GOP presidential field tilts far to the right

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Michele Bachmann got a boost and Newt Gingrich took the boot from voters in the Iowa Straw Poll. The event was viewed as the first test of the presidential election in November 2012.

Bachmann, a congresswoman from Minnesota, placed first with 28 percent of the vote in the Aug. 13 poll held at Iowa State University in Ames. U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas placed second, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty placed third and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania placed fourth.

The National Organization for Marriage, which has funded numerous anti-gay campaigns in recent years, heralded Bachmann’s win as proof that opposing same-sex marriage is a “winning issue.”

“Iowans showed the country that judges do not speak for the people and that Iowans, like the majority of the country, support marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” said Brian Brown, president of NOM.

In the three weeks before the poll, NOM and Family Research Council activists worked in 22 Iowa cities to get voters to Ames, where each paid $30 to attend the fair-like event and cast a ballot for a candidate who signed NOM’s anti-gay marriage pledge. Bachmann signed the pledge, as did former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Pawlenty and Santorum.

Nine names were on the straw poll ballot prepared by the Iowa Republican Party: Bachmann, Paul, Pawlenty, Santorum, Gingrich, businessman Herman Cain, Romney, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, and U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan.

Huntsman, Gingrich and Romney – who won the Ames poll in 2007 – did not attend the event.

Neither did two GOP celebrities – one who announced his candidacy the day of the poll, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and another who continues to test temperatures in Iowa and New Hampshire, 2008 VP candidate and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

As a write-in candidate in Ames, Perry placed sixth, followed by Romney, who leads in national polls. Huntsman, McCotter and Gingrich barely registered with the voters.

The field shifted slightly after the poll in Iowa, where in five months the candidates will compete in the first-in-the-nation caucus. As Bachmann, who had been the predicted favorite, celebrated her win, Pawlenty abandoned his campaign. The results also gave Bachmann a needed boost as Perry, expected to syphon from her Tea Party base, entered the race.

Now, with the first vote in the GOP contest held in neighboring Iowa, WiG offers an early look at where the candidates are on LGBT issues.

None of the top declared or potential candidates support marriage equality for gays and lesbians or boast pro-gay records, but some have deeper anti-gay records than others. After the first debate of the 2012 race, People for the American Way, a watchdog of the right wing, concluded, “Not a single candidate can credibly be called ‘moderate.’ On issue after issue, the positions staked out at the debate were far to the right of the average voter and significantly more conservative even than previous Republican presidents like Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush.”

Consider:

  • Michele Bachmann was the first candidate to sign a 14-point pledge being circulated by Iowa’s Family Leader, an organization that successfully removed several state Supreme Court justices from office because they ruled in favor of marriage equality. A candidate who signs the pledge is committing to personal fidelity, opposing any “redefinition” of marriage and vowing to defend the Defense of Marriage Act.

    Bachman also voted against the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the hate crimes reform bill. As a state lawmaker, she spearheaded an effort to pass a constitutional amendment banning gays from marrying.

    Bachmann has referred to homosexuality as “personal enslavement” and a “sexual identity disorder.” She has said she thinks gays can become heterosexual through prayer. Bachmann rates a zero with the Human Rights Campaign.

  • Ron Paul once said that recognizing same-sex marriages at the federal level would be “an act of social engineering profoundly hostile to liberty.” But he voted against the anti-gay Marriage Protection Amendment.

    On marriage at the state level, Paul takes a libertarian approach. He says governments should enforce contracts and grant divorces but stay out of marriage.

    During a debate in Iowa, Paul said, “Why do we have to have a license to get married? Why don’t we just go to the church? What other individuals do, why can’t we permit them to do whatever they call it that is their problem not mine. Just so nobody else forces their definition of marriage on you. That is what we have to prevent.”

    Paul voted for the bill to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell,” but he also voted to ban gays in D.C. from adopting,

    His mixed record is reflected in his rating from HRC – 59 out of 100.

  • Rick Santorum, during the first 2012 presidential debate, called repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy a “social experiment.” That was a tame comment compared with the former senator’s statement that sparked condemnations from the White House to the streets in 2003.

    Discussing a Supreme Court ruling decriminalizing same-sex sex, Santorum told an AP reporter that the U.S. Constitution did not contain a “right to privacy” and that “in every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That’s not to pick on homosexuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing. And when you destroy that you have a dramatic impact on the quality…”

    Santorum didn’t finish the statement, because the reporter said she was freaked by his “man on dog” comment.

    At the recent Iowa debate, he boasted about his opposition to same-sex marriage and his involvement in the campaign to oust from office the Iowa justices who ruled for marriage equality.

  • Herman Cain supports a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. After the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled for marriage equality in 2004, Cain said the court had failed the American people.

    “Congress needs to enact a constitutional amendment to protect the sacred institution of marriage,” he said. “Liberal-minded judges have opened a floodgate of judicial tyranny that will chip away at the core values of this country until nothing sacred is left!”

    Cain refused to sign the Family Leader’s pledge, calling it “undignified.”

    But Cain issued a statement clarifying that he stands “firmly with the Family Leader.”

    “I am, and will continue to be, an ardent defender of traditional marriage and will work to preserve and protect the sanctity of human life, which I believe begins at conception,” Cain said.

  • Rick Perry, an evangelical Christian who organized a massive prayer rally on Aug. 6, opposes marriage equality and supports a federal anti-gay marriage amendment.

    “To not pass the federal marriage amendment would impinge on Texas and other states not to have marriage forced upon them,” Perry said. “I have long supported the appointment of judges who respect the Constitution and the passage of a federal marriage amendment. That amendment defines marriage as between one man and one woman and it protects the states from being told otherwise.”

  • Mitt Romney offers a record on LGBT equality as mixed as his record on abortion and healthcare. But in recent years, he has strongly advocated a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

    At the Iowa debate this month, he said, “I believe the issue of marriage should be decided at the federal level. … Marriage is a status. It’s not an activity that goes on within the walls of a state. …I believe we should have a federal amendment in the constitution that defines marriage as a relationship between a man and woman, because I believe the ideal place to raise a child is in a home with a mom and a dad.”

    Romney signed NOM’s anti-gay marriage pledge, but he declined to sign the Family Leader pledge.

  • Newt Gingrich was the speaker of the U.S. House in 1996, when Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act. He has touted his support for DOMA recently, as well as his co-authorship of the conservative Contract with America that guided the House in the mid-1990s.

    Earlier this summer, Gingrich said that if the Obama administration continued to refuse to defend DOMA, a federal amendment on marriage would be the only answer.

    In 2002, Gingrich said he opposed gays adopting children and in a 2005 interview he said homosexuality is a sin, but “all of us are sinners.”

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