Efforts to resurrect local gay Catholic group are misguided

Article on fledgling Dignity Dallas chapter raises questions about why LGBT people would want to be part of a faith that doesn’t accept them

The Feb. 17 Dallas Voice informed us, under the eyebrow “Spirituality,” that some locals are working to re-establish the LGBT Catholic organization, Dignity Dallas.

This is so weird it ranks right up there with Rick Santorum’s assertion that, if one of his daughters was raped and impregnated, he would advise her to make the best of a bad situation.

It ranks right alongside Mitt Romney’s sacred underpants, Newt Gingrich’s moon base and Ron Paul’s un-conservative earmarks.

I do not know Jim Davis, and perhaps he is a very nice man. Certainly, he seems sincere in wanting to re-establish a local branch of Dignity since he is willing to be quoted saying, “I want my name out there.”

Out where? The Catholic Church does not recognize Dignity’s existence. It certainly does not recognize Dignity’s value. The DV article reports that, according to DignityUSA Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke, the group is “still a place to take refuge from the mounting attacks by bishops and the pope.”

Well, isn’t that the problem? Hey, people, the church does not want you. It thinks your sexuality, gender identity and/or gender expression is a choice. It thinks you should turn straight. It thinks you should be celibate. It thinks you should at the very least keep your mouth shut. Not to mention other parts of your anatomy.

Here is some of what the church has to say about LGBT people:

According to published reports, on Oct. 31, 1986, under Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) made public a “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons.”

In the letter, he calls homosexuality “a more or less strong tendency … toward an intrinsic moral evil” and “an objective disorder.”

In other words, not only is homosexual activity wrong, but homosexuality itself is wrong. Evil. Disordered. Wrong.

Googling for items related to Catholic positions on homosexuality is fascinating and terrifying. For example, it is fascinating to note the many references to the Book of Genesis and its “creation” of Adam and Eve and their “union” as the basis for heterosexuality and hetero-only marriage. (There is no mention of who wrote the book, though many Catholics and other religions believe it was dictated by God.)

But it is terrifying to read the November 2000 “Statement” issued by the Catholic Medical Association. The statement lists “considerations” — the first being all the bad childhood experiences it alleges turned some of us away from the path of righteousness, including not enough rough-and-tumble play for boys. In a sort of footnote to the list, it alleges that adult women are turned to homosexuality by having an abortion. That’s a new one on me and perhaps on you as well.

The statement then makes “recommendations,” which include this questionable gem: “The priest … is in a unique position to provide specific spiritual assistance to those experiencing same-sex attraction.” Is this a joke? I’m not going there.

In any case, the Catholic Medical Association statement was issued years after the American Psychological Association changed its retrograde position and stated: “The research on homosexuality is very clear. Homosexuality is neither mental illness nor moral depravity.”

I have nothing against the Roman Catholic Church — nothing against any Abrahamic faith. I simply do not believe the practitioners should be passing judgment on all of us or meddling with marriage and abortion and contraception and military service and workplace rights and intimate relationships among members of our community.

And yet they do, or they try very hard to. So why would any LGBT seek to dignify such patriarchal, paternalistic views? It’s a puzzle.

Phyllis Guest is a longtime activist on political and LGBT issues and is a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. Send comments to editor@dallasvoice.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 24, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

PHOTOS, VIDEO: Rick Santorum in N. Texas

Rick Santorum speaks at Fairview Farms in Plano on Wednesday night. (Photos by Patrick Hoffman/Special to the Voice)

Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum rolled into Plano on Wednesday night for a campaign rally at Fairview Farms — a corral barn normally rented out for parties — in a Central Expressway mini mall next door to Party City and Duke’s Roadhouse.

In the 41-degree weather, a mostly white crowd in coats and knit caps stood huddled outside the Fairview entrances, standing on tip-toe, angling their cameras in the air and peering through window lattices to get a peek at the Pennsylvania senator.

WBAP Talk radio host Mark Davis, who hosted the rally, announced: “I am not here to introduce to you the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney. I’m here to introduce to you the conservative alternative to Barack Obama.” (Incidentally, Davis was recently a guest speaker at a meeting of Metroplex Republicans of Dallas, a gay GOP group.)

It seemed oddly fitting that Santorum should spill into Plano the day after his ideological opposite, Dan Savage, spoke at the University of North Texas’ 12th Annual Equity and Diversity Conference. Nine years ago, after Santorum compared homosexual relationships to bestiality, Savage led a successful campaign to redefine Santorum’s surname to mean a frothy by-product of anal sex. Both men call the others’ action vulgar.

