It is probably safe to assume that Michael Steele’s days as Chairman of the Republican National Committee are numbered now that this new interview from GQ is making the rounds in which he says that he believes that gay people can’t choose to be straight, that women have a right to reproductive choice, and that states should make their own decisions regarding these issues:
Let’s talk about gay marriage. What’s your position?
Well, my position is, hey, look, I have been, um, supportive of a lot of my friends who are gay in some of the core things that they believe are important to them. You know, the ability to be able to share in the information of your partner, to have the ability to—particularly in times of crisis—to manage their affairs and to help them through that as others—you know, as family members or others—would be able to do. I just draw the line at the gay marriage. And that’s not antigay, no. Heck no! It’s just that, you know, from my faith tradition and upbringing, I believe that marriage—that institution, the sanctity of it—is reserved for a man and a woman. That’s just my view. And I’m not gonna jump up and down and beat people upside the head about it, and tell gays that they’re wrong for wanting to aspire to that, and all of that craziness. That’s why I believe that the states should have an opportunity to address that issue.
Do you think homosexuality is a choice?
Oh, no. I don’t think I’ve ever really subscribed to that view, that you can turn it on and off like a water tap. Um, you know, I think that there’s a whole lot that goes into the makeup of an individual that, uh, you just can’t simply say, oh, like, “Tomorrow morning I’m gonna stop being gay.” It’s like saying, “Tomorrow morning I’m gonna stop being black.”
So your feeling would be that people are born one way or another.
I mean, I think that’s the prevailing view at this point, and I know that there’s some out there who think that you can absolutely make that choice. And maybe some people have. I don’t know, I can’t say. Until we can give a definitive answer one way or the other, I think we should respect that.
How much of your pro-life stance, for you, is informed not just by your Catholic faith but by the fact that you were adopted?
Oh, a lot. Absolutely. I see the power of life in that—I mean, and the power of choice! The thing to keep in mind about it… Uh, you know, I think as a country we get off on these misguided conversations that throw around terms that really misrepresent truth.
The choice issue cuts two ways. You can choose life, or you can choose abortion. You know, my mother chose life. So, you know, I think the power of the argument of choice boils down to stating a case for one or the other.
Are you saying you think women have the right to choose abortion?
Yeah. I mean, again, I think that’s an individual choice.
Okay, but if you overturn Roe v. Wade, how do women have the choice you just said they should have?
The states should make that choice. That’s what the choice is. The individual choice rests in the states. Let them decide.
Do pro-choicers have a place in the Republican Party?
The interesting thing about this is that his statements are not really all that different from the positions he defended in the interview he gave to CNS News back in December. Though not as open about these things as he was in GQ, it was clear in the CNS interview that Steele did not ascribe to the GOP’s hard-line stances on gays and choice but would support them because they were in the Republican Party Platform. As I wrote at the time in response to Ken Blackwell’s explanation of why he backed Steele:
Steele’s embrace of these principles is anything but “authentic” – it is entirely opportunistic. Of all the candidates running for RNC Chairman, Steele is the one most likely “abandon the values and priorities” Blackwell cites because, as Steele freely admits, he doesn’t actually agree with them.
Steele’s views were well-known before his election as Chairman for the RNC, but given all the criticism he’s come under recently, it seems quite likely that this latest dust-up will be enough to topple him from the position he’s held for less than two months.
In fact, Ben Smith reports that Steele is already backtracking but it looks like it is too little too late as right-wing activists have already begun piling on:
“I think it is very troubling for a public figure, of either party, particularly one who presents himself as pro-life, to describe the abortion issue as being a matter of ‘individual choice,'” That is language straight out of Planned Parenthood’s messaging playbook,” said Charmaine Yoest, the president and CEO of Americans United for Life Action, who said she hadn’t heard from the RNC. “There are millions of pro-life Americans, Republican and Democrat, who are looking for leadership on the life issue and they will find Mr. Steele’s comments disturbing and demoralizing.”
Another anti-abortion activist and sharp critic of President Barack Obama on the subject, Jill Stanek, was even blunter.
“Michael Steele has just unmistakably proclaimed himself to be pro-choice,” she said in an email. “You thought he was ’embattled’ last week over his Limbaugh comment? Ha. He has now stepped both feet into it.”
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins emails, “I expressed my concerns to the chairman earlier this week about previous statements that were very similar in nature. He assured me as chairman his views did not matter and that he would be upholding and promoting the Party platform, which is very clear on these issues. It is very difficult to reconcile the GQ interview with the chairman’s pledge.”