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

LGBT groups call on DeMint to apologize for repeating old insult

S.C. Republican rubbed ‘salt in the wound’ when he repeated comments from 2004 saying gays shouldn’t be teachers, Carey says

MEG KINNARD  |  Associated Press

Jim DeMint

Jim DeMint

COLUMBIA, S.C. — National gay and women’s rights groups on Tuesday, Oct. 5, called on U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint to apologize for referencing his own six-year-old comments that gays and lesbians and some unmarried pregnant women should not be teaching in the state’s public schools.

“It is salt in the wound in our community,” said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “It’s irresponsible for Sen. DeMint to reassert this position in this day and age. I would ask him to apologize.”

Carey was reacting to DeMint’s remarks at an Oct. 1 appearance at a Spartanburg rally, where the Republican referenced the public backlash and quiet support that followed his 2004 comments that gays and lesbians and unmarried pregnant women with live-in boyfriends should not be teaching in the state’s public schools.

“No one came to my defense. But everyone would come to me and whisper that I shouldn’t back down,” DeMint said at the Greater Freedom Rally, according to a published report in the Herald-Journal of Spartanburg. “They don’t want government purging their rights and their freedom of religion.”

DeMint first addressed the issue in October 2004 during a televised debate with state Education Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum weeks before the election to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Ernest “Fritz” Hollings, D-S.C. The candidates were questioned about a state Republican Party platform item saying gays should not teach in public schools.

“I don’t think they should,” DeMint said then, adding that government should not endorse particular behaviors.

“We need the folks that are teaching in schools to represent our values.”

Tenenbaum replied by calling that stance “un-American.”

Gay groups demanded an apology from DeMint, then a third-term congressman. During an interview with the Aiken Standard newspaper two days after the debate, DeMint expanded the list of people whom he thought should not teach in public schools.

“I would have given the same answer when asked if a single woman, who was pregnant and living with her boyfriend, should be hired to teach my third grade children,” said DeMint, who apologized a day later for that particular remark. “I just think the moral decisions are different with a teacher.”

Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, said the comments underscore the importance of the coming midterm elections.

“Sen. DeMint is a bigot and a sexist and he doesn’t belong in the U.S. Senate,” O’Neill said. “Being conservative is one thing. Being hate-filled is different. Jim DeMint is hate.”

On Tuesday, a DeMint spokesman said the Republican senator on Oct. 1 was merely making a point about attacks on people who speak out on morality issues.

“Senator DeMint believes that hiring decisions at local schools are a local school board issue, not a federal issue,” spokesman Wesley Denton said. “He was making a point about how the media attacks people for holding a moral opinion.”

One of DeMint’s general election opponents said DeMint, who has spent months campaigning for tea party-leaning candidates in other states in the run-up to the Nov. 2 elections, is referencing the comments to cater to far right-leaning voters.

“I consider his remarks as outrageous and out of step with the majority thinking in this state,” said Tom Clements, an anti-nuclear activist and Green Party candidate. “Everything he says is very much calculated to appeal to a certain audience. … He’s feeling his oats right now, and he thinks he can get away with saying outrageous things that he thinks will resonate with the public.”

An adviser to Democratic nominee Alvin Greene would not weigh in on DeMint’s comments, and instead reiterated Greene’s commitment to rejuvenating the state’s education system, in part through an affiliation with the Department of Homeland Security.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 08, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Texas Democrats add four pro-LGBT resolutions to platform

While we’re on the subject of political party platforms in Texas, looks like the Democrats approved four pro-LGBT resolutions over the weekend during their state convention in Corpus Christi.

It’s safe to say the Lone Star State has gotten yet another black eye, albeit deserved, in national LGBT circles over anti-gay language in the state GOP platform. So let’s hope some of those same bloggers will pick up this positive story, but don’t count on it. After all, the idea that everyone in Texas wants to lock up “homosexuals” makes for better headlines.