“He’s not running for president,” Savage told Dallas Voice last week. “He’s running for a Fox News contract just like [Mike] Huckabee.”

—  Daniel Villarreal

Same-sex marriage returns to political spotlight

Issue could appear on ballot in as many as 6 states this year

NEW YORK — Same-sex marriage is back in the political spotlight and likely to remain there through Election Day in November as a half-dozen states face potentially wrenching votes on the issue.

In New Hampshire, Republicans who now control the legislature are mulling whether to repeal the 2009 law legalizing same-sex marriage. Their state is one of six with such laws, along with Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York and Vermont, as well as the capital district of Washington.

In Maryland, New Jersey and Washington state, bills to legalize same-sex marriage have high-powered support and good chances of passage in the legislature. Gay-marriage opponents in Maryland and Washington would likely react by seeking referendums in November to overturn those laws, while New Jersey’s Republican governor, Chris Christie, says he’ll veto the bill if it reaches him and prefers that lawmakers OK a referendum so voters can decide.

In all three states, polls suggest voters are closely divided on whether gays should have the right to marry, so there’s a chance one could emerge as the first state to support same-sex marriage in a statewide vote.

Three of the remaining Republican presidential contenders, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, have signed a National Organization for Marriage pledge opposing same-sex marriage and endorsing a federal constitutional amendment to ban it. But it’s not among the topics prominent in the stump speeches of Romney or Newt Gingrich, the two front-runners.

On the Democratic side, President Barack Obama has taken several steps during his first term that have pleased gay-rights advocates, but says he is still “evolving” in regard to same-sex marriage and isn’t ready to endorse it. Some activists hope he will do so before the election, though there’s been no strong hint of that from the White House.

“Obama will get asked about it, and you can’t straddle both sides of this forever,” said Richard Socarides, a former Clinton White House adviser on gay rights. “Clearly he’s not going to retreat, so he only has one place to go, and I think he will do it before the election.”

Maine voters also may have an opportunity to vote for same-sex marriage in November; gay-rights activists announced Thursday they are moving forward with a ballot-measure campaign, submitting more than 105,000 signatures to the Secretary of State. Proposed amendments for constitutional bans on gay marriage will be on the ballots in North Carolina on May 8 and in Minnesota on Nov. 6.

Added together, the state-level showdowns will likely raise the prominence of the marriage issue in the presidential campaign, even though it’s not a topic that the leading candidates tend to broach proactively.

Another potential factor: Judgments could be issued during the campaign in one or more of several pending federal court cases about same-sex marriage. Appeals could result in the issue heading toward the Supreme Court, and the presidential candidates would be expected to comment on any major development.

In all the showdown states, national advocacy groups are expected to be active on both sides. The Human Rights Campaign, for example, has promised to provide funding, strategic advice and field staff for the various campaigns supporting same-sex marriage.

On the other side, the National Organization for Marriage is vowing a multistate effort, including promises of financial support in the primaries to defeat any Republican lawmakers who support gay marriage in Washington.

Though several major national polls now show that a slight majority of Americans support same-sex marriage, National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown predicts his side will continue its winning streak and prevail in any state referendums that are held this November.

“There’s a myth that history is on a trajectory moving toward same-sex marriage,” Brown said. “There is no such momentum.”

—  John Wright

A disgraced Perry returns to Texas

Governor finally bows out of GOP race, but only after making mockery of himself and our state

Rick Perry

Gov. Rick Perry

After months of holding their breaths in dread of what Rick Perry might do or say next on the national stage, Texans are now witnessing the ignominious return of their governor to the state.

Everyone knew Perry would eventually be on his way back, but clarity suddenly and inexplicably has also come to the befuddled candidate earlier than expected. Just two days before the South Carolina primary Perry announced Thursday, Jan. 19 at a press conference he was finally giving up his fruitless bid for the presidency. “There is no viable path forward for me in the 2012 campaign,” he said to a national audience that undoubtedly chanted back to the television screen, “It’s about time!”

When Perry gets back to the $10,000-per-month rented house afforded him by state taxpayers, he will be regarded by most Texans in a vastly different light from when he left after announcing his presidential political ambitions in August. Once the pride and joy of conservatives here, Perry had fallen to third in his home state behind Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, according to Public Policy Polling, a Democratic group that polled 559 Texas Republican primary voters Jan. 12-15.

The same poll results suggest that for once Republicans and Democrats agree strongly on something — Perry has fractured the state’s image with a multitude of missteps and misstatements that often bordered on the surreal. Of Republican voters 39 percent said they viewed Perry’s candidacy as having cast the state in a negative light, in comparison to 13 percent that viewed it as a positive, according to the poll.

In contrast Texas Congressman Ron Paul, whose libertarian philosophy led to his being pegged as a “fringe” candidate by the media, fared much better than Perry. Only 28 percent of Republican voters said Paul’s candidacy has hurt the state’s image, while 19 percent said it was an enhancement.

As a practical matter, the poll results only confirm what had already become obvious to many people who were accustomed to hearing strong support for Perry during casual political debates. The most ardent of former Perry supporters apparently are too embarrassed to speak up for him anymore. Many people clearly are wondering how Perry’s inability to think and talk at the same time had gone undetected for so long before God told him to run for president.

Even prominent gay Dallas Republican Rob Schlein — who vowed early on he would vote for Perry if he was the Republican nominee for president regardless of the governor’s legendary anti-gay rhetoric — took to bashing Perry on Facebook because of the candidate’s poor performances. The loss of support from Schlein — who recently vowed he would vote for the ultra-conservative Rick Santorum if he becomes the nominee — illustrates just how far Perry’s political fortunes have sunk.

To make the situation even more annoying, Perry’s candidacy has cost Texas taxpayers quite a bit of money for his protection while on the campaign trail. Security costs for Perry incurred by the Texas Department of Public Safety amounted to about $400,000 per month, according to a Texas Tribune examination of the agency’s records.

David-Webb

David Webb | The Rare Reporter

The financial analysis would suggest that Perry’s decision to continue on with his presidential campaign after coming in fifth place in the Iowa caucus cost Texans another needless several hundred thousand dollars in security costs. His resolve to proceed in New Hampshire and South Carolina after strongly hinting following the Iowa thrashing that he was about to give up and head home left many Texans bewildered.

In Perry’s campaign speeches he pointed toward the South Carolina primary as the deal-breaker for him if he could not get the state’s conservative religious voters behind him.

Presumably it finally dawned on Perry that he was in store for another humiliating failure, seeing as how he was in last place in the polls with only about 6 percent supporting him, after the conservative religious establishment decided in a meeting in Texas last weekend to throw its support behind Rick Santorum.

In making the announcement he would drop out of the race and that he would endorse Newt Gingrich, Perry said, “I know when it is time to make a strategic retreat.” That was a statement that many will likely view as humorous, given the governor’s apparent long delay in coming to that realization.

In fairness to the governor, it’s no doubt a difficult task for a political candidate who has never before lost an election to return home in disgrace. It doesn’t help matters much that while Perry was on the campaign trail a gay former Texas legislator, Glen Maxey, published a book with anonymous sources claiming the governor is a closeted hypocrite who engaged in a past secret homosexual life. The governor’s campaign denounced the book as a pack of lies, but the publication of a book expanding on the rumors that have plagued him for six years must at the very least be frustrating — even if they possibly did happen to be true.

As the longest-serving governor in Texas history with 11 years under his cowboy buckle belt, Perry destroyed his reputation as a strong governor on the presidential campaign trail. He went from double-digit frontrunner status ahead of Mitt Romney — the likely nominee barring a new surge by one of the other three candidates in the up-and-down race — to last place.

Ever the optimist, Perry declared with his wife and son by his side that he wasn’t disenchanted and he wasn’t discouraged to be packing up and heading home. He declared that he felt rewarded for having followed the “calling” to run for president. “And this I know, I’m not done fighting for the cause of conservatism,” Perry said. “As a matter of fact, I have just begun to fight.”

It appeared that at the end of the announcement Perry was again drifting off into that mindset that got him into the race in the first place. It was unclear where Perry planned to wage that fight now that his campaign is over, but he assured viewers, “Things are going to be good no matter what I do.”

Maybe he was referring to the luxury in which he and wife Anita undoubtedly will be living for the rest of their lives, because it’s not likely to be a continuation of his successful political career.  Or maybe he is hoping for some sort of political appointment or an opportunity from the business leaders he has courted as governor.

