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Conservative struggle over gay rights emerges at CPAC

Ralph Reed, CPAC, Conservative Political Action Conference, gay news, Washington Blade

Ralph Reed speaking at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — To witness the conservative movement’s struggle with the widely held perception that nationwide marriage equality is imminent, you need not look further than the stage of the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference.

After remaining silent on the first day of the conference, voices against same-sex marriage emerged on Friday, although they were restricted to certain conservative activists as others expressed conflict over the issue and elected Republican officials ignored LGBT rights altogether in their speeches.

Ralph Reed, founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, was among the most vociferous in his opposition to same-sex marriage as he accused U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder of committing a “brazen act of lawlessness” by counseling state attorneys general not to defend marriage laws against litigation.

It should be noted that during his speech to the National Association of Attorneys General, Holder said he believes it’s OK for state attorneys general not to defend a ban on same-sex marriage if they believe they’re unconstitutional, but he never instructed them to take that course of action.

“From now on, we’re going to accept — in 2014, 2016 and beyond — nothing beyond unapologetic, unalloyed ‘conservative’ that defends the principles upon which this nation was founded, including the biblical principles of freedom of religion, the sanctity of life and the sacred institution of marriage,” Reed continued.

Also injecting anti-gay sentiment before the estimated 8,500 attendees at CPAC was Oliver North, a Fox News commentator known for his role in the Iran-Contra scandal during the Reagan administration in the 1980s.

Ending his speech, North equated the conservative struggle to stop the advancement of marriage equality to abolitionists’ efforts in 19th century America to end slavery.

“Some say that we must ignore social issues, like the definition of marriage, the sanctity of life, religious freedoms,” North said. “I say those are not social issues, they are deeply moral and spiritual issues and should be part of America’s elections.”

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Oliver North speaking at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

North also made a veiled criticism of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, saying the administration is treating U.S. troops like “laboratory rats” as part of a “social experiment.”

These conservative activists are pushing back against the advancement of marriage equality as numerous federal courts — most recently in Texas, Virginia, Kentucky, Utah and Oklahoma — have struck down state constitutional bans on same-sex marriage amid expectations the U.S. Supreme Court will deliver a final ruling on the issue in 2015.

The anticipated resolution of the marriage issue in the courts invoked the ire on stage of Eric Metaxas, a conservative pundit who insisted voters must decide the issue of marriage equality instead of judges.

“The idea of same-sex marriage, the idea of paying for contraceptions, we should let the voters decide,” Metexas said. “This is the United States of America. We don’t need the ‘Mandarins of Justice’ to make these decisions; we’re supposed to trust the voters to make those decisions, and let the voters decide.”

But those considered possible 2016 presidential candidates shied away from the issue of marriage equality.

Rick Santorum, Republican Party, CPAC, Conservative Political Action Conference, gay news, Washington Blade

Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) speaking at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Rick Santorum, known for his opposition to same-sex marriage and support for a U.S. constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, expressed regret on stage that he became known for that viewpoint over the course of his 2012 presidential bid.

“I don’t want to talk about redefining marriage; I want to talk about reclaiming marriage as a good for society and celebrating how important it is for our economy,” Santorum said to applause.

Santorum continued to discuss the importance of the institution of marriage itself, saying businesses could advance it by offering marriage counseling as a benefit.

Amid the (often disputed) perception that Pope Francis is more lenient on gay rights, particularly after his recent suggestion he could support civil unions, Santorum, who’s Catholic, commended the pontiff for saying the Catholic Church should steer away from social issues.

“He’s going out there and not talking about what the Christian faith is against, he’s going out there and talking about what we’re for,” Santorum said. “He hasn’t changed a single policy. He won’t change a single policy. But what he’ll do is he’ll go out there and talk about the good news to a hurting world because he believes that that’s what the world needs.”

One event at CPAC that demonstrated the tension within the conservative movement on marriage equality, although the discussion wasn’t completely dedicated to the issue, was a panel titled, “Can Libertarians and Social Conservatives Ever Get Along?”

One question debated was protecting religious liberties of individuals as marriage equality advances. The issue for panelists wasn’t so much whether there should be marriage equality, but whether it should be imposed by judicial fiat.

Michael Medved, a conservative pundit and host of “The Michael Medved Show,” said the issue has come down to religious liberty and insisted social conservatives and libertarians should agree that states should be able to decide for themselves the marriage issue without interference from the federal government.

“The idea that New York and California may have legitimated, or recognized, decided that those states should sponsor gay marriage doesn’t mean that Texas should be compelled by overreaching courts, or anyone else, to sponsor and legitimate gay marriage,” Medved said.

Alexander McCorbin, executive director of Students for Liberty, represented the opposite end of the conservative spectrum and said on the panel that marriage equality is “the civil rights issue of the 21st century.”

“There’s state-sponsored discrimination against various associations between individuals,” McCorbin said. “We’re talking about the denial of basic rights and privileges of individuals in committed relationships — the only difference being their sexual orientation.”

But McCorbin was rebuked on stage by Medved, who said believing a fundamental right to same-sex marriage is inconsistent with libertarianism.

“You are saying that nine unelected judges should impose their will and their judgement on the sovereign states, all 50 sovereign states and the citizens therein, in terms of something as fundamental to society as the definition of family and the definition of marriage,” Medved said.

Making a point that was derided by gay bloggers and the watchdog group Media Matters, Medved also said the idea that any state had prohibited same-sex marriage is “a liberal lie” — possibly because same-sex weddings have been allowed, even though 33 states don’t recognize them as valid.

But Medved also signaled he nonetheless supports adoption by same-sex parents, which triggered applause in the audience (although one observer could be heard booing).

Matthew Spaulding, associate vice president of Allen P. Kirby Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies & Citizenship, insisted that religious liberties for objectors must be upheld and denied any link between same-sex marriage and interracial marriage.

“The fact of one’s color of one’s skin is a coincidence,” Spaulding said. “It has nothing to do with your character, right? The difference between a male and a female is something that is self-evident and obvious that we need to deal, and we can’t shut aside and turn it over to judges to tell us what to do.”

No one who is gay, nor any LGBT political group, had a voice on the panel despite its attention to the marriage issue. In an op-ed penned earlier this week in the Daily Caller, Log Cabin Republicans executive director Gregory Angelo asserted he had sought participation on a CPAC panel this year, but was rebuffed because the American Conservative Union, which runs the event, never responded to the request.

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Members of the CPAC panel, ‘Can Libertarians and Social Conservatives Ever Get Along?’ discussed same-sex marriage. From left, Tom Minnery of CitizenLink, Matt Spaulding of the Allen P. Kirby Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies & Citizenship, Matt Welch of Reason Magazine, Michael Medved of the ‘Michael Medved Show’ and Alexander McCorbin of Students for Liberty. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Ignoring the issue of marriage, prominent Republicans speaking before the panel chose to tackle other issues, although they weren’t afraid to take Obama to task.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a known opponent of LGBT rights including allowing openly gay people in the Boy Scouts, turned his attention to deriding the advancement of welfare states under the Obama administration.

“The vision that wins out — either this big-government, protectionist nanny state version offered by liberal leaders or the limited-government, unsubsidized, freedom state offered by conservative leaders — will determine the future of our nation,” Perry said.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who has a reputation as a libertarian, delivered a speech criticizing the exposed data collection by the National Security Agency as he urged adherence to the U.S. Constitution.

“There is a great battle going on, it’s for the heart and soul of America,” Paul said. “The Fourth Amendment is equally as important as the Second Amendment, and conservatives cannot forget this.”

Even 2008 Republican presidential candidate turned Fox News commentator Mike Huckabee, known for championing social issues, was silent on stage about the issue of marriage equality, although he spoke more generally about upholding religious liberties in the country.

This struggle over gay rights emerges at CPAC following the publication this week of a Washington Post-ABC News poll showing a record-high 59 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage, while only one-in-three Americans oppose it.

That support is even higher among young voters, which make up the preponderance of attendees at CPAC. The poll found three-quarters of Americans younger than 30 support same-sex marriage.

