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

Kinder, gentler Republicans?

Primary candidates who are the most anti-LGBT didn’t fare well in New Hampshire. Could the GOP voters be moving toward tolerance?

David-Webb

David Webb
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.

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Gov. Mitt Romney

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.

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Gov. Rick Perry

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.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. Contact him at davidwaynewebb@hotmail.com or facebook.com/TheRareReporter.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 13, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Perry edges Roemer, Karger in N.H.

As you’ve undoubtedly heard, Mitt Romney captured the New Hampshire primary in a snoozefest Tuesday night with 39 percent of the vote, and experts say the former Massachusetts governor is now well on his way to securing the Republican nomination for president. Romney became the first non-incumbent GOP presidential candidate to win both Iowa and New Hampshire since 1976.

Texas Congressman Ron Paul, R-Lake Jackson, came in a distant second, but continued to shock the world by again finishing with more than 20 percent of the vote. Texas Gov. Rick Perry was sixth, with less than 1 percent or slightly more than 1,700 total votes — about half as many as “other.” According to the New York Times, a breakdown of the other candidates reveals that Perry edged both Buddy Roemer, who had 920 votes, and openly gay candidate Fred Karger, who had 338.

Karger, a long shot who has campaigned almost exclusively in New Hampshire thus far, says he will now shift his efforts to the Feb. 28 primary in Michigan, where he’s also earned a place on the ballot. Perry, meanwhile, released a statement saying he skipped New Hampshire to focus South Carolina, site of the next primary on Saturday, Jan. 21.

“Tonight’s results in New Hampshire show the race for ‘conservative alternative’ to Mitt Romney remains wide open,” Perry said in the statement. “I skipped New Hampshire and aimed my campaign right at conservative South Carolina, where we’ve been campaigning hard and receiving an enthusiastic welcome.”

Perry’s assertion that he skipped New Hampshire is only partly true: He campaigned there and spent a lot of money on advertising before abandoning the Granite State a few weeks ago when polls showed it wasn’t having any impact.

Whether a “conservative alternative” will emerge to challenge Romney and at least lend the appearance of a two-person race for the GOP nomination remains to be seen. Leaders from the religious right will gather at a Texas ranch this weekend to decide whether they can unite behind one of the socially conservative candidates — or perhaps give up and throw their support behind Romney. The other social conservatives, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, finished tied for fourth in New Hampshire with about 9 percent of the vote. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who is decidedly moderate, finished third with 17 percent behind Paul, a libertarian who captured 23 percent.

Huntsman and Paul both declined to sign an anti-gay pledge from the National Organization for Marriage. With some suggesting that this primary could signal that the religious right is losing its grip on the Republican Party, the gay GOP group Log Cabin Republicans released a statement saying the New Hampshire results show that, “inclusion wins.”

“By adding a definitive victory in New Hampshire to his win in Iowa, Gov. Mitt Romney has established himself as a candidate who can unite Republicans and a clear threat to Barack Obama in November,” said R. Clarke Cooper, Log Cabin Republicans executive director. “Gov. Romney was consistently clear in the debates that he opposes discrimination based on sexual orientation. While he continues to support a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality — a position Log Cabin strongly opposes — he is also on record saying that such an amendment has been tried, rejected, and is unlikely to ever succeed. Romney has also taken a position that the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ has been settled, and he would not seek to reinstitute the ban on open service.

“Congressman Ron Paul’s second place finish underscores New Hampshire’s commitment to the libertarian principles he has consistently championed, which include his votes against the anti-family Federal Marriage Amendment and for the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’” Cooper added. “Log Cabin Republicans are also pleased with the strong performance of Gov. Jon Huntsman, a solid supporter of civil unions for same-sex couples and a candidate who frequently talked about the need for Americans to do more for gay rights. As the nomination process moves forward, Log Cabin Republicans suggest all the candidates recognize the lesson learned from New Hampshire; that inclusion wins. The 2012 election is about liberty and prosperity, and candidates who keep the focus on the issues most important to Americans, jobs and the economy, will attain victory.”

—  John Wright

Oklahoma lawmaker seeks to ban gays from serving openly in state’s National Guard

Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City

An Oklahoma state legislator has introduced a bill that would effectively reinstate “don’t ask, don’t tell” for the state’s National Guard troops. State Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, told the Tulsa World that he filed the bill in response to requests from members of the Oklahoma National Guard:

Reynolds’ bill would amend the existing state law that allows any able-bodied U.S. citizen or person who has declared intentions of becoming a citizen and who is at least 18 years old and not yet 70 to serve in the Guard.

The amendment would prohibit anyone who was ineligible to serve in the U.S. armed forces under federal regulations that were in effect on Jan. 1, 2009, from serving in the Guard.

Reynolds said the state is allowed to set its own standards for service in the National Guard and is not required to duplicate standards for the rest of the U.S. military.

ThinkProgress notes that Reynolds was an endorser of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s August prayer rally, the Response, and also is a supporter of anti-gay Oklahoma State Rep. Sally Kern:

Last year, Reynolds endorsed the Response, Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s controversial public prayer event, which was organized and attended by a who’s-who of anti-gay leaders. “I am encouraging Oklahomans to join with thousands of other Christians from around the nation in participating in this event. Go and show your support of public prayer,” Reynolds told the Pauls Valley Democrat in July.

A supporter of state Rep. Sally Kern’s (R) “Oklahoma Citizens Proclamation for Morality,” Reynolds has also spoken out against so-called “homosexual activists” after a gay minister recognized a same-sex couple in the gallery during an opening prayer.

Lawmakers in Virginia have also tried to reinstate DADT for the state’s National Guard, but the bill died in committee.

On the presidential campaign trail, Perry has repeatedly touted that fact that as governor, he serves as commander in chief for Texas’ 20,000 National Guard troops. Perry has also said he wants to reinstate DADT. So it’s unclear why Perry hasn’t proposed similar legislation in Texas.

UPDATE: The Human Rights Campaign and The Equality Network of Oklahoma have put out a joint statement responding to Reynolds’ bill. Read it after the jump. Also, HRC has launched a petition which you can sign by going here.

—  John Wright

Gay GOP leader says he’d vote for Santorum

Schlein’s comments stand in contrast to statements from national LGBT Republican groups

Rob.Schlein.color.4

Rob Schlein

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com

Local gay Republican leader Rob Schlein ignited controversy in August by declaring that he’d vote for Texas Gov. Rick Perry over President Barack Obama if Perry wins the GOP nomination, despite the governor’s anti-gay record.

Schlein, president of Metroplex Republicans of Dallas, went a step further this week when he said he’d even support former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum over Obama if Santorum turns out to be the GOP nominee.

Santorum, who has famously compared same-sex marriage to man-dog marriage and is widely considered the most anti-gay candidate in the race, finished in a virtual tie atop this week’s Iowa caucuses with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Schlein said although Metroplex Republicans doesn’t plan to make an endorsement in the GOP race, he now personally supports Romney. But he added that he would vote for Santorum over Obama, even though he doesn’t believe Santorum has any chance of winning the nomination.

“We’re going to all vote for the Republican, no matter who it is, even Rick Santorum,” Schlein said of his group’s members during an interview with Dallas Voice about the Iowa results. “We have to focus right now like a laser beam on the one issue that matters today, and that’s getting the economic house in order. Any Republican, including Rick Santorum, will do a better job than Barack Obama on the economy. It doesn’t matter what anti-LGBT positions he’s taken in the past.”

Schlein’s statements last year about supporting Perry were one factor that led National Log Cabin Republicans to de-charter the group’s Dallas chapter, in which Schlein served as president. And Schlein’s comments about Santorum this week stood in stark contrast to statements from both National Log Cabin and GOProud responding to the Iowa results.

Log Cabin Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper said in a statement issued Wednesday, Jan. 4, that Santorum rose to the top of the caucuses by appealing to “a uniquely socially conservative electorate.”

“As the nomination process moves forward, Log Cabin Republicans suggest all of the candidates reject Santorum’s politics of division and win by focusing on the issues that matter most to Americans — jobs and the economy,” Cooper said. “If using gay and lesbian Americans as a wedge can’t score enough political points to win more than 25 percent in Iowa, it certainly won’t help the Republican nominee in November.”

Asked to respond to Schlein’s comments, the president of the newly rechartered Dallas chapter of Log Cabin Republicans, Thomas Purdy, called Santorum “a bad candidate for president for many reasons.”

“Pandering to social conservatives as Santorum has done does not represent a party that champions individual liberty, and nominating Santorum would hurt the GOP by turning off moderates, independents and younger voters,” Purdy said.

GOProud, meanwhile, conspicuously omitted any reference to Santorum from the group’s statement on the Iowa results, instead congratulating only Romney and Texas Congressman Ron Paul, R-Lake Jackson, who finished third.

“While there are certainly big differences between Governor Romney and Congressman Paul, especially when it comes to foreign policy, both chose to emphasize issues like the economy and the size of government over demonizing gay people,” GOProud Executive Director Jimmy LaSalvia said. “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.”

Schlein’s decision to invite LaSalvia to speak at what was then the Log Cabin chapter’s annual dinner in November was another factor that prompted the national Log Cabin group to oust him. Asked directly this week whether he would support Santorum if he’s the nominee, LaSalvia said in an email, “Asking me if I would support Rick Santorum if he’s the Republican nominee is like asking me if I would support Kim Kardashian if she’s the nominee — they both have about the same chance of getting the nomination!”

Omar Narvaez, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, declined to directly address Schlein’s comments about Santorum.

“I don’t personally know Rob Schlein,” Narvaez said. “Stonewall Democrats of Dallas is committed [to] and focused on re-electing President Barack Obama regardless of who the Republican nominee is.”

Earlier, Narvaez said he was glad Perry had chosen not to drop out of the race, despite the governor’s disappointing fifth-place finish in Iowa. Narvaez said the more candidates stay in, the more difficult it will be for any one of them to pull away.

“They’re not cohesive in any way,” Narvaez said of the GOP, “and I think the longer they can’t decide who they are, what they’re trying to do, is better for Democrats everywhere.

“The more they tear each other apart and in-fight and can’t get along, it’s better for Democrats,” he added. “They’re just giving us all the ammunition we’re going to need to fight them later.”

Equality Texas, the statewide LGBT advocacy group, issued a statement Wednesday morning rejoicing in Perry’s poor showing in Iowa, denouncing his “homophobic pandering” and predicting that he “will not be the next president of the United States.”

“Governor Perry’s homophobic pandering did not resonate with Iowa voters just as it does not resonate in Texas,” Equality Texas said in its statement. “As Governor Perry returns to Texas to reflect on his campaign, it is our hope at Equality Texas that he will also reflect on what Texans really want for their state. … It is time our governor recognize that homophobia and transphobia have no place in our great state and he should join in the effort to eradicate them from all public policy.”

After Perry announced that he would remain in the race, Equality Texas Deputy Director Chuck Smith told Dallas Voice he believes the governor’s campaign for president could ultimately benefit the LGBT community in his home state.

“It’s easy to show that most people don’t believe that,” Smith said of Perry’s anti-gay views. “He’s at a level of vitriol toward gay people that simply isn’t shared by most people. It potentially broadens the spectrum of Republicans who might be able to come out and say, ‘I don’t go that far.’ … If he gets so extreme that members of his own party feel the need to disavow him, that can only help us.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 6, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

And they’re off!

The horse race for the Republican presidential nomination is officially under way with the Iowa caucuses. Who will pull up lame, and who will win it down the home stretch?

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Republican hopeful Mitt Romney

Watching the press coverage of the Jan. 3 Iowa Caucus was like watching a horse race: Announcers breathlessly telling viewers the latest results; charts and graphics that looked more like the screens of a sports-book in Las Vegas than political coverage.

In reality, Iowa chooses only about 1 percent of the total delegates to the national conventions. So focusing so much attention on this process is more about the hoopla than the impact.

What Iowa does do is weed out the also-rans and focus attention of a few frontrunners. And unlike a horse race, the winners in Iowa are less important than the losers.

Already Michelle Bachmann has dropped from the field and I expect John Huntsman to soon do the same. Texas Gov. Rick Perry probably should have dropped out, but he insists on plugging on despite his dismal showing in Iowa.

That leaves four contenders for the Republican nomination in the field — and none of them are even remotely LGBT friendly. In fact, Rick Santorum’s strong finish in Iowa will almost guarantee a tougher line of anti-LGBT rhetoric from the remaining candidates. Each one will be trying to out-conservative the other and the “family values” canard will rank high in their strategy.

Santorum, pushing his socially conservative views, managed to bubble up through other candidates like Gingrich, Bachmann and Perry and strike a note with evangelical voters. According to some polls it is because of his “strong moral character,” code for being anti-LGBT and anti-choice. But the truth is, those two issues are not enough to carry him to the White House. And I suspect the GOP knows that.

