The horse race Republican Primary continues to baffle political pundits and analysts. The race has seen more changes in frontrunner than an Olympic marathon making it all but impossible to predict an eventual nominee at this point. Despite the fact that only four candidates remain, the gay community is highly anxious about who the Republican Party will put against President Obama in November.
The potential outcomes from a Republican defeating President Obama in November vary greatly. Each candidate espouses a different take on gay marriage and LGBT rights.
Coming off a victory in South Carolina and campaigning with renewed vigor in Florida, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich recently compared gay marriage as a practice of paganism . Gingrich’s credentials on marriage as an institution came under fire around the time of the South Carolina debate, but his multiple diatribes against the “liberal media” pushing the gay-agenda has only garnered him more support from conservatives. Gingrich went on to claim that the media ignores the “other side of the issue” when Catholic charities are forced to close because of their views on homosexuals and adoption rights. While his criticism of the media is not out of character, one cannot fathom how Gingrich could think that the gay community has more power than the Catholic Church to sway politics and the media in America.
Gingrich has also stated his support for a constitutional ban on gay-marriage and his fierce support of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) (which allows states to create there definition of marriage and protects them from law suits based on upholding a strictly heterosexual definition of marriage).
Gingrich’s biggest rival and on-again-off-again front runner Mitt Romney is not an ideal candidate for any member of the LGBT community either. Recently, with the publication of the former Governor’s tax returns, members of the Human Rights Campaign point out that Romney donated almost $60,000 to anti-gay organizations like the Massachusetts Family Institute and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty . Romney also signed the National Organization for Marriage pledge opposing same-sex marriage and endorsing a federal constitutional amendment to ban it. To ease the harshness of his point, Romney has advocated in past debates to allow for existing same-sex marriages to maintain their legal integrity .
Arguably the most outspoken critic of gay marriage is former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. Santorum’s religious rhetoric against gay marriage inspired boos from college students at a rally in New Hampshire in early January . Santorum continues to attempt to prove his case that he is not homophobic, but comments made in 2003 show that Santorum may approve of parents telling their gay children that their sexual or gender expression is wrong. Similarly, Santorum stated that having an absentee father in prison would provide a healthier home environment than having two parents of the same sex in the home . His likening of same-sex relationships to bestiality shows this author that Santorum is incredibly out of touch with the real world, but to social conservatives these campaign statements are gold (Santorum recently received endorsements for his anti-gay stance from a group of influential social conservatives – a fact that he’s been working into every stump speech since the recognition) .
Finally, Congressman Ron Paul, the only candidate yet to capture a state in the primary, may have the most moderate stance of them all. An avowed libertarian, Paul is on record for saying that marriage rights should be wholly state issues. His own personal opinions about homosexuals have surfaced because of leaks from campaign and Congressional staffers, but policy-wise Paul is the only candidate to oppose a federal amendment to the constitution banning gay-marriage. The leader of the National Organization for Marriage – the same organization that had Gingrich, Romney, and Santorum sign a pledge defending the existing definition of marriage under DOMA – criticized Paul for his unwillingness to strike a definitive stance on upholding marriage only between a man and a woman .
In theory, Paul’s stance on states deciding the definition of gay marriage may make him the best option for any pro-gay marriage citizen looking to vote Republican. With active marriage equality initiatives gaining strength in Washington, Maine, New Jersey, and many cities across the U.S., 2012 is poised to be another very gay-friendly year. However, before the rainbow flags can be draped over banisters, it is critical to remember how many states quickly overturned same-sex marriage laws through popular referendum.
Prominent political leaders in New Jersey, like Newark Mayor Cory Booker, have challenged the fairness of sending civil rights issues to referendum. He likens the case of gay marriage to civil rights in the 1960s. In a story published in The New Jersey Star-Ledger, Booker said “I shudder to think what would have happened if the civil rights gains, heroically established by courageous lawmakers in the 1960s, were instead conveniently left up to popular votes in our 50 states.”
This is precisely why the Republican primaries can affect the outcome of these state issues: the discourse at the national level can quickly dictate the mood around social issues like gay marriage. Not only do state laws, initiatives, and referendums provide stump speech material for the candidates, but the candidates’ recitation of those antediluvian sound bites actually gives strength to those pushing the anti-gay agenda.
What is crucial for gay community members and supporters to do is find their allies and question their opponents. President Obama only briefly mentioned anything pertaining to the gay community in his State of the Union Address, so there needs to be pressure on him to develop a more comprehensive understanding and policy stance on gay rights if he is to compete with the eventual Republican nominee.
Looking forward though, any of these Republican nominees would be much more detrimental to the gay rights movement than President Obama and his “still developing” stance on gay marriage. The subject matter of a presidential debate between President Obama and his rival will probably focus more on jobs and the economy rather than social issues like gay marriage and abortion. It would be highly unlikely for President Obama to use his more gay-friendly policy stance to attack the character of his opponents, but he will probably rely on the repeal of the armed forces “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy to attract the gay community’s vote. The discussion of fiscal matters may take the wind out of the sails of Republicans hoping for a federal amendment (bare in mind that its extremely difficult to push through amendments), but ballot initiatives at the state level will still keep the discussion going for months into 2013.
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