Primary candidates who are the most anti-LGBT didn’t fare well in New Hampshire. Could the GOP voters be moving toward tolerance?
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.
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.
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.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 13, 2012.