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

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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

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

Gov. Perry to weigh presidential bid

Rick Perry

Texas Gov. Rick Perry says he will consider running for president after the Legislature adjourns.

Perry reportedly made the statement to reporters at the Capitol this morning. The media has been buzzing for weeks about a possible Perry presidential bid, but until today the governor has not made any indication that he would consider it.

If nothing else, assuming Perry does run, we look forward to finally seeing a a full and thorough investigation of those longstanding gay rumors.

Perry may not be gay. He may not even be bisexual. Who knows? But if he is gay, he certainly has the anti-LGBT cred you’d expect from a closet case. For more on his record on LGBT issues, let’s turn to an excerpt from my 2009 story about his primary against Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison:

Paul Scott, executive director of Austin-based Equality Texas, said Perry’s only act in favor of LGBT equality in nine years as governor was signing the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act of 2001, which includes “sexual preference” instead of “sexual orientation.”

“I guess you could say that someone could be worse [on LGBT issues], because they could have opposed the Hate Crimes Act,” Scott said.

Neither Perry’s campaign nor the Governor’s Office responded to a request for an interview about LGBT issues.

According to news reports, Perry actually attempted to derail the Hate Crimes Act as it moved through the state Senate, but quickly signed it under political pressure once it reached his desk.

In 2003, Perry signed Texas’ Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the recognition of civil unions and other same-sex relationships from out of state. And in 2005, he would become a vocal supporter of Proposition 2, Texas’ constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Perry hosted a ceremony at a Fort Worth church to sign the resolution placing the amendment on the ballot even though his signature was not required, and he overtly used Prop 2 to try to build support among conservative evangelical voters in advance of his 2006 re-election campaign.

Perry once called Texas’ anti-sodomy statute “appropriate,” and, asked during the Prop 2 fight what he would tell gay and lesbian veterans returning from Iraq who wanted to wed, he said, “If there is some other state that has a more lenient view than Texas, then maybe that’s a better place for them to live.”

“He’s not known as a champion of LGBT rights in any way, form or fashion,” Scott said.

—  John Wright

Donald Trump comes out against same-sex marriage in possible step toward presidential bid

Nene Leakes

Is the first step in entering a national race on the Republican side to show how homophobic you are?

Donald Trump announced this week that he is against same-sex marriage and isn’t sure partners should receive even receive “medical or civil benefits.” Trump has not announced whether he’s running for president but did indicate an interest in the office when he appeared at a conservative conference last week.

Trump said he’ll make an announcement about his intentions in June. One serious matter stands between him and the presidency — the fourth season of Celebrity Apprentice. The NBC show begins on March 6.

The network has a rule against stars of its shows running for public office. So Trump said he would wait until the end of the season in June to make his decision.

At least he has his priorities straight. Homophobia first. TV show second. Country third.

Last week, before announcing his run for U.S. Senate, former Mayor Tom Leppert sent out a homophobic tweet. Leppert hasn’t explained the message, but it was probably sent to distance himself from his Pride parade and Black Tie Dinner appearances, as well as his openly gay former chief of staff.

Oh, and Nene Leakes, who was one of the stars of Real Housewives of Atlanta, is one of Trump’s new season of celebrity apprentices. No word on her position on same-sex marriage, but it probably matters about as much as Trump’s.

—  David Taffet

2011 was (will be?) one heck of a year!

Hardy Haberman Flagging Left

On New Year’s Eve, I sent out a “tweet” wishing everyone a Happy New Year and a “none too fond goodbye to 2011.” It only took a few moments before I was reminded that 2011 had not even started.

So, in the spirit of the strange time warp I somehow fell into, here is my “look back” on 2011.

It was quite a year, especially in LGBT politics. Even though the U.S. House of Representatives was dominated by Republicans, Congress still managed to move a modified version of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) through. And after a few changes in the Senate, it was signed into law by the president.

The main provisions concerned religious organizations, and they were allowed to continue to be as bigoted as they want without government interference.

Meanwhile on the local scene, at least three openly gay candidates announced plans to run for judicial and city council positions. Most notable was activist and radio personality Jesse Garcia, who announced his run for mayor.

Nationally, the field of candidates for the 2012 presidential race narrowed when Sarah Palin announced she was ending her political career to focus on yet another reality TV show, “Real Housewives of Wasilla.”

Her daughter, Bristol, will headline her own dance review in Las Vegas next year at the new trailer park-themed hotel opening on the famous strip.

No word yet as to whether Levi Johnston will co-star.

Additionally this year, in a bold move, the LGBT conservative group GOProud changed their name to GOAway following yet another rejection by the Republican Party national convention as well as the Conservative Political Action Conference, which barred the group from attending its functions. A spokesperson for the group called the move, “a more rational way of stating the real agenda of the Republican Party while maintaining our group’s identity as supporting conservative values.”

In other LGBT news, another dozen homophobic evangelical pastors have been added to the growing list of “outed clergy.” It has been a bad year for closeted clergy since the escort web site “RightWingRentBoys.com” had their records released through WikiLeaks.

On the West Coast, since Prop 8 was overturned by the high court, LGBT couples are flocking to romantic wedding chapels in the Golden State. The boom in business has started a whole new honeymoon destination travel trend, as gay-themed resorts are cashing in on the influx of business.

The “Beary Marry Honeymoon” package from one Russian River resort offers a woodland wedding with party-sized “Bear Soup” hot tubs.

Though our state naturally lags behind, the Texas Legislature did manage to pass a civil union law awarding same-sex couples most of the rights of married couples.

Though the governor’s office denies any influence in the matter, most people assume the passage was a result of behind-the-scene bargaining and perhaps downright blackmail in a matter of a male escort who has yet to be named.

In tech news, the announcement late in the year of a public offering for Grindr has the stock market salivating. Many experts expect the smart phone app will exceed Facebook in revenues in the coming IPO.

The company got an extra boost after the heterosexual version was released last fall.

The publishing industry was rocked this year by the closure of the Dallas Morning News. Most media experts believe the publication’s ultra-conservative editorial policy and resistance to change was instrumental in the venerable institution’s demise.

Though it leaves Dallas without a major newspaper, niche publications like the Dallas Voice and Dallas Observer have seen circulation grow in both their online and print editions.

So as I bid a fond farewell to 2011, I just want to thank everyone who has written in complimenting me on my insightful and enjoyable columns over the past year.

Ok, well so much for fantasy! Now, I wonder if anyone will save this and see how close I came with my predictions?

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 7, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas