Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
BY Chuck Colbert
he dog days of summer brought the 2012 presidential race into sharper focus, when on Aug. 11, presumptive Republican Party nominee Mitt Romney announced that his choice for running mate would be Representative Paul Ryan, a seven-term congressman from Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District.
LGBT politicos were quick to praise or criticize the pick, depending on their political leanings.
Shortly after 9 a.m. Eastern time, Romney introduced Ryan to an enthusiastic gathering in Norfolk, Virginia, in front of the American flag-draped Navy ship USS Wisconsin, with music from the motion picture Air Force One preceding the announcement and Kid Rock music following immediately afterwards.
“Mitt Romney is a leader with the skills, the background and the character that our country needs at a crucial time in its history,” Ryan said in brief remarks that were broadcast live on national television.
“Following four years of failed leadership, the hopes of our country, which have inspired the world, are growing dim; and they need someone to revive them. Governor Romney is the man for this moment; and he and I share one commitment: we will restore the dreams and greatness of this country,” Ryan added.
Right away political commentators viewed the Romney-Ryan ticket as a strategic shift for the GOP – away from its emphasis on what Republicans call President Barack Obama’s failed economic polices to a focus on contrasting views on the role of government and differing visions for the country’s future.
At the heart of the difference for the GOP are bedrock conservative principles, which Ryan’s selection underscores.
After all, the 42-year-old Ryan, a Roman Catholic, is best known for both economic and philosophical conservatism. As chairman of the House Budget Committee, for example, Ryan is the chief architect of the 100-page “The Path to Prosperity: A Blueprint for American Renewal,” an economic plan that aims to cut federal government spending, prevent tax increases, shrink the deficit, reduce debt, and shrivel the size of government to 20 percent of the economy. At the same time, Ryan’s blueprint calls for beefing up national security and the defense budget.
Ryan also has called for repeal of the signature piece of Democratic legislation, the president’s Affordable Care Act, along with a proposal to downscale Medicare for future generations.
Back in April, the House of Representatives passed Ryan’s budget plan by a vote of 235-195, with only four Republicans voting against it.
For LGBT voters with full equality on their minds, moreover, the difference between pro-gay Obama-Biden and anti-gay Romney-Ryan could not be any sharper or more starkly contrasting.
Still, Log Cabin Republicans and GOProud, two Republican partisan national organizations, voiced immediate support for the Republican ticket.
“The selection of Paul Ryan is a bold and inspired pick,” Jimmy LaSalvia, GOProud’s executive director, said in a statement. “Paul Ryan has been the architect of policies that would benefit all Americans, especially gay Americans.”
LaSalvia added, “Paul Ryan is one of the few political leaders anywhere in the country willing to tell the American people the truth about the unprecedented budget crisis we are facing, and – more importantly – willing to put forward bold plans to put this country back on the road to fiscal solvency.”
Even before Ryan’s selection GOProud had endorsed Romney’s candidacy.
Equally upbeat and supportive, Log Cabin Republicans gave its nod to Ryan.
“Congressman Paul Ryan is a strong choice for vice president, and his addition to the GOP ticket will help Republican candidates up and down the ballot,” said R. Clarke Cooper, Log Cabin’s executive director.
“As chairman of the House Budget Committee and author of Republican ‘Path to Prosperity’ that provided the blueprint for serious spending cuts in this Congress, nobody is more qualified to articulate a conservative economic vision to restore the American economy and stimulate job creation,” Cooper added.
Repeated attempts seeking comments from local and state gay Republicans were unsuccessful.
But local, state, and national Democrats – gay and straight alike – had plenty on their minds.
Ryan LGBT Record
“Congressman Paul Ryan’s record on LGBT issues is deeply troubling,” said Drew Hammill, press secretary to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco).
“His record includes votes against the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and against a fully-inclusive hate crimes bill – both of which were signed into law by President Obama. As a so-called deficit hawk, Congressman Ryan has been in lockstep with Speaker [John] Boehner’s legal defense of DOMA, which continues to burn through hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars,” Hammill explained, referring to House Republicans’ hiring of attorneys to defend the Defense of Marriage Act after the Justice Department said it would no longer defend the anti-gay law.
Based on her Capitol Hill experience, Representative Niki Tsongas (D-Massachusetts) offered her assessment.
“Congressman Ryan and I served on the House Budget Committee together and I got a firsthand view of his very extreme views,” she said in e-mail correspondence.
