Watching the final Republican presidential debate Thursday, Dec. 15, on Fox News before the Iowa caucuses on Jan 3, I was struck not by Mitt Romney nor Newt Gingrich but by this line from former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman – who insisted he wouldn’t “contort himself into a pretzel” as the other candidates have done to pander to the GOP’s conservative primary voters: ”We’re getting screwed as Americans,” Huntsman said.
Huntsman, a former Ambassador to China under President Obama whom the Obama campaign is apparently the most concerned about running against and who may do well in the Jan. 10 New Hampshire primary, said he isn’t going to pander to voters by signing those silly pledges.
On Aug. 3, Huntsman told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer:
“I believe in traditional marriage. I don’t think you can redefine marriage from the traditional sense. I’m for civil unions. I came out for civil unions a while ago. I think we can do a better job as it relates to overall equality, specifically as it relates to reciprocal beneficiary rights to gays.”
(His stance on abortion, however, is extremely right wing, with spokesperson Tim Miller telling the Salt Lake Tribune on Aug. 19 that, “Governor Huntsman supports a federal amendment that would ensure legal protections for the unborn. He’s proud of his record in Utah and will continue to advocate for life on a national level.” Interestingly, openly gay conservative columnist Andrew Sullivan changed his mind from supporting Huntsman to formally endorsing non-pledge- signer libertarian Ron Paul over tax reform, not social issues.)
But the other candidates are not so squeamish about signing pledges, especially of the no-tax and antigay variety. Last July, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the onetime front-runner favorite of many mainstream Republicans, refused to sign the Iowa-based The Family Leader’s “Marriage Pledge” that calls for, among other things, a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage – because it’s “undignified and inappropriate.” BUT Romney signed a similar pledge pushed by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) – that current GOP frontrunner former House Speaker Newt Gingrich signed on Thursday.
NOM’s president Brian Brown said in a press release that he was thrilled that the serial adulterer signed his pledge: “We commend Newt Gingrich for signing NOM’s presidential marriage pledge, committing himself to play a leadership role as president to preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”
Brown says that “preserving traditional marriage is a major issue in the presidential campaign,” though it hasn’t rated as much debate air time as other issues. Nonetheless, it could be a factor in super-conservative Iowa where in 2010 voters removed three state Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of marriage rights for same sex couples.
And while Gingrich has pledged not to go after fellow Republicans, except in self-defense, NOM has no such qualms. Brown wants Republican voters to know that Ron Paul is NOT their guy:
“Many of Ron Paul’s supporters in Iowa believe that he is on their side when it comes to preserving traditional marriage, but he isn’t,” Brown said. “While Paul says he personally believes in traditional marriage, he has refused to sign our pledge and, worse, has said that marriage is strictly a private affair and that government has no role in regulating marriage. This is a dangerous position with profound consequences for society.”
Left to its logical conclusion, if marriage is strictly a private affair as Paul has said, homosexual, polygamous and incestuous marriages among adults would be considered just as valid as traditional marriages. Moreover, should the United States Supreme Court decide to redefine marriage to impose same-sex marriage, just as they imposed their will on abortion, Paul would do nothing about it.
And THAT is also a primary concern. NOM’s marriage pledge includes not just supporting a federal constitutional amendment to define marriage as only between a man and a woman but requires the candidate, if elected, to appoint Supreme Court Justices and an Attorney General “who will apply the original meaning of the Constitution.”
In fact, the judiciary itself is a major topic of concern, as evidenced is the Iowa Thursday night. This is how Fox News reported that portion of the debate:
Gingrich — asked to respond to former George W. Bush Attorneys General Michael Mukasey and Alberto Gonzales, who criticized a 28-page plan by Gingrich to reform the judiciary — said the Bush officials were “behaving exactly like law schools.”
But Americans can’t let them “over-dictate to the rest of us.”
Gingrich has called for a new policy toward the judiciary — one that requires judges to explain themselves to Congress after a controversial ruling as well as possibly get the boot for bad decisions.
Called “dangerous,” “ridiculous,” and “outrageous” by the attorneys general, Gingrich asked whether the two lawyers questioned Thomas Jefferson’s decision to abolish 18 of 35 federal judges. He defended his proposal by quoting Jefferson: “Is the Supreme Court supreme? That is absurd, that would be an oligarchy.”
Gingrich found sportsmanlike support for that argument
“Where it needs to end is under the Constitution of the United States,” Bachmann said of judicial interpretation and the courts’ predilection toward making activist decisions.
Bachmann also blamed Congress and the president for having “failed to take their authority.” She said that Iowans in particular have demonstrated how to make judicial oversight work since they recalled three judges who ruled to allow same-sex marriage in the state against voter will. [Emphasis mine]
“If we give to the courts the right to make law, then the people will have lost their representation. They need hold to their representation. That’s why I commend Iowans, because they chose not to retain three judges,” she said.
In my humble opinion, Backmann’s argument is not far from the argument used by the California Supreme Court twice – first in upholding Prop 8 and more recently in deciding that the citizen proponents of Prop 8 have standing in federal court to defend Prop 8 – standing in for the will of “the people” expressed in passing the initiative in 2008.
Meanwhile, Romney, who many mainstream Republicans are stepping up to support with the sudden surge of Newt Gingrich (see The Advocate’s report on just how antigay Newt is) was asked by Chris Wallace during the debate to explain his pro-gay statements during his 1994 U.S. Senate bid against Ted Kennedy.
Fox News’ Chris Wallace specifically asked Romney about a letter that he wrote to Log Cabin Republicans’ Massachusetts chapter in Oct. 1994. Romney said he would co-sponsor the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and pledged to work towards ending discrimination against gays and lesbians. He also suggested that he would prove a stronger advocate for gay and lesbian Americans than late U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy.
“I do not believe in discriminating against people based on their sexual orientation,” Romney told Wallace in an increasingly tense exchange. “At the same time, I oppose same-sex marriage. Marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman.”
On Monday, Dec. 12, a gay veteran challenged Romney during a campaign stop in New Hampshire after the former Massachusetts governor indicated support for a bill that would repeal New Hampshire’s marriage equality law.
But Romney’s comments to the Boston Herald about how he supported a three-tier system same sex couples vexed the Log Cabin Republicans. From the Herald:
In a wide-ranging interview with Herald reporters and editors, the former Bay State governor also:….
• Expressed support for a constitutional amendment that could create a complex three-tier system of marriage — maintaining marriage rights for straight couples, allowing gays who have already married to remain married, but barring future same-sex marriages.
“I think it would keep intact those marriages which had occurred under the law but maintain future plans based on marriage being between a man and a woman,” Romney said.
The Log Cabin Republicans were not happy:
Log Cabin Republicans are disappointed that the last message voters heard from the field of Republican presidential candidates in the final debate before the Iowa caucuses was not about job creation, budget cuts or national security, but controversial and divisive social issues.
“Pandering to social conservative voters before the Iowa caucuses has become an unfortunate and empty ritual in the presidential primary process. With the real challenges facing our nation today, Republican candidates should change topics before American voters change the channel,” said R. Clarke Cooper, Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director. “The debate moderators tried to use a letter Governor Romney sent to Log Cabin Republicans in 1994 seeking our endorsement as a ‘gotcha’ moment. We were pleased to see Mitt Romney stand by his position opposing discrimination and highlighting his record of including openly gay people in his administration and judicial appointments. Log Cabin Republicans agree with the governor that Republicans who stand for equality often have the ability to be more effective advocates than Democrats, and that is why we look forward to working with the Governor again if he becomes the nominee. Despite our clear disagreement on marriage, Governor Romney deserves some credit for speaking up for nondiscrimination in front of a socially conservative crowd.”
Some pundits think that Ron Paul might win the Iowa caucuses – and maybe even win or do well in New Hampshire. But it is not likely that he would make it through the entire GOP primary process. Nonetheless, here is an excerpt from a column written last May by Paul supporter Chris Harris in the Charlotte Conservative News:
Gay advocates and those on the right who want marriage only between a man and a women both should support the position of Ron Paul. He asserts that it is not the power of the federal government to decide either way and for everyone with one broad paint brush. What is right for those in San Francisco may not be right for those in Texas. If thousands of miles away the government decides for everyone they are going to violate someones liberty. Powers not specificly defined for the federal government are left to the state.
If you don’t want the ideals of Texas forced on you, then be consistent and don’t wish to force your ideals on them. The most common sense approach to ensuring liberty for all.
(Im using these states as examples only, nothing intended)
Ron Paul said:
“Mr. Speaker, while I oppose federal efforts to redefine marriage as something other than a union between one man and one woman, I do not believe a constitutional amendment is either a necessary or proper way to defend marriage.”
His point is one of being against unnecesary government intervention. Invention for your side…or invention for theirs.
For our gay readers and those who support same sex marriage, which I generally do as well, here is some more of Dr. Paul’s words.
“If I were in Congress in 1996, I would have voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, which used Congress’s constitutional authority to define what official state documents other states have to recognize under the Full Faith and Credit Clause, to ensure that no state would be forced to recognize a “same sex” marriage license issued in another state. ”
Ron Paul is not voting against the liberty of gay individuals to practice the religious right of marriage, he is voting against the federal governments right to force anyone to adhere to another states decisions.
This means he is also votiong against other states outlawing your local decisions.
He was letting the states decide, which in turn means he supports your states right to support gay marriage. This also means that if Texas outlaws gay marriage, Ron Paul supports your states right to not agree with that as well.
His position is one of personal liberty and more localized decisions which in turn better serve more local cities desires and local populations wants and needs.
While his personal view seems to be that he does not personally feel same sex marriage is right for him, what liberals, gay voters and the left should respect is that he is consistant in his belief that for or against gay marriage in your state you should not have a one size fits all federal law forced on you.
But finally, it is important to remember that Republicans just want President Obama gone so it is likely that whomever the Party chooses to represent them – the voters will back that nominee. It is expected to be a grueling and close election next November. And, if arguments about the judiciary are any indication, this election could have incredible consequences.