By Eric W. Rader
With just a few weeks left in 2011, the Republican presidential nominating contest is about to enter a new phase. Early in 2012, GOP voters in Iowa will participate in their quadrennial caucuses, followed by the New Hampshire Primary a week later. While there are currently several Republican candidates for president, the number will be reduced quickly in January as the less-viable contenders drop of the race. It is likely that only a couple of candidates will be remaining by the beginning of February.
Over the course of the last few months, several Republican candidates have risen and fallen in the polls. Initially, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney was considered to be the GOP front-runner, having already run a competitive campaign in 2008. However, ultra-conservatives in the party have never been passionate about Romney’s candidacy, and other challengers have achieved front-runner status at different points. Currently, former House speaker Newt Gingrich is leading the Republican primary polls, but his poll numbers are already starting to decline.
The Republican presidential candidates have engaged in a series of contentious debates since last summer. The value of these forums is questionable, since the debate format has allowed very little substantive discussion of the important issues facing the nation. Beyond the debates, the candidates have been running ads on stations in Iowa and New Hampshire, recognizing that they need to get their message out to the voters. Candidates have also been shaking hands with voters in the early primary and caucus states, something that works well in these relatively small places.
Based on the campaign so far, it appears that GOP presidential candidates don’t really want support from anyone in the LGBT community. Two weeks ago, Texas governor Rick Perry ran an ad in Iowa that has now gone viral and inspired ridicule, even from some in the Republican Party. In his now infamous (and much-spoofed) commercial, Perry proclaimed his view that while gays are now allowed to serve in the military, children are no longer allowed to celebrate Christmas in their schools. This ad was a not-so-subtle call to the evangelical community in Iowa to let these voters know that Perry agrees with their bigoted views on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Not long after Perry’s ad, Romney approached a Vietnam War veteran in a New Hampshire restaurant, believing, based on the man’s rugged appearance, that he could be a potential Republican voter. The man asked Romney whether he thought the state should repeal its law allowing gays and lesbians to marry. Romney said yes, expressing his view that marriage should only be recognized as being between a man and a woman. The Vietnam War vet did not like Romney’s answer–the man was in the restaurant with his husband. Romney pressed forward with his views on this topic, disagreeing with the gay veteran’s position that his right to marry should be protected by the Constitution.
Republicans continue to denigrate and malign the LGBT community, all in a cynical ploy for votes. The modern-day Republican Party has made the calculation that LGBTs will not support them anyway, so they go forward with their overt bigotry. National Republicans seem to believe that limited government is fine, unless it means letting people live their own personal lives.
All members of the LGBT community should weigh their political decisions carefully in 2012. Most people consider a range of issues when deciding who will receive their votes. Economic issues will certainly play a significant role in next year’s election. Some in our community might be inclined to look toward the GOP candidates to fix the economic problems facing our nation. No one, however, should vote for any candidate for president if he or she would make decisions that would deny the LGBT community, or any group, their basic rights as citizens. All of us deserve to be treated as full and equal citizens in our democracy.
While President Obama has not been perfect on issues of LGBT equality, he is light years ahead of his Republican challengers on issues of gay civil rights. The president may not support equal marriage rights for LGBTs, but is persuadable on the issue, stating that his views on this issue are evolving. He also supports legislative repeal of the “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA), and is no longer defending its constitutionality in court. Last year, the president signed the law that repealed the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
In contrast, many of Obama’s Republican opponents wish to add a constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage and some wish to reinstate the DADT policy. We all need to be aware of where the candidates are on issues of equality. Values should mean something and it’s important we keep that in mind in 2012 when we vote.
White House Fact Sheet on efforts to expand LGBT rights in the world:
GOP Presidential candidates who have signed anti-gay marriage pledge: