I would like to provide a bit of a historical retrospective as we begin to enter the sweepstakes for the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. I do this for the purpose of assessing whether Republicans — individual candidates and as a larger Party – remains attached to the policies of the past or has evolved and moved forward in terms of issues related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equality (LGBT).
Back in 2011, GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum described marriage for same-sex couples as “a hit to faith and family in America,” and he asserted that if legalized, “their sexual activity” would be seen as “equal” to heterosexual relationships, and it would be taught in schools. “It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be,” he continued. Previously, he said that marriage between same-sex couples will cause our country to “fall.”
When asked by Jane Schmidt, student coordinator of the Gay/Straight Alliance at Waverly High School in Waverly, Iowa on November 30, 2011, “Why can’t same-sex couples get married [throughout the United States]?,” Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann responded that gay and lesbian people should have “no special rights” to marry people of the same sex, insisting that “the laws are you marry a person of the opposite sex.” She added: “They can get married, but they abide by the same law as everyone else. They can marry a man if they’re a woman. Or they can marry a woman if they’re a man.”
Bachmann has consistently represented same-sex attractions and sexuality as a “disorder” that encourages child abuse and “enslavement.” Her husband, Marcus, has been roundly criticized for his so-called “conversion therapy” (“praying away the gay”) practices at his Minnesota counseling center. Michelle Bachmann’s Iowa co-chair, Tamara Scott, was recorded as asserting that the legalization of marriage for same-sex couples would ultimately lead to people marrying turtles and inanimate objects, like the Eiffel Tower.
When campaigning for President, Newt Gingrich, in commenting on marriage for same-sex couples stated that “I believe that marriage is between a man and woman. It has been for all of recorded history, and I think this is a temporary aberration that will dissipate. I think that it just fundamentally goes against everything we know.”
Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Santorum signed a pledge, sponsored by the National Organization for Marriage, promising to support a federal constitutional amendment “defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.” The pledge also includes commitments to support the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” in courts and to nominate Supreme Court and federal judges who “reject the idea our Founding Fathers inserted a right to gay marriage into our Constitution.”
After both President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made moving and heartfelt speeches in 2012 pressing for civil rights for LGBT people internationally, Rick Perry, also a Presidential candidate in 2012, responded:
“This is just the most recent example of an administration at war with people of faith in this country. Investing tax dollars promoting a lifestyle many Americas of faith find so deeply objectionable is wrong. President Obama has again mistaken America’s tolerance for different lifestyles with an endorsement of those lifestyles.”
Rick Perry double-downed his insults. In my Queer Studies course at Iowa State University, one of my students shared with the class Rick Perry’s Presidential TV campaign ad, which shocked and dismayed us all. Perry stated in the ad:
“I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian, but you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school. As president, I’ll end Obama’s war on religion. And I’ll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage. Faith made America strong. It can make her strong again.”
Perry has been giving signs of making another run for the White House.
In the final analysis, the following GOP 2012 hopefuls stated publicly their opposition to marriage for same-sex couples, and they also self-defined as “pro-life”: Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman, Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, and Tim Pawlenty. The following candidates also opposed civil unions: Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann. Those favoring a constitutional amendment defining marriage as constituting only one man and one woman: Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, and Michele Bachmann. Only openly-gay Fred Karger of the GOP running for President in 2012 supported LGBT equality and reproductive rights. The GOP, however, prohibited Karger from participating in national presidential debates.
Only time will tell for the entire newly-emerging crop of political candidates of all party affiliations where they stand on all the issues, including those specifically related to LGBT equality and civil rights, as well as those insuring a woman’s reproductive freedoms.
Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense).