual rehabilitation treatment center.

Gingrich, who has a lesbian sister who won’t support him politically, later asked for the floor during the debate to accuse the media moderators of asking the questions about marriage equality because they are biased in favor of LGBT rights and against Christian religious institutions.

But as usual it was Perry out of the six candidates who made the biggest ass of himself by claiming President Barrack Obama’s decision not to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act in court is part of a “war against religion” that would stop if he is elected president.

Perry, who has long fought rumors that he has engaged in secret homosexual activity and has seemingly gone out of his way to offend LGBT Texans during his tenure as governor, had no other comment on the subject.

Of course, not everyone in the LGBT community reacted favorably to Romney’s comments about LGBT rights because they did seem contradictory. Although Romney said he would stand up for LGBT rights, it’s hardly full rights if one of the most valuable — the right to marriage and its legal protections — is being withheld.

None of the Republican candidates support LGBT issues as fervently as gay and lesbian activists would like to see, but last weekend’s debates marked yet another milestone in the American gay rights movement. During both days of the presidential debate, LGBT rights were discussed for a total of 13 minutes in more favorable terms than anyone might have been expected. With the exception of Perry, all of the candidates apparently tried to sound at the very least humane.

Perry.Rick

Gov. Rick Perry

In the Republican candidates’ defense, it must be noted that even President Obama, who has done more in the area of LGBT rights advancement than any other American president, still does not support marriage equality. That could come, but it hasn’t yet.

In fact, to win the 2012 election with the full support of the nation’s LGBT voters, it may be necessary for President Obama to take an affirmative stand on marriage equality, given Republican frontrunner Romney’s remarks in New Hampshire.

Now, all of the Republican candidates are headed for South Carolina for that state’s primary on Jan. 21, and it will be interesting to hear what gets said about LGBT rights in the conservative state.

Perry is already there, blathering away, but barring a miracle happening for him he will be headed home to Texas for good the day after the primary at the very latest.
Romney on the other hand, having won in both Iowa and New Hampshire, appears destined to a run for president on the Republican ticket this year if he continues his winning streak in South Carolina.

So far, the race for the Republican presidential nomination has made for some of the most interesting political theater in modern times and in no small part because of the recent focus on LGBT issues. The prospect of the ensuing debates between the Republican nominee and President Obama promises to make this one of the most exciting political years ever for the LGBT community and its many straight friends.

It’s a good bet the LGBT voter turnout could be the biggest ever seen.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. Contact him at davidwaynewebb@hotmail.com or facebook.com/TheRareReporter.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 13, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Perry edges Roemer, Karger in N.H.

As you’ve undoubtedly heard, Mitt Romney captured the New Hampshire primary in a snoozefest Tuesday night with 39 percent of the vote, and experts say the former Massachusetts governor is now well on his way to securing the Republican nomination for president. Romney became the first non-incumbent GOP presidential candidate to win both Iowa and New Hampshire since 1976.

Texas Congressman Ron Paul, R-Lake Jackson, came in a distant second, but continued to shock the world by again finishing with more than 20 percent of the vote. Texas Gov. Rick Perry was sixth, with less than 1 percent or slightly more than 1,700 total votes — about half as many as “other.” According to the New York Times, a breakdown of the other candidates reveals that Perry edged both Buddy Roemer, who had 920 votes, and openly gay candidate Fred Karger, who had 338.

Karger, a long shot who has campaigned almost exclusively in New Hampshire thus far, says he will now shift his efforts to the Feb. 28 primary in Michigan, where he’s also earned a place on the ballot. Perry, meanwhile, released a statement saying he skipped New Hampshire to focus South Carolina, site of the next primary on Saturday, Jan. 21.

“Tonight’s results in New Hampshire show the race for ‘conservative alternative’ to Mitt Romney remains wide open,” Perry said in the statement. “I skipped New Hampshire and aimed my campaign right at conservative South Carolina, where we’ve been campaigning hard and receiving an enthusiastic welcome.”

Perry’s assertion that he skipped New Hampshire is only partly true: He campaigned there and spent a lot of money on advertising before abandoning the Granite State a few weeks ago when polls showed it wasn’t having any impact.

Whether a “conservative alternative” will emerge to challenge Romney and at least lend the appearance of a two-person race for the GOP nomination remains to be seen. Leaders from the religious right will gather at a Texas ranch this weekend to decide whether they can unite behind one of the socially conservative candidates — or perhaps give up and throw their support behind Romney. The other social conservatives, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, finished tied for fourth in New Hampshire with about 9 percent of the vote. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who is decidedly moderate, finished third with 17 percent behind Paul, a libertarian who captured 23 percent.

Huntsman and Paul both declined to sign an anti-gay pledge from the National Organization for Marriage. With some suggesting that this primary could signal that the religious right is losing its grip on the Republican Party, the gay GOP group Log Cabin Republicans released a statement saying the New Hampshire results show that, “inclusion wins.”

“By adding a definitive victory in New Hampshire to his win in Iowa, Gov. Mitt Romney has established himself as a candidate who can unite Republicans and a clear threat to Barack Obama in November,” said R. Clarke Cooper, Log Cabin Republicans executive director. “Gov. Romney was consistently clear in the debates that he opposes discrimination based on sexual orientation. While he continues to support a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality — a position Log Cabin strongly opposes — he is also on record saying that such an amendment has been tried, rejected, and is unlikely to ever succeed. Romney has also taken a position that the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ has been settled, and he would not seek to reinstitute the ban on open service.

“Congressman Ron Paul’s second place finish underscores New Hampshire’s commitment to the libertarian principles he has consistently championed, which include his votes against the anti-family Federal Marriage Amendment and for the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’” Cooper added. “Log Cabin Republicans are also pleased with the strong performance of Gov. Jon Huntsman, a solid supporter of civil unions for same-sex couples and a candidate who frequently talked about the need for Americans to do more for gay rights. As the nomination process moves forward, Log Cabin Republicans suggest all the candidates recognize the lesson learned from New Hampshire; that inclusion wins. The 2012 election is about liberty and prosperity, and candidates who keep the focus on the issues most important to Americans, jobs and the economy, will attain victory.”

—  John Wright

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

With their golden boy Rick Perry in trouble, anti-gay leaders to gather again in Texas

ap_rick_santorum_110414_wg

Rick Santorum

Back in August, hundreds of evangelical leaders, including the likes of Focus on the Family founder James Dobson and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, gathered on a ranch west of Austin to meet with Gov. Rick Perry, who had just launched his campaign for president and appeared to be their golden boy.

Five months later, after Perry’s fifth-place finish in Iowa, many of those same leaders will gather again next weekend on a ranch in Brenham, Texas — halfway between Austin and Houston — to decide whether they can unite behind another candidate in the GOP presidential race whose name isn’t Mitt Romney. And this time, Perry isn’t invited. The Christian Post reports:

An invitation that was sent on Wednesday read in part, “You and your spouse are cordially invited to a private meeting with national conservative leaders of faith at the ranch of Paul and Nancy Pressler near Brenham, Texas with the purpose of attempting to unite and come to a consensus on which Republican presidential candidate to support or which not to support.”

The group of evangelicals includes Don Wildmon, the former chairman of the American Family Association and a supporter of Newt Gingrich, former presidential candidate Gary Bauer, and Focus on the Family Founder James Dobson.

“Yes, I received the invitation but I have decided not to attend,” said one prominent conservative leader who asked not to be identified.

“I know what they’re trying to accomplish but I don’t think anything is going to come out of it. There will be lots of discussion about [Rick] Santorum’s candidacy and even some who are going will advocate for [Newt] Gingrich and maybe a few who have holds that Perry can catch a second wind. But I just don’t see the group reaching a consensus,” he added.

Perry is polling at just 1 percent in New Hampshire, where he hasn’t campaigned, and 5 percent in South Carolina, where he plans to focus his efforts leading up to the Palmetto State’s Jan. 21 primary. According to The Washington Post, social conservatives fear that having too many right-wing candidates in the race will splinter the evangelical vote, allowing Romney to pull away. But it’s unlikely they’ll try to force anyone out until after South Carolina:

In an interview Friday with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Richard Land, a prominent Christian conservative and president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said that social conservative leaders are increasingly enthusiastic about Santorum — but they’re worried that his candidacy could face the same fate as Huckabee’s 2008 bid, which faltered in South Carolina as social conservatives splintered between the former Arkansas governor and former senator Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.), allowing Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to eke out a win.