“For example, Congressman Ryan voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which helps women fight for equal pay for equal work. He voted against repealing the discriminatory policy of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ and supports writing discrimination into the Constitution by amending it to ban gay marriage,” Tsongas explained.
“While Massachusetts and a handful of states have led the way on LGBT rights, our nation is still a long way from achieving equality under the law for all Americans,” Tsongas added. “His views opposing same-sex rights, along with his budget that would undermine important domestic programs, would steer this country away from the values of tolerance and equality that I have long championed, and that are so important to our future success.”
Just how bad – or hostile – is Paul Ryan to LGBT issues and gay rights? As one measure, the Human Rights Campaign has consistently given him very low ratings on its congressional scorecards, with four zeroes and one rating of 10 out of 100, that for his 2007 support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which some termed “half-hearted.”
HRC’s scorecards come out at the end of a two-year session. Consequently, there is yet no rating available for 2011-2012.
Ryan voted twice (in 2004 and 2006) for a federal marriage amendment that would have defined marriage as the union of a man and woman.
Dodging Gay Discussion
While Ryan’s voting record is one thing, Romney’s vice presidential running mate seemingly downplays his anti-gay track record by shying away even from discussing LGBT issues.
Last February, during an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press, Ryan dodged moderator David Gregory’s pressing him about gay marriage.
“Congressman Ryan,” asked Gregory, “Do you think this is an issue that’s legitimate for the presidential campaign? Do we have to come to a point where the country reconciles different views about this and we have a consistent way of looking at same-sex marriage?”
“Actually, I came on to talk about the debt crisis we have and the budget and I think that’s really the driving issue of this, this election,” Ryan replied.
“Mm-hmm,” said Gregory.
Ryan went on to say, “I don’t know why we’re spending all this time talking about [same-sex marriage].”
As longtime Massachusetts gay rights activist and South End Don Gorton of Join the Impact observed over the telephone, “Ryan is a sort of new style Republican who grew up with homophobia and gay issues by not talking about them. He would try to bury us in silence.”
“That’s a great comment,” said Mario Guerrero, president of Stonewall Democrats of Greater Sacramento, an LGBT partisan group, affiliated with National Stonewall Democrats, when told of Gorton’s remarks.
Still, Ryan can try “to smother us in with silence when it comes to the media, but the ‘smothering silence’ is not the case with his voting record,” Guerrero added over the phone.
“I don’t know how anyone can make the case for LGBT voters” to back Romney-Ryan, said Guerrero.
“If you are not in the 1 percent,” said Gorton, “it’s a hard argument to make. Romney-Ryan would benefit millionaires.”
Log Cabin Republicans, nonetheless, persevere. In an Aug. 13 Daily Caller column, entitled “How Romney-Ryan Can Reach Gay Voters,” Cooper argued that Romney “should take a page from his running mate’s playbook and support stronger workplace non-discrimination laws.”
Cooper went on to chastise Obama for not signing an executive order that would have barred federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT people.
“By vowing to sign an executive order preventing federal contractors from firing people for being LGBT, and joining Paul Ryan in support for ENDA, Romney can draw a favorable contrast between himself and the president.”
But Doug Case, president of San Diego Democrats for Equality, an affiliate of National Stonewall Democrats, would have none of it.
“Once again the Log Cabin apologists are trying to spray perfume on a skunk,” said Case in an email correspondence, referring to “Cooper’s groveling commentary” that “touts Congressman Ryan’s one and only pro-LGBT vote [some] years ago.”
“The Log Cabin Republicans seem to have lost touch with reality,” Case added. “They certainly have lost any sense of credibility. Romney’s poor choice has made it clearer than ever that LGBT Americans must mobilize to re-elect President Obama.”
Case also took Ryan to task over his blueprint for renewal. “Ryan’s economic plan is a type of reverse-Robin Hood, embracing the failed Republican ‘trickle-down’ policies of the past,” said Case. “He wants to create tax breaks for millionaires and pay for it by cutting Head Start, reducing Pell Grants for college students, turning Medicare into a voucher system, and privatizing Social Security.”
Longtime gay-rights activist and LGBT community leader Barbara Hoffman of Boston’s South End, said, Ryan’s “intent to massacre Medicare is likely to horrify the elderly.”
“I am optimist that he is a bad enough choice that it increases Obama’s chance for re-election,” added Hoffman who serves on Boston’s Ward Four Democratic Committee.
For his part, Jerame Davis, executive director of National Stonewall Democrats, called Cooper’s opinion piece “contemptible.”