Following the speeches on Friday, Log Cabin’s Angelo said there’s only one way for the debate to end if the conservative movement wants to thrive.

“The conservative movement can keep its head in the sand at its own peril — with the potential to lose more votes — or it can acknowledge us as here to stay, and grow the base, especially among millennial voters,” Angelo said. “That’s where we’re at in this movement. We want conservatives to win, but they need to acknowledge us as part of that winning coalition.”

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Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) speaking at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

08
Mar
2014

Gay marriage legalized in Pennsylvania by Santorum’s judge!

Federal judge strikes down state's DOMA law, wedding licenses already being granted to gay couples!

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20
May
2014

Santorum to speak at D.C. anti-gay marriage rally

Rick Santorum, gay news, Washington Blade

Rick Santorum is set to speak at an anti-gay marriage rally in D.C. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key).

Former U.S. senator and Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum will speak at an upcoming national march in D.C. in opposition to marriage rights for gay couples, an anti-gay group organizing the event announced on Saturday.

In an e-mail blast to supporters, the National Organization of Marriage made the announcement and praised Santorum, a vehement opponent of same-sex marriage and supporter of a U.S. constitutional amendment banning it across the country.

“From his days in the Senate, through his Presidential campaigns, Senator Santorum has never hesitated to stand for marriage and make the argument that the social values of our nation are of primary importance to the well-being of our families and children,” writes NOM President Brian Brown.

Despite his opposition to same-sex marriage, Santorum as a U.S. senator recommended the nomination of now-U.S. District Judge John Jones III to former President George W. Bush. Just last month, that judge was responsible for issuing the decision that brought marriage equality to Pennsylvania.

Other speakers for the event, known as the “March for Marriage” and set for June 19, are individuals known for their opposition to same-sex marriage: Former Republican presidential candidate and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee; Archbishop of San Francisco Salvatore Cordileone; New York State Sen. Rev. Ruben Diaz; and the Heritage Foundation’s Jennifer Marshall and Ryan Anderson.

“The lineup of prominent national speakers, including Senator Santorum, who are committed to working with us to preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman stands in stark contrast to the transparent attempts of many in the mainstream media to convince Americans that the debate about marriage is all but over,” Brown writes.

The march is set to begin with a rally in front of the U.S. Capitol at 11 am, then at 1 pm, attendees will march down Constitution Avenue to reach the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is expected to deliver a final, nationwide ruling by the middle of next year on whether the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to same-sex marriage.

“As we take to the streets of Washington, DC on June 19th, encouraged by the words of Senator Santorum and others, we will make it clear to the Supreme Court, the Congress, and the media elites that Americans still stand for marriage and the truth that children deserve both a mother and a father,” Brown writes.

07
Jun
2014

Santorum to lead “strike force” to save Cuccinelli’s disastrous run for VA Gov

But can Santorum save Cuccinelli from the new definition that Dan Savage has come up with for "cuccinelli"?

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21
Oct
2013

Rick Santorum was right! Woman chooses horse as bridesmaid

Santorum once famously decried gay marriage because he opposes "man on dog" marriage too.

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14
Nov
2013

GOProud members take part in anti-abortion march

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GOProud staffer Holly Parker stands outside the Archives Metro station in D.C. on Friday in support of the March for Life. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

A group of gay conservatives were among those who took part in the annual March for Life in D.C. on Friday.

GOProud members handed out red and white stickers to passersby at the Archives Metro station on Pennsylvania Avenue that read “Hello, I’m… pro life & pro gay” before attending a rally on the National Mall in opposition of the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.

They then proceeded to march to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“So many in the media when they talk about social issues, they talk about gay marriage and abortion as if it’s one thing. And the common portrayal is pro-life people are anti-gay for some reason,” GOProud Executive Director Jimmy LaSalvia told the Washington Blade as he and a handful of others stood outside the Metro station before the rally. “We know that that’s not true; that your position on issues affecting gay people has nothing to do with your position on abortion. Also it gives us a chance to demonstrate for our pro-life people a common ground with other pro-life people who are here who may not be used to seeing gay people talking about this issue.”