A lot of Santorum’s success was due to his very effective ground campaign in Iowa. He spent a lot of time in the state and focused on his key constituency — and that falls outside the mainstream GOP profile.

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Hardy Haberman Flagging Left

Meanwhile, Texas Congressman Ron Paul surprised everyone with his third place finish in Iowa. Personally, I hope he decides to run on a third party ticket. He might split so many votes away from the Republicans that President Obama will have a clear path to re-election.

And then there is former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

The biggest problem for the GOP is that Romney is just so, well, Mitt Romney. It seems that everyone wants someone with more charisma and momentum than Mitt, but they just can’t figure out who that might be.

For now, it looks like Romney will be strong in New Hampshire and South Carolina. His organization is well funded and has a great infrastructure in the remaining states, whereas Santorum will have to scramble to keep up.

I suspect Romney’s biggest challenge will be Newt Gingrich, the man who came in fourth in Iowa. While he most likely doesn’t have the staying power to win the nomination, Gingrich does have a grudge — and that can go a long way.

The Romney campaign and Ron Paul heaped negative ads on former House Speaker Gingrich, and it really showed at the caucuses. Now the question is whether Newt and his super-PAC money will fire back with equal vehemence.

Of course, we all know the Super-PACs do not coordinate with the campaigns (nudge, nudge, wink, wink), so that remains a mystery.

So, what does all this mean for LGBT Americans? Well in my opinion, it’s probably a good thing.

As the GOP candidates try to “out-socially-conservative” each other, their real feelings about LGBT rights will become clear. There are no friends among this group of candidates, and considering how much LGBT Americans have gained in the past few years, I seriously doubt much of our votes or money will go to anyone as far to the right as this field of contenders looks.

As this horse race comes down to the wire in November, the real question is: Can the Obama campaign do enough to remind LGBT citizens why they should support his re-election? Will President Obama’s opinions finally evolve to the point where he can actively support issues like marriage equality? Will LGBT voters be willing to risk losing the gains of the past four years, like the repeal of DADT?
Personally, I think the smart money will bet on President Obama in the home stretch.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a board member of the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at DungeonDiary.blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 6, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

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

Rick Perry fails to win support of anti-gay leaders; TV ad backfiring among some Iowa Republicans

Gov. Rick Perry

Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential campaign suffered yet another setback Tuesday when Bob Vander Plaats, a leading social conservative in Iowa who serves as president of the anti-gay Family Leader organization, endorsed Rick Santorum in the state’s Jan. 3 Republican Caucus.

Perry’s campaign had actively courted the Family Leader’s endorsement, and he signed the group’s controversial “marriage pledge” last month. Politico notes that Perry is in a three-way battle for Iowa’s coveted evangelical vote against Santorum and Michele Bachmann. Vander Plaats’ endorsement could help determine who moves on to New Hampshire and who does not.

Adding salt to Perry’s wounds, Don Wildmon, founder of the American Family Association, endorsed Newt Gingrich on Tuesday. If you’ll remember, the AFA, which is considered an anti-gay hate group, teamed with Perry for The Response, the August prayer rally in Houston that served as a kickoff for his presidential campaign — and at which Wildmon embraced Perry on stage. Right Wing Watch reports on Wildmon’s endorsement of Gingrich:

Wildmon today appeared on Focal Point with Bryan Fischer where he explained that while he was initially “ecstatic” about Rick Perry’s candidacy, he decided that because of the Texas governor’s disastrous debate appearances his candidacy “cannot recover.” Wildmon said that electability matters because “we are facing the most critical election this nation has ever seen, the stake in this election is Western civilization.”

Despite Tuesday’s setbacks, The Dallas Morning News’ Wayne Slater reports that Perry, who’s still polling in the lower tier of candidates, plans to remain in the race beyond Iowa regardless of where he finishes. But Slater also notes the Perry’s infamous anti-gay TV ad, “Strong,” appears to be backfiring among some Republican voters:

At a historic hotel in Maquoketa, 61-year-old Len Ditch sat in the front row, wearing a Perry for President sticker. He said he liked Perry’s commercials in Iowa — especially one recommending that Congress be made part-time. He liked another one advocating prayer in schools but questioned why Perry had included a reference to gays serving openly in the military.

“I don’t believe in the gay world. But I believe live and let live,” he said.

Meanwhile, KWQC Channel 6 in Davenport, Iowa, has posted a transcript from an interview with Perry in which the station asked Perry about “Strong” and whether he thinks being gay is a choice. Read the excerpt below:

—  John Wright

WATCH: Rick Perry tells 14-year-old girl she’s a sinner, says “openly gays” shouldn’t be serving

Texas Gov. Rick Perry was confronted at a town hall in Iowa on Sunday about his opposition to gays serving openly in the military, a stance which he highlighted in a recent TV ad.

ABC News reports that 14-year-old Rebecka Green, an openly bisexual high school student, confronted Perry during a town hall in Decorah.

“I just want to know why you’re so opposed to gays serving openly in the military, why you want to deny them that freedom when they’re fighting and dying for your right to run for president,” Rebecka said.

Perry, who was apparently unaware of Rebecka’s sexual orientation at the time, responded as follows (note that “openly gays” is NOT a typo):

“Here’s my issue: This is about my faith, and I happen to think that, you know, there are a whole hosts of sins, homosexuality being one of them, and I’m a sinner and so I’m not going to be the first one to throw a stone. But to openly — it’s just like the Boy Scouts, do you recall when the Boy Scouts were sued to let openly gay individuals serve as Scout master? And that again is one of those issues that I don’t agree with. And I don’t agree that openly gays should be serving in the military. ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was working and my position is just like I told a guy yesterday. He said, ‘How would you feel if one of your children was gay?’ I said I’d feel the same way. I hate the sin, but I love the sinner, but having them openly serve in the military, I happen to think as a commander in chief of some 20,000 plus people in the military is not good public policy, and this president was forced by his base to change that policy and I don’t think it was good policy, and I don’t think people in the military thought it was good policy.”

With adults telling 14-year-olds that they’re sinners, is it any surprise that LGBT youth are taking their lives at such alarming rates? Thankfully, it sounds like Rebecka has a very supportive father in Todd Green, a Democrat and professor of religion at Luther College, who offered this takedown of Perry’s position, according to ABC:

“My daughter Rebecka particularly was very incensed by the ad Governor Perry ran a week or two ago here in Iowa where he complained about the problem of gays serving openly in the military but Christians not being able to celebrate Christmas openly. He seemed to get that backwards,” Todd Green said.

“It takes no courage to come out of the closet to be a Christian and run for president of the United States,” he said. “I’d be more impressed if you were Muslim or an atheist and coming out like that, but to come out as though this was an act of courage for him to proclaim his Christian faith, but he also wants to take the stand against gays in the military. This is someone who’s in the position of power and privilege and he’s abusing it.”

Titled “Strong,” Perry’s ad created a firestorm upon its release two weeks ago, even causing tension within his own campaign after reports emerged that a top aide strongly objected to the ad.

Asked what he thought of the governor’s explanation that he “hates the sin” but “loves the sinner,” Todd Green said, “I have always hated that phrase. I think it’s impossible and you show it by action. If you love the sinner, whatever that means, your policy should reflect that I think, but in the end, I don’t understand the logic behind that at all.”

—  John Wright

WATCH: Rick Perry’s anti-gay Iowa TV ad

The image above may look like a scene right out of Brokeback Mountain, but it’s not. It’s from Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s new anti-gay ad that’s airing in Iowa.

“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,” Perry says in the ad. “As President, I’ll end Obama’s war on religion. And I’ll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage. Faith made America strong. It can make her strong again.”

Watch it below.

UPDATE: For a second consecutive day, the Human Rights Campaign issued a statement responding to Perry’s anti-gay tactics:

“Rick Perry is continuing to misrepresent the views of the hundreds of thousands of people of faith in this country who live openly or advocate as allies for the LGBT members of their community,” said Dr. Sharon Groves, Director of HRC’s Religion & Faith program. “We cannot be in the business of forcing people to choose between who they are, who they love, and their faith. Rick Perry’s rhetoric presumes that you can’t be Christian and supportive of LGBT people.  Yet many Christians see in Jesus’ example a call to love and support their LGBT neighbors. Rick Perry is trying to claim religion for political motives but it won’t work. Our faith is too precious to be used as a cynical tool for political ends.”

—  John Wright