By Lisa Keen
Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee’s been saying a lot about gays lately, and much of it is not very nice.
This week the attention has focused on his written comment in 1992 that, “If the federal government is truly serious about doing something with the AIDS virus, we need to take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague.” But he also said then that he considers homosexuality to be an “aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle.” And in an interview in this month’s Gentleman’s Quarterly magazine, he suggests that gay marriage could lead to the end of civilization.
Huckabee is running first among eight candidates for the Republican nomination in the Iowa caucus polls, second nationally, and fourth in New Hampshire.
The comments came to light in a December 6 report from People for the American Way and a December 8 article by Associated Press. The PFAW report was based on information the AP dug out through a questionnaire prepared by Huckabee during his 1992 bid for a U.S. Senate seat from Arkansas. Huckabee lost that race to incumbent Dale Bumpers but went on to be elected lieutenant governor and then, in 1996, governor.
In that 1992 questionnaire, reports AP, Huckabee said, “I feel homosexuality is an aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle, and we now know it can pose a dangerous public health risk. What people do in the privacy of their own lives as adults is their business. If they bring it into the public square and ask me as a taxpayer to support it or to endorse it, then it becomes a matter of public discussion and discourse.”
PFAW noted that the comment came in response to a question about gays in the military, in which he also said, “I believe to try to legitimize that which is inherently illegitimate would be a disgraceful act of government.”
According to AP, Huckabee complained that AIDS was “the first time in the history of civilization in which the carriers of a genuine plague have not been isolated from the general population, and in which this deadly disease for which there is no cure is being treated as a civil rights issue instead of the true health crisis it represents.”
Huckabee indicated he did not feel that increased federal funding for AIDS research was “justified” and suggested, instead, that “multimillionaire celebrities, such as Elizabeth Taylor, Madonna and others who are pushing for more AIDS funding be encouraged to give out of their own personal treasuries increased amounts for AIDS research.”
AP said Huckabee suggested in 2003 that the pro-gay ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, striking down laws against same-sex sexual relations, in Lawrence v. Texas, was probably right.
But in his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, Huckabee is among the most rigidly anti-gay of a generally anti-gay field of candidates. He opposes same-sex marriage and would have the federal constitution amended to ban it. He’s against civil unions and domestic partnerships. He’s against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and hate crimes legislation that includes sexual orientation protection.
Log Cabin Republicans, a national gay Republican organization, called the HIV quarantine remarks “far outside the mainstream,” noting that they did not square with the “public health standards from that time.”
Huckabee appeared to be sensitive to this latter complaint, issuing a statement on the day the AP story appeared that blurred 1992 into “the late ’80s and early ’90s” and saying that, at that time, “we were still learning about the virus that causes AIDS.”
“There was still too much confusion about HIV transmission in those early years,” said Huckabee. He pointed to a 1991 case in which a 23-year-old woman testified before Congress than she had been infected by HIV while undergoing treatment from her dentist, who had HIV and who did not inform his patients of his condition.
“We now know that the virus that causes AIDS is spread differently, with a lower level of contact than with TB,” said Huckabee in his December 8 statement. “But looking back almost 20 years, my concern was the uncertain risk to the general population – if we got it wrong, many people would die needlessly. My concern was safety first, political correctness last.”
(An investigation by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention seemed to support the claim by Bergalis, who said she had never had sex, because the virus seemed identical to Acer’s. But three years after her death, a book and a CBS report on 60 Minutes reported on evidence that called the claims of both Bergalis and the CDC into question. And PFAW points out that Huckabee’s 1992 statement came four years after President Reagan’s Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop, sent a pamphlet to 107 million U.S. households explaining that the disease could not be contracted through casual contact.)
Huckabee’s statement in the AP report did not attempt to mitigate his statements concerning homosexuality in 1992 or today.
In an interview with Gentleman’s Quarterly, Huckabee’s position on same-sex marriage is “not about being against gay marriage, it’s about being for traditional marriage.”
“I don’t think the issue’s about being against gay marriage. It’s about being for traditional marriage and articulating the reason that’s important,” said Huckabee. “You have to have a basic family structure. There’s never been a civilization that has rewritten what marriage and family means and survived.”
When the reporter, Ross Douthat, asked Huckabee what he would say to a gay couple who wants one partner to be able to visit another in a nursing home, Huckabee said, “He can with a power of attorney.”
“That’s the fallacy,” said Huckabee, “that this requires some new definition of marriage. It’s simply not the case.”
Douthat did not ask Huckabee why, then, heterosexual couples need marriage licenses from the government. But he did ask him why he’s against recognizing gay relationships even as “civil unions.”
“Because it really is a precursor toward marriage,” said Huckabee. “Once the government says this relationship is, in essence, similar to or equal to a marriage — we’re not going to call it that, but that’s what it is — and you grant it the same basic rights as marriage, then you’ve effectively done it.”
On NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday, Dec. 9, moderator Tim Russert asked Republican hopeful Rudy Giuliani what he thought of Huckabee’s remarks. Giuliani said he understood Huckabee had “changed his mind” about the quarantine.
“But you don’t believe that homosexuality is aberrant, unnatural or sinful,” asked Russert.
“No, I don’t believe it’s sinful,” said Giuliani. “My moral views on this come from the Catholic Church, and I believe that homosexuality, heterosexuality as a way that somebody leads their life isn’t sinful. It’s the acts, it’s the various acts that people perform that are sinful, not the orientation that they have.”
Russert started to move on to the next question when Giuliani tossed in an unsolicited comment that was a bit startling at first. He said, “Which includes me, by the way.”
“Unfortunately, I’ve had my own sins that I’ve had to confess and had to deal with and try to overcome,” said Giuliani, “and so I’m very, very empathetic with people. We’re all imperfect human beings struggling to try to be better.”