LaSalvia, who pointed out GOProud does not have a position on abortion, stressed he is pro-life.

“Everybody has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” LaSalvia said. “I think that means gay people and unborn people too.”

GOProud member Holly Parker noted to the Blade that her younger sister is adopted and she has “multiple friends who have had abortions and have come to regret it.”

“I’m just out here for them and for my fighting for pro-life,” Parker said.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Tennessee Congresswoman Diane Black, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins and Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley are among those who spoke during the rally that drew hundreds of thousands of people to the Mall. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) addressed participants via a pre-recorded video message.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops sponsored an all-night prayer vigil before the March for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Northeast D.C.

“I’ve got to stand up for what I am and not for what people want me to be,” gay D.C. resident Michael Jones told the Blade as he stood outside the Archives Metro station. “I’ve got to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves, like the unborn children.”

28
Jan
2013

2012 was a very good year

It was an interesting year in so many ways. Looking back made me realize the first thing I did was accept reaching the age when many people retire. I contemplated that for about 10 minutes before moving on to more relevant thoughts. After all, life was still fun, my job still interesting and writing was still something I enjoy.

Each month of the year brought with it some new events to focus on. Overriding everything was the election. In January, I wondered why we should care what the Iowa caucus results were — and I am still wondering. That was about the same time the pizza guy flamed out over his transgressions with a series of women. The ups and downs of the Republican debates were fascinating in a macabre way, like watching a train wreck is fascinating. Some of the candidates faded faster than others including Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann (not fast enough), Jon Huntsman and Rick Perry. Others like Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum hung around longer and used the eventual nominee Mitt Romney as a piñata dragging him further to the right all to the eventual benefit of President Obama.

Then there was Foundry United Methodist Church’s fight for LGBT rights within the Methodist Church. While they lost that fight we can all be thankful for the ongoing work of Foundry and their Senior Pastor Dean Snyder. In May, Dr. Robert Spitzer, a leading member of the American Psychological Association, wrote an apology (better late than never) that admitted he was wrong when he authored a study supporting “reparative therapy” for gays. That study harmed unknown numbers of young gay men who were subjected to this phony therapy and still are in some areas.

June brought Pride with its festivals and parades and the knowledge that we now had a president who supported marriage equality and was willing to stand up and tell the world. There was also the decision by the Supreme Court to declare “Obamacare” constitutional. In his statements on the Affordable Care Act as well as other comments Justice Scalia again showed why he should be impeached.

July brought the International AIDS Conference to the United States for the first time in 20 years. There were meetings and talk about how far we have come in the fight against HIV/AIDS and recognition of how far we still had to go. There was the announcement of the first patient, called the “Berlin Patient” who has reportedly been cured and the discussion of spending more money on finding a cure and not just finding a vaccine. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed the conference and to great applause spoke of a generation without AIDS being within reach.

In August we watched the spectacle of the Republican Convention in which they approved a platform clearly more appropriate for the 19th century than the 21st. They highlighted their fight against women and the LGBT community and selected the Romney/Ryan ticket, which proved a colossal mistake.

The election was going fine for the Democrats until the first presidential debate, when President Obama barely showed up. An election thought to be in the bag suddenly became a nail biter for a short while. But those of us who are Nate Silver fans soon understood that President Obama was going to win a second term and do so fairly easily. The bonus was winning marriage referenda in four states and gaining House seats and two Senate seats as well.

All in all, a good year yet it ended with so many things left to be done. Some are easy and can be done with the stroke of a pen like the president signing an executive order to ban discrimination in federal contracting. Others — like setting the nation on a course to fiscal solvency — will take negotiation and perseverance and require our help as we pressure Congress to act.

But at midnight on Dec. 31, as we say goodbye to 2012 and welcome in 2013, let us all drink a toast to the year past and say a prayer and pledge to each other that in the year to come we will keep up the good fight for equality and will do everything in our power to make the world a safer and healthier place for all.

27
Dec
2012