When Will the GOP Come Around on Gay Rights?

Gay civil rights have progressed immensely in the past three years, all under President Barack Obama’s watch. Among the victories have been the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," Obama's decision to instruct the Justice Department to no longer recognize the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and his appointment of more than 100 openly gay Americans to serve in his administration. The list of accomplishments is not as extensive as some in the LGBT community would like, but the last three years have seemed like the starting point for what could one day become a full-scale civil rights victory. That is, only if President Obama keeps his job.

Top Republican presidential hopefuls have all sought to avoid talking aobut gay rights issues at the start of their campaigns, but their actions and records speak for themselves. LGBT rights could not only come to a halt post-2012 with a GOP victory, but some candidates have even vowed to roll back recent progress and undo the Obama administration's policies.

During the June 13 CNN Republican presidential debate, the candidates were asked about whether they would reinstate the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy if elected. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Mitt Romney both said they would reverse President Obama’s decision to repeal the policy. Meanwhile, Ron Paul (R-Texas) said he would keep the repeal in place. The new front-runner Rick Perry did not attend the debate and has not voiced his opinion on this issue.

Recently, Perry joined Bachmann, Romney, and Rick Santorum in signing the National Organization for Marriage pledge to support traditional marriage if elected. They vow to send states a federal marriage amendment that would define marriage as “one man and one woman," defend the DOMA in court, appoint judges and attorney generals that respect the original meaning of the constitution, and create a presidential commission to investigate harassment of traditional marriage supporters.  

Perry, who once said he supported individual states’ rights, seems to have flip-flopped on this issue. In his book “Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington," the governor told the U.S. Supreme Court, “Gay marriage will soon be the policy of the United States, irrespective of federalism, the constitution, or the wish of the American people.” Perry wrote that in reaction to the Court's intervention in Lawrence v. Texas where it overturned a Texas law prohibiting sodomy. If the governor is elected, it seems he will have no problem interfering in states’ rights to define what marriage should be. Let’s not forget that in his first book, “On My Honor,” Perry compared homosexuality to alcoholism. 

After Bachmann won the Iowa Straw Poll she made an appearance on NBC's Meet The Press. She openly talked about her views on each issue, but purposely avoided gay marriage. Her stance on the issue is clear from her remarks made years ago claiming gays and lesbians are “sexually dysfunctional," involved with personal “bondage,” and encompass “sexual identity disorders." When asked about these statements, Bachmann would only say, “I am running for the presidency of the United States, I am not running to be anyone’s judge.” What part of those remarks are not judgmental toward gays and lesbians? Clearly Bachmann has judged and made it clear that she wants a constitutional amendment to make same-sex marriage illegal throughout the U.S.

If her words do not speak loudly enough, her voting record certainly does. Bachmann has voted continually against legislation put before her that would protect gays and lesbians, including the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and Employment Discrimination Law Amendments.

The reason for the GOP candidates' hardline stance on this issue boils down to religion. Many of these candidates refer to the bible as their source that influences their views on gay marriage. But isn’t this why our government is supposed to separate church and state? Something our government somehow always seems to intertwine. Ron Paul, who is more of a libertarian, does believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, but more firmly believes that the government shouldn’t issue marriage licenses at all. He contends that marriage is a religious issue and should be handled through the church alone.

Recent polls from Gallup, CNN, and ABC show that over 50% of Americans support legalizing gay marriage and gay rights. But, the majority of supporters are young Americans, and GOP candidates still receive support for their stance on this issue because they have retained the support of older Americans. The percentage of gay marriage supporters is expected to grow as more young Americans become eligible to vote and it will be up to the Republican party to adapt its vies accordingly.

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