One thing is for sure, the “God and Country,” Bible-thumping proclamations that kept winning Perry re-elections to the governor’s office failed him on the national stage for president, and it’s a pretty good bet that it will never again serve him quite as well in Texas politics. And it’s a good thing for the governor that he became wealthy as a career office-holder because his political eulogy is now being drafted by pundits nationwide.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has reported on LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. Email him at
davidwaynewebb@hotmail.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 20, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

A look back at Rick Perry’s anti-gay presidential campaign, which will end this morning

Perry.Rick

Gov. Rick Perry

The Associated Press is reporting that Texas Gov. Rick Perry plans to drop out of the Republican presidential race this morning and endorse former House Speaker Newt Gingrich:

That’s according to Republican officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid pre-empting the Republican presidential candidate’s announcement.

Perry plans a news conference at 11 a.m. in South Carolina, where he will announce his decision.

He has faced calls to drop out of the race in recent days as polls show him languishing while Gingrich gains steam.

Perry, who is arguably the most anti-gay governor in Texas history, ran a decidedly homophobic campaign.

Even before announcing his presidential bid, he organized a day of prayer in Houston funded by the American Family Association, which is considered an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The event, called 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 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.

Perry finished fifth in Iowa and last in New Hampshire. He was polling last in South Carolina, which holds its primary Saturday, prior to his decision to drop out.

—  John Wright

Republicans at debate boo the Golden Rule

No matter what you think of Texas Congressman Ron Paul, R-Lake Jackson, you have to admire the way he sticks to what he believes no matter what reaction he gets from the audience. And you have to wonder what the Republicans who attend these debates are thinking.

Rep. Ron Paul

In Monday night’s debate in South Carolina sponsored by Fox News, Paul said the U.S. should use the Golden Rule in its foreign policy.

“Don’t do to other nations what we don’t want them to do to us,” Paul said. “We endlessly bomb these countries and we wonder why they get upset with us.”

The audience did cheer, however, when Paul said we don’t need another war. He said we need to quit the ones we’re in and bring home the troops.

Audience reaction has at times been just as interesting in the debates as anything the GOP candidates have said. Audiences have booed a gay Iraq war veteran, cheered Gov. Rick Perry’s execution record, etc.

Below is video of last night’s audience booing Paul as he talks about using the Golden Rule to guide foreign policy:

—  David Taffet

UPDATE: In what may be a crushing final blow to Perry, anti-gay leaders back Santorum

ap_rick_santorum_110414_wg

Rick Santorum

If Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential hopes weren’t dead already, they almost certainly are now. We told you Friday that a group of national evangelical leaders gathering in Brenham, Texas, this weekend wasn’t likely to reach a consensus about which candidate to support in the Republican presidential race as an alternative to Mitt Romney. But apparently we spoke too soon. The Huffington Post reports today that the group has endorsed Rick Santorum, who is widely considered the most anti-gay candidate in the race:

“Rick Santorum has consistently articulated the issues that are of concern to conservatives, both economic and social,” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, speaking on behalf of the attendees. “He has woven those into a very solid platform. And he has a record of stability.”

Added Perkins: “He obviously is not up to some of the other candidates in terms of fundraising, but those issues can be corrected. With this strong consensus coming behind him, that can aid in the fundraising that he needs to be successful in the primary.”

The group of religious conservative leaders met on Friday and Saturday at the Brenham ranch of former judge and Southern Baptist leader Paul Pressler. The assemblage did not release a full list of its members, although radio host James Dobson, Don Wildmon of the American Family Association and pastor Jon Hagee were among the invited.

Santorum emerged as the winner after three rounds of balloting, with the final vote between him and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Santorum eventually received the support of more than two-thirds of those voting. Texas Gov. Rick Perry also received strong support.

—  John Wright

The anti-Romney won’t be anointed in Brenham

Mitt Romney

UPDATE: In a surprise move, the group meeting in Brehnam has voted to get behind Rick Santorum.

Last week we told you how leaders from the religious right planned to gather in Brenham, Texas, this weekend and attempt to unite behind a more socially conservative (and non-Mormon) alternative to Mitt Romney in the GOP presidential race. Well, it turns out they’ve given up on reaching a consensus until after the South Carolina and Florida primaries. The New York Times reports:

Scores of politically influential evangelicals plan to attend the meeting, but the original dream of coalescing around one candidate of the religious right — Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum or Rick Perry — is unrealistic for now, several leaders said in interviews this week. If one of those candidates surges in South Carolina, or in the Florida primary on Jan. 31, pressure will grow on the others to step back, the leaders said.

“Any talk of winnowing out the field is premature until after South Carolina,” said Richard Land, the president of the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. “The best thing that can happen for social conservatives is for one candidate to get a very clear mandate from South Carolina voters. If that happens, you might be able to get a consensus that makes a difference.”

—  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

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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