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Republicans stumped on gay issues

By |2008-01-17T09:00:00-05:00January 17th, 2008|News|

By Lisa Keen

Media Analysis

One of the interesting surprises of the current presidential campaign has been the degree to which gay-related issues have been used to beat up on Republican candidates, not Democratic ones.
All the Democrats are generally supportive of equal rights for gays and all the Republicans – with one arguable exception – are generally hostile.
All the Democrats have been asked about gay marriage or some gay-related issue on the campaign trail, and all formulated pat responses early on which have seemed to satisfy their early questioners.
But Republicans, who have at times seemed to be in competition to see who can be most antagonistic towards the LGBT community, are repeatedly being put on the spot – both by media and right-wing conservatives.
Case in point: Mike Huckabee. As soon as the long-shot former governor of Arkansas began rising to the top of the heap in Iowa polling, reporters began digging up old comments of his from the 1990s in which he said such things as “I feel homosexuality is an aberrant, unnatural and sinful lifestyle.”
That digging continued Sunday, December 30, on NBC’s Meet the Press . Host Tim Russert read a passage from a book, Kids Who Kill, which Huckabee co-wrote. Russert read this, from page 28 in the book: “It is now difficult to keep track of the vast array of publicly endorsed and institutionally supported aberrations -from homosexuality and pedophilia to sadomasochism and necrophilia.”
“Why would you link homosexuality with sadomasochism, pedophilia and necrophilia?” Russert asked Huckabee.
Huckabee said that he was pointing out that “all of these are deviations from what has been the traditional concept of sexual behavior and men and women having children, raising those children in the context of a traditional marriage and family.” Taken in the context of the book, he said, it was a discussion of “how so many of our social institutions have broken down.”
“But do you think homosexuality is equivalent to pedophilia, sadomasochism…..”
“No, of course, not,” said Huckabee, interrupting.
“But this is what you did say about homosexuality,” continued Russert, reading the “aberrant, unnatural and sinful lifestyle” quote that had received considerable attention during the past few weeks.
“That’s millions of Americans,” said Russert. Huckabee started in on a brief and familiar sermon about how “a Christian says all of us are sinners. I’m a sinner….” This time Russert interrupted him.
“But when you say someone is aberrant or unnatural, do you believe you’re born gay or you choose to be gay?”
“I don’t know whether people are born that way. People who are gay say they are born that way,” said Huckabee. “But what I know is the behavior one practices is a choice….” The important thing for voters to understand, said Huckabee, is that he’s “never tried to come out with some way of imposing a doctrinaire Christian perspective in a way that is really against the constitution.”
Russert moved on, so the obvious follow-up question -about the religious doctrinaire that has been driving right-wing opposition to same-sex marriage–did not get asked on NBC.
But Ann Coulter, the femme fatale of conservative commentary, had already been lashing out at Huckabee over the tricky line he’s now trying to walk between his past comments and his current bid to appeal to a wider electorate. In two recent columns, she has tried to paint Huckabee as being soft on gays.
In a December 20 column, she wrote, “Huckabee insults gays by pointlessly citing the Bible’s rather pointed remarks about sodomy — fitting the MSM’s image of evangelicals sitting around all day denouncing gays…. And yet, Huckabee has said he agrees with the Supreme Court’s lunatic opinion that sodomy is a constitutional right.” On his own radio show as governor in Arkansas, just days after the decision was issued, Huckabee had said state sodomy laws were essentially unenforceable.
The following week, she said Huckabee responded to her criticism of his position on the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision by saying that his comment in 2003 had relied heavily on the word of a caller to his radio show and hadn’t known the details of the case.
Given the enormous amount of publicity surrounding the decision, wrote Coulter, “this little stretch-marked cornpone is either lying, has a closed head injury, is a complete ignoramus — or all of the above.”
Republican hopeful Mitt Romney was grilled on Meet the Press, too. On Dec. 16, he said that, while he still supports laws to prohibit sexual orientation discrimination in employment at the state level, he no longer supports a federal bill, such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). Moderator Tim Russert had noted to Romney that, in his 1994 race for the U.S. Senate, he had indicated a willingness to co-sponsor ENDA and asked him if he still supports it.
“I would not support it at the federal level and I changed in that regard,” said Romney, “because I think that policy makes more sense to be implemented at the state level.”
That prompted anti-gay activist Peter LaBarbera, of Republicans for Family Values, to call on “pro-family leaders who have endorsed Mitt Romney to withdraw their support for his candidacy in light of his recent comments on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ supporting pro-homosexual ‘sexual orientation’ state laws.”
“Laws that treat homosexuality as a civil right are being used to promote homosexual ‘marriage,’ same-sex adoption and pro-homosexuality indoctrination of schoolchildren,” wrote LaBarbera, on his Web site republicansforfamilyvalues.com. “These same laws pose a direct threat to the freedom of faith-minded citizens and organizations to act on their religious belief that homosexual behavior is wrong….”
Republican Ron Paul surprised many when, in an interview with ABC News Dec. 20, said he thinks gays should be able to marry.
“Sure they can do whatever they want and they can call it whatever they want,” said Paul, “just so they don’t expect to impose their relationship on somebody else. They can’t make me, personally, accept what they do, but they gay couples can do whatever they want.”
The comment stands in contrast to his co-sponsorship of HR 724, which seeks to amend the federal Code to prevent federal courts from ruling on the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). That act, of course, bans any federal recognition of same-sex marriages.
In an op-ed piece in the New York Times October 2, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson explained that a group of about 50 “pro-family” groups met in Salt Lake City in late September and decided that “If neither of the two major political parties nominates an individual who pledges himself or herself” to oppose abortion, “we will join others in voting for a minor-party candidate.”
But for himself, said Dobson, he will insist on a candidate who also promises to oppose same-sex marriage. And Dobson has stood by his announcement in May that he “cannot and will not” support former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani for the Republican presidential nomination. In a May 17 commentary posted on worldnetdaily.com, Dobson said his decision was based in part on Giuliani’s support for domestic partnerships for gay couples and the fact that Giuliani has publicly dressed in drag three times.
The following month, Tony Perkins, head of the right-wing Family Research Council, joined Dobson, saying, if Giuliani wins the Republican nomination, Perkins will back a third-party candidate.
In short order, Giuliani began leaning heavily to the right. He revised his position against a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, saying, “If a lot of states start to [approve same-sex marriage] — three, four, five, six states, where we have that kind of judicial activism, and the kind of situation the governor is talking about actually occurs, if we’re dealing with a real problem– then we should have a constitutional amendment.” He revised his position in favor of civil unions, saying now that they “go too far.” And he trotted out the endorsement of right-wing anti-gay televangelist Pat Robertson.
Given his pro-choice position on abortion, there seems little likelihood that right-wing conservative leaders will take a second look at Giuliani, no matter how far he swings their way on gay issues. But it’s still unclear how strong a factor gay issues will be for conservative voters. A Pew Foundation poll earlier this year found that many conservative voters were very much split on the abortion issue and that many didn’t know what Giuliani was the lone pro-choice Republican candidate.
Perhaps that’s why so much time has been spent slugging away at the Republican candidates over their positions on gay issues. But whatever the reason, the bottom line seems almost certainly one that can benefit the Democrats.

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.