Given the radical right’s longstanding obsession with denying legal recognition or protections to LGBT Americans, it’s not surprising that several questions at the “Values Voter Debate” were about protecting America from the gays. Also not surprisingly, these candidates lined up to oppose equality.
The first question of the night, from the American Family Association’s Buddy Smith, was about “protecting” marriage. Every candidate except libertarian Ron Paul pledged to push for a federal marriage amendment. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee touted his record of pushing a marriage amendment in his state and promised to lead an effort to have a constitutional amendment that would affirm marriage as “one man, one woman, for life.” Rep. Tom Tancredo pledged to do everything possible to pass a federal constitutional amendment, warning that Americans are just “one kooky judge” away from having homosexual marriage forced on them. Sen. Brownback bragged of his efforts in the Senate to pass the FMA and complained that President Bush had not done more to pass it. Alan Keyes, who had just tossed his hat in the ring, took a shot at the absent Mitt Romney, calling him “single-handedly responsible” for gays