Candidates jockey for position as most anti-gay at forum sponsored by ‘family values’ groups
Lisa Keen | Keen News Service
Current Republican presidential frontrunner Newt Gingrich used a right-wing Christian forum Saturday, Nov. 19, to claim “the left” is trying to “drive out the existence of traditional religions … and use the government to repress the American people against their own values.”
He made the comment in the context of a discussion about whether religious-oriented adoption agencies should be allowed to refuse adoptions to same-sex couples. Some states, such as Massachusetts, have cut off government funding to adoption groups that refuse to obey state laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.
At that same event, Texas Gov. Rick Perry said that gay couples in Texas cannot adopt, which isn’t true, strictly speaking. Gays and lesbians can adopt as individuals, and in most cases, that person’s partner can do a second-parent adoption separately.
Without referring to gay groups or the LGBT community specifically, Gingrich lashed out against a movement that, since the 1960s, has gone from “a request for tolerance to an imposition of intolerance … [and] closing down those with traditional values.”
Gingrich said he would support a law that would cut off “all federal funding to any jurisdiction that discriminates against religious beliefs in that format.”
The forum was the “Iowa Thanksgiving Family Forum,” sponsored by the Family Leader group of Iowa, as well as the National Organization for Marriage and Focus on the Family. Its format was an “around the family table” kind of conversation with Gingrich and five other Republican presidential hopefuls, including Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain and Perry.
Mitt Romney, who has been eschewing most Iowa events, declined an invitation.
The candidates responded to questions from a moderator and from several representatives of the host groups, including Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage. The topics centered around such broad themes as values, morality and liberty, with a strong bent toward the view that the country is divided into conservatives — who are all happy, God-loving citizens — and liberals, who are all sad and out to destroy religious freedom.
As has become his routine, Santorum boasted about his superiority in the GOP field when it comes to opposing marriage between same-sex couples. Same-sex marriage, he said, “radically changes the entire moral fabric of our country.
“Gay marriage is wrong,” said Santorum. “As Abraham Lincoln said, the states do not have the right to do wrong. … America is an ideal. It’s not just a Constitution.”
But only Cain spoke up when Brown solicited responses for what each candidate would do, as president, if the U.S. Supreme Court should overturn the Defense of Marriage Act.
Cain said he would “lead the charge to overturn the Supreme Court.” After some prodding from the moderator, Gingrich did offer up that he thought it important to “make DOMA not appealable” in the courts.
Brown’s questions came near the end of the two-hour event, held at the First Federated Church in Des Moines. His first, directed to Rep. Paul, was whether he would support an amendment to the federal Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. It was an odd question, given that Paul has for years been on record publicly as opposing such an amendment and voted against it in 2004.
Paul reiterated his opposition, noting that he believes generally that the issue should be left to the states or, preferably, to individual churches and families.
But Paul added that he does support DOMA.
Brown then asked other candidates to explain why they believe a federal marriage amendment is necessary. Santorum jumped in with a recap of his strategy to “stop this problem” through battles state by state. Bachmann touted her own leadership against same-sex marriage in Minnesota.
The forum was marked by dramatically emotional moments in which the candidates shared personal stories related to their faith.
Santorum acknowledged having decided to keep an emotional distance from his infant daughter who he believed would soon die in order to avoid the pain of the potential loss.
Herman Cain talked about what it was like to hear that he had stage four cancer.
Michele Bachmann recalled what it was like, as a child, to watch her mother sell the family’s dishes and other possessions after she divorced Bachmann’s father.
The moderator, Fox News contributor Frank Luntz, and news reports indicated 3,000 people were in attendance at the forum. The chief sponsor, The Family Leader, helped organize last year’s ousting of three Iowa Supreme Court justices who voted with the unanimous court to say the state constitution required equal treatment of same-sex and heterosexual couples under marriage laws.
© 2011 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 25, 2011.