Anyhow, according to the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus, the four pro-LGBT resolutions that were adopted at the convention call for (1) a state employment nondiscrimination policy that includes LGBT protections, (2) competitive insurance benefits for LGBT employees at Texas universities, (3) accurate birth certificates for same-sex parents of adopted children and (4) policies that would prohibit bullying and harassment in Texas public schools.

TSDC also reports that the new Texas Democratic platform, for the first time ever, now uses the words “gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender” in calling for the repeal of discriminatory laws and policies.

“The 2010 State Democratic Convention proved beyond a reasonable doubt that LGBT Texans have a place at the table of the Democratic Party,” said TSDC President Dan Graney. “As for the Republican Party of Texas, it might as well call itself the Republican Party of Uganda because of all the hate and bigotry that is dripping from its platform.”

Here’s the full press release from TSDC:


TEXAS DEMOCRATS ADOPT PRO-LGBT PLATFORM/
RESOLUTIONS AT STATE CONVENTION

Delegates meeting at the Texas Democratic Convention this past weekend in Corpus Christi adopted a platform and resolutions that champion gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality and nondiscrimination on a variety of levels. This is in stark contrast to the State Republican Party Convention two weeks ago, which adopted a platform that denounces homosexuality as “tearing at the fabric of society” and calls for the felony prosecution of anyone who performs a marriage ceremony for a same-sex couple in Texas.

For the first time ever, the 2010 State Democratic Party platform uses the words “gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender” in calling for the repeal of discriminatory laws and policies against the LGBT community.  The platform also advocates for anti-bullying policies in public schools, diversity in institutions for higher learning,
passage of the Employment Non Discrimination Act, increased education initiatives and services to address HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C, an end to discrimination in the state foster care system, strong enforcement of both federal and state hate crimes laws and repeal of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy.

All four pro-equality resolutions that were proposed by Equality Texas and that passed numerous senate district and county conventions also were adopted on the floor of the convention without opposition.  These resolutions included (1) a state employment nondiscrimination policy that includes LGBT protections, (2) competitive insurance benefits for LGBT employees at Texas universities, (3) accurate birth certificates for same-sex parents of adopted children and (4) policies that would prohibit bullying and harassment in Texas public schools.   Similar resolutions had been approved by previous convention resolutions committees but never made it to the floor of the convention for a vote.

Hundreds of LGBT Texans were among the 5,000 delegates and alternates who attended the convention.  The Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus (TSDC), which is the official LGBT Caucus of the Texas Democratic Party, hosted a reception on June 24 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of its founding.  The TSDC also held an Executive Board meeting and Caucus membership meeting at the convention, both of which were well attended.  Dan Graney of San Antonio was re-elected President, Erin Moore of Dallas was re-elected Vice President and Carol Cappa of Fort Worth and Shaun Nelson of Houston were respectively elected the new Secretary and Treasurer of the Caucus.  Graney and Moore will represent the TSDC on the State Democratic Executive Committee or SDEC, which is the governing body of the State Democratic Party between conventions

Also elected to the SDEC were four members of Stonewall Democrats chapters in Texas: Eli Olivarez of McAllen, Garry Brown of Austin and DeeJay Johannessen and Mary Edwards of Tarrant County.  Stonewall Democrats members were also elected to all five of the permanent committees of the convention, which includes credentials, rules, platform, resolutions and nominations.

“The 2010 State Democratic Convention proved beyond a reasonable doubt that LGBT Texans have a place at the table of the Democratic Party”, exclaimed TSDC President Dan Graney.  “As for the Republican Party of Texas, it might as well call itself the Republican Party of Uganda because of all the hate and bigotry that is dripping from its platform”, he said.

Texas Democrats are gearing up for the midterm elections this November and are hoping to elect Bill White the first Democratic governor of this state in 16 years.  The 2012 Texas Democratic Convention will take place in Houston.

—  John Wright