“We don’t want to make the same mistake this time that we made with Huckabee in 2008,” Land said. “People didn’t rally around Huckabee as the social conservative alternative because they didn’t think he could win until it was too late, and McCain had the nomination sewed up.”

He noted that if one combined the vote totals of Santorum, former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), “you would’ve out-voted Romney two-to-one in Iowa.”

“But because of the division among the conservative candidates, there is real concern that Romney will win without having to face one concentrated effort of a conservative challenger,” he said.

—  John Wright

WATCH: “Brokeback Mitt Romney”

Any chance this could be the work of a super PAC that’s backing Rick Santorum?

—  John Wright

Gay GOP leader says he’d vote for Santorum

Schlein’s comments stand in contrast to statements from national LGBT Republican groups

Rob.Schlein.color.4

Rob Schlein

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com

Local gay Republican leader Rob Schlein ignited controversy in August by declaring that he’d vote for Texas Gov. Rick Perry over President Barack Obama if Perry wins the GOP nomination, despite the governor’s anti-gay record.

Schlein, president of Metroplex Republicans of Dallas, went a step further this week when he said he’d even support former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum over Obama if Santorum turns out to be the GOP nominee.

Santorum, who has famously compared same-sex marriage to man-dog marriage and is widely considered the most anti-gay candidate in the race, finished in a virtual tie atop this week’s Iowa caucuses with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Schlein said although Metroplex Republicans doesn’t plan to make an endorsement in the GOP race, he now personally supports Romney. But he added that he would vote for Santorum over Obama, even though he doesn’t believe Santorum has any chance of winning the nomination.

“We’re going to all vote for the Republican, no matter who it is, even Rick Santorum,” Schlein said of his group’s members during an interview with Dallas Voice about the Iowa results. “We have to focus right now like a laser beam on the one issue that matters today, and that’s getting the economic house in order. Any Republican, including Rick Santorum, will do a better job than Barack Obama on the economy. It doesn’t matter what anti-LGBT positions he’s taken in the past.”

Schlein’s statements last year about supporting Perry were one factor that led National Log Cabin Republicans to de-charter the group’s Dallas chapter, in which Schlein served as president. And Schlein’s comments about Santorum this week stood in stark contrast to statements from both National Log Cabin and GOProud responding to the Iowa results.

Log Cabin Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper said in a statement issued Wednesday, Jan. 4, that Santorum rose to the top of the caucuses by appealing to “a uniquely socially conservative electorate.”

“As the nomination process moves forward, Log Cabin Republicans suggest all of the candidates reject Santorum’s politics of division and win by focusing on the issues that matter most to Americans — jobs and the economy,” Cooper said. “If using gay and lesbian Americans as a wedge can’t score enough political points to win more than 25 percent in Iowa, it certainly won’t help the Republican nominee in November.”

Asked to respond to Schlein’s comments, the president of the newly rechartered Dallas chapter of Log Cabin Republicans, Thomas Purdy, called Santorum “a bad candidate for president for many reasons.”

“Pandering to social conservatives as Santorum has done does not represent a party that champions individual liberty, and nominating Santorum would hurt the GOP by turning off moderates, independents and younger voters,” Purdy said.

GOProud, meanwhile, conspicuously omitted any reference to Santorum from the group’s statement on the Iowa results, instead congratulating only Romney and Texas Congressman Ron Paul, R-Lake Jackson, who finished third.

“While there are certainly big differences between Governor Romney and Congressman Paul, especially when it comes to foreign policy, both chose to emphasize issues like the economy and the size of government over demonizing gay people,” GOProud Executive Director Jimmy LaSalvia said. “We are pleased to see that so many Republicans in Iowa are focused on the issues that unite us as conservatives, instead of the side show issues.”

Schlein’s decision to invite LaSalvia to speak at what was then the Log Cabin chapter’s annual dinner in November was another factor that prompted the national Log Cabin group to oust him. Asked directly this week whether he would support Santorum if he’s the nominee, LaSalvia said in an email, “Asking me if I would support Rick Santorum if he’s the Republican nominee is like asking me if I would support Kim Kardashian if she’s the nominee — they both have about the same chance of getting the nomination!”

Omar Narvaez, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, declined to directly address Schlein’s comments about Santorum.

“I don’t personally know Rob Schlein,” Narvaez said. “Stonewall Democrats of Dallas is committed [to] and focused on re-electing President Barack Obama regardless of who the Republican nominee is.”

Earlier, Narvaez said he was glad Perry had chosen not to drop out of the race, despite the governor’s disappointing fifth-place finish in Iowa. Narvaez said the more candidates stay in, the more difficult it will be for any one of them to pull away.

“They’re not cohesive in any way,” Narvaez said of the GOP, “and I think the longer they can’t decide who they are, what they’re trying to do, is better for Democrats everywhere.

“The more they tear each other apart and in-fight and can’t get along, it’s better for Democrats,” he added. “They’re just giving us all the ammunition we’re going to need to fight them later.”

Equality Texas, the statewide LGBT advocacy group, issued a statement Wednesday morning rejoicing in Perry’s poor showing in Iowa, denouncing his “homophobic pandering” and predicting that he “will not be the next president of the United States.”

“Governor Perry’s homophobic pandering did not resonate with Iowa voters just as it does not resonate in Texas,” Equality Texas said in its statement. “As Governor Perry returns to Texas to reflect on his campaign, it is our hope at Equality Texas that he will also reflect on what Texans really want for their state. … It is time our governor recognize that homophobia and transphobia have no place in our great state and he should join in the effort to eradicate them from all public policy.”

After Perry announced that he would remain in the race, Equality Texas Deputy Director Chuck Smith told Dallas Voice he believes the governor’s campaign for president could ultimately benefit the LGBT community in his home state.

“It’s easy to show that most people don’t believe that,” Smith said of Perry’s anti-gay views. “He’s at a level of vitriol toward gay people that simply isn’t shared by most people. It potentially broadens the spectrum of Republicans who might be able to come out and say, ‘I don’t go that far.’ … If he gets so extreme that members of his own party feel the need to disavow him, that can only help us.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 6, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Santorum’s success in Iowa could fuel more discussion of LGBT issues in GOP primary

Mitt Romney, left, and Rick Santorum finished in a virtual tie in the Iowa caucuses, with Romney winning by eight votes.

Perry returns to Texas after 5th-place showing

LISA KEEN | Keen News Service

The Republican presidential field’s most anti-gay candidate scored big Tuesday night when he landed in a virtual tie for first place in the Iowa caucuses with the candidate who has been seen by the media as the party’s most viable candidate against President Barack Obama.

Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who took numerous opportunities in his campaign to espouse his opposition to equal rights for LGBT people, secured just eight votes fewer than former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, out of about 60,000 cast for the two men. Each won 25 percent of the 122,000 votes cast for seven candidates, in what may be the closest Republican caucus race in history. The final result was not announced by the state Republican Party until after 1 a.m. Iowa time.

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas came in third, with 21 percent of the caucus votes. U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia followed in fourth place, garnering 13 percent. Texas Gov. Rick Perry took 10 percent of the vote in fifth place, followed by U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota in sixth place with 5 percent of the vote.

Bachmann canceled a trip to South Carolina — which holds its primary Jan. 21 — and was expected to announce Wednesday that she is ending her campaign. Perry, meanwhile, also canceled a planned trip to South Carolina saying, “I’ve decided to return to Texas, assess the results of tonight’s caucus, determine whether there is a path forward for myself in this race.”

Early Wednesday Perry indicated on Twitter that he will  continue his campaign. “And the next leg of the marathon is the Palmetto State…Here we come South Carolina!!!” read a tweet from Perry’s verified Twitter account, which was accompanied by a photo of Perry in jogging gear. A Perry campaign source reportedly told CNN that, “We’re back on.”

Openly gay candidate Fred Karger did not compete in the Iowa caucuses. The field’s only candidate supportive of legal recognition of same-sex relationships (albeit through civil unions only), former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, claimed less than 1 percent of the vote.

Although an Iowa victory is an important symbolic victory, especially in the eyes of the media, it does not secure any of the state’s eventual 25 delegates to the Republican national convention.

Also, polls nationally and in other key states suggest Santorum still has an uphill battle for the nomination. The latest national poll, by Gallup, showed Santorum in fifth place with only 6 percent of support from 1,000 Republican voters surveyed. Romney led the field with 24 percent. The poll was conducted from Dec. 26 to Jan. 2.

A CNN poll of New Hampshire voters on Tuesday night after Santorum’s success showed an increase in support for Santorum — to 10 percent, twice what it was in late December. But Romney held fast to his 47 percent of the New Hampshire support, Paul held onto 17 percent, and Huntsman held onto 13 percent.

Santorum’s success in Iowa will probably bring increased attention and support for his passionately proclaimed anti-gay views. Those views and his toughly stated opposition to abortion appeared to fuel his strong showing in the caucuses. A CNN entrance poll indicated that 84 percent of those participating described themselves as either “very conservative” (47 percent) or “somewhat conservative” (37 percent). The majority of those participants (54 percent) voted for Santorum.

Fifty-seven percent of participants also described themselves as “white evangelical/born-again Christians.” And 32 percent of those supported Santorum.

The most important issue for Santorum supporters in Iowa, was abortion, according to CNN. (CNN apparently did not ask about same-sex marriage on the entrance poll.) For Romney supporters, it was the economy.

“[N]o other candidate has made opposing basic rights for LGBT Americans such a guiding principle of his or her public life,” said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign.

One CNN commentator, Gloria Borger, suggested Santorum’s ascension might draw Romney into more discussions about social issues, such as same-sex marriage. However, Santorum himself took his rhetoric down a notch during his remarks Tuesday night.

Santorum, on stage with a large crowd of supporters, thanked his wife Karen, God and Iowa. He said “rights come to us from God,” he talked about the need for “a plan that includes everyone,” and he talked about the “dignity of every human life.” He said that “when the family breaks down, the economy struggles.” But, despite repeatedly emphasizing his opposition to same-sex marriage throughout his campaign, Santorum did not mention his definition of marriage as being “one man and one woman.”

Romney, on stage with his wife and four of his sons, congratulated Santorum for his success and noted, at 12:40 a.m. Wednesday, that he did not yet know what the final result would be. (Two percent of the vote was yet to be counted, and Romney was leading by only 41 votes. Before he finished his speech, Santorum was leading by five votes.) Romney said nothing about same-sex marriage either, and said “freedom is a gift from God.”

Santorum, who polled near the bottom of the field with only single-digit support for months on end, jumped ahead in the polls in the last few days before the caucus. Bob Vander Platts, one of the leaders against same-sex marriage in Iowa, reportedly took some credit for Santorum’s surge, which started about a week after Vander Platts’ group, The Family Leader, endorsed Santorum.

Both national and local media gave much credit to Santorum’s decision to campaign in every one of Iowa’s 99 counties for his victory. And the Des Moines Register pre-caucus poll indicated that Santorum’s supporters showed a greater likelihood of showing up at the caucuses (76 percent) than those of other candidates.

More than 40 percent of Iowa Republicans were undecided going into the caucuses.

In remarks after most media declared him the third place candidate in Iowa, Paul emphasized the importance of staying faithful to the Constitution and limiting government interference in private lives. Perry, who went on stage with just his wife and three kids, mostly read from a letter from a supporter.

An unusually low-key Bachmann initially vowed to continue her campaign, but she, too, read her remarks to the crowd, including a reiteration of her promise of “protecting marriage between one man and one woman.”

The openly gay Karger did not compete in the Iowa caucuses, saying he knew the turnout would be “mostly social conservatives” and that his strongholds of support there, the colleges, were not in session.

Karger was in New Hampshire Tuesday night, where he has been campaigning for months. He said that, regardless of how he does in New Hampshire’s primary, Jan. 10, “I’ll absolutely stay in all primaries and caucuses.”

CNN commentator Al Sharpton said Santorum’s success in the race is good for Democrats.

“As long as a Santorum is in the race, Romney’s going to have to keep playing to the right,” said Sharpton, “and the longer he has to debate and stay to the right, he loses the middle.”

Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper issued a state early Wednesday morning saying that Romney was “one of the best” of the Republican candidates in Iowa
 on issues affecting LGBT Americans.

“By contrast,” said Cooper, “Sen. Santorum rose by appealing
 to a uniquely socially conservative electorate. The divisive social issue politics which
 helped Santorum’s campaign in Iowa will only hurt him in New Hampshire and beyond
 as voters learn more about his record. Winning the White House will require the politics 
of addition, not division.

“If using gay and lesbian Americans as a wedge can’t score enough political points to win more than 25 percent in Iowa,” said Cooper, “it certainly won’t help the Republican nominee in November.”

Jimmy LaSalvia, head of GOProud, a national gay conservative group, issued a statement that ignored Santorum’s success in Iowa. Instead, LaSalvia praised Romney and Paul on taking “two of the three top spots in Iowa” and said, “It is clear that the message of economic renewal and limited government is resonating with Republican voters.”

“While there are certainly big differences between Governor Romney and Congressman Paul, especially when it comes to foreign policy,” said LaSalvia, “both chose to emphasize issues like the economy and the size of government over demonizing gay people. We are pleased to see that so many Republicans in Iowa are focused on the issues that unite us as conservatives, instead of the side show issues.”

There are two debates this weekend. The first is in New Hampshire, Saturday at 9 p.m. on ABC. The latter is on NBC’s Meet the Press program on Sunday at 9 a.m.

Senior political writer John Wright contributed to this report.

© 2012 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  John Wright

Karger remains in the race but focused on NH

Fred Karger

The Iowa caucus is tonight and one name that has been mentioned in very few news reports is openly gay candidate Fred Karger.

Karger is mostly sitting out Iowa but has spent more time campaigning in New Hampshire than any other candidate. Two recent polls have him tied with Michele Bachman and Rick Santorum in that state.

The New Hampshire primary takes place Tuesday, Jan. 10.

While his bid was always considered a long shot, he is one of just eight Republicans still left in the race. Herman Cain suspended his campaign. Buddy Roemer is seeking the nomination of Americans Elect. One candidate who is not anti-gay, Gary Johnson, announced last week that he will seek the nomination of the Libertarian Party, rather than the Republican Party. Thaddeus McCotter, another candidate who has been excluded from all of the debates, also left the race.

So while Karger is a long shot, he also remains in the narrowing field along with Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, John Huntsman, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Santorum.

Karger has been excluded from the debates to keep him from embarrassing the other Republicans over their homophobia.

To keep him from participating in the debates, rules were changed to refuse him a place on stage with other candidates. Those rules included raising the percentage candidates had to poll to qualify and increasing the number of polls in which a candidate had to score that higher percentage. Then polls where he scored the required 2 percent were discounted.

Still, Karger continues in the Republican race, but don’t look for him until next Tuesday.

While other candidates who don’t finish in the top three may be considered big losers in the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary, Karger will be considered a big winner if he finishes with more than 1 percent of the vote in New Hampshire or with more votes than any of the other better-known candidates.

—  David Taffet

Top 10: Perry presidential bid galvanized gays

clip-Strong-Perry

BROKEBACK PERRY | Rick Perry’s ‘Strong’ ad, in which he’s wearing a jacket similar to the one worn by Heath Ledger in ‘Brokeback Mountain,’ has the second-most dislikes of any video on YouTube.

No: 3

Rick Perry began 2011 being sworn in to a third four-year term as Texas’ governor. He ends it on a bus tour of Iowa, where he’s trying frantically to climb back into contention for the GOP presidential nomination as the Hawkeye State’s Jan. 3 caucuses near.

Perry is perhaps the most anti-gay governor in Texas history — and that’s saying something. So, when rumors began to swirl this spring that “Governor Goodhair” was planning to run for president, the LGBT community seemed to collectively grimace. For most, the downside of Perry holding national office would far outweigh one small consolation: At least he would finally have to depart the Lone Star State.

Longstanding rumors that Perry is a closeted homosexual quickly resurfaced. And, as if to try to put an end to them once and for all, Perry organized a “day of prayer” at Reliant Stadium in Houston, called The Response and funded by the American Family Association. The AFA is considered an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and those who signed on as endorsers of Perry’s prayer rally certainly had the views to back up the designation.

The Response drew a huge response from, among others, the LGBT community, with activists staging counterdemonstrations in H-Town during a sweltering first weekend of August. Perry insisted The Response wasn’t political, but a week later he announced his campaign for president.

Republicans were smitten, and Perry skyrocketed to the top of GOP presidential polls — positioning himself as a highly-sought-after, more conservative alternative to presumptive frontrunner Mitt Romney.

Just before he formally launched his presidential bid, Perry stated at an event in Colorado that he believed marriage is a state’s rights issue and New York’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage was “fine with me.”

Under intense pressure from social conservatives, he quickly retracted the statement and came out firmly in support of a federal marriage amendment.

But that didn’t stop Rob Schlein, then president of Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas, from writing a controversial column in which he said he would vote for Perry over President Barack Obama, despite the governor’s anti-gay record. The column was one of several factors that led National Log Cabin to de-charter the Dallas chapter, which is now known as Metroplex Republicans.

Perry would go on to sign a pledge from the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage and come out against the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.” But in the end, it appears his right-wing credentials weren’t enough to overcome major, repeated gaffes during nationally televised debates this fall.

In the most memorable one, Perry forgot the third federal department he would eliminate as president in what has become known as his “oops” moment.

Desperate to recover from the gaffes, Perry’s campaign lurched even further to the right — releasing a campaign ad called “Strong” in which he declared: “I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian, but you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.”

“Strong” spawned many parodies, with some harping on the fact that Perry’s jacket in the ad resembled the one worn by Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain. “Strong” also garnered the second-most dislikes of any video on YouTube. Above all, though, where it really counts among Republican voters, the ad didn’t work.

As of this week, Perry was polling fifth in Iowa — and second among candidates from Texas behind Congressman Ron Paul.

— John Wright

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 30, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Still no single clear leader in Republican presidential contest

Romney often under fire from conservatives for changing positions on issues including LGBT rights

Romney.Mitt.2

Mitt Romney

STEVEN R. HURST  |  Associated Press
editor@dallasvoice.com

WASHINGTON — Republicans are growing significantly less satisfied with the field of candidates to challenge President Barack Obama next year, and they are about evenly split in their support for Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, a new Associated Press-GfK poll finds.

Despite Obama’s low approval ratings and deep vulnerability over his handling of the U.S. economy, the poll of all people surveyed, including Democrats and independents, found Romney and the president statistically even. Obama leads Gingrich 51 percent to 42 percent.

With three weeks remaining before the Iowa caucus, the first contest where voters actually declare their choice of a candidate, Romney’s argument that his Washington outsider status sets him apart has not blocked Gingrich’s stunning climb to the top of the field.

A similar AP-GfK poll of Republicans in October found Gingrich well behind the leading candidates, with 7 percent. Romney had 30 percent.

The new poll conducted earlier this month finds Gingrich preferred by 33 percent of Republicans and Romney by 27 percent. However, that finding falls just within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 6 percentage points.

Gingrich,Newt

Newt Gingrich

All other candidates are in single digits.

The poll also found a considerable drop in satisfaction with the overall Republican field. In October, 66 percent of Republican adults were satisfied, and 29 percent unsatisfied. Now, 56 percent are satisfied and 40 percent unsatisfied.

Voter preferences in early voting states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina do not necessarily match those in national polls. The Iowa caucus is Jan. 3. The New Hampshire primary is one week later.

At a time when polls show plummeting public approval of government, the 68-year-old Gingrich has a long history in the capital as a member of Congress, speaker of the House of Representatives and, since 1998, a lucrative, Washington-based consultant, speaker and author.

Except for four years as Massachusetts governor, Romney, 64, has spent his career in business and management. He ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in 1994 and for president in 2008.

Both men have earned millions of dollars over the years.  Romney has built his campaign largely on the argument that his business background makes him better suited for the presidency than anyone else, especially on creating jobs in an economy where unemployment remains at 8.6 percent. But in a recent debate in Iowa, Romney at first struggled to name issues on which he and Gingrich disagree.

After citing Gingrich’s support for a mining colony on the moon and changes to child labor laws, Romney said: “The real difference, I believe, is our backgrounds. I spent my life in the private sector. I understand how the economy works.”

Among Republicans who say they prefer a non-Washington candidate, Romney has a modest edge over Gingrich. Gingrich has a larger advantage among those who say they prefer Washington experience in a nominee.

Romney’s better showing in a head-to-head matchup with Obama may give him some ammunition with Republicans whose top priority is ousting the president. Otherwise, Republicans appear to see Romney and Gingrich as similar in many important ways. The two men polled about evenly on the questions of who would be a strong leader, has the right experience, understands ordinary people’s problems and can bring needed change. Romney holds a clear edge on who is most likable. Gingrich leads on the question of who “has firm policy positions.” Romney is often asked about his changed positions on abortion, gay rights, gun control and immigration. Gingrich, however, also has shifted views on key issues.

AP Deputy Polling Director Jennifer Agiesta and News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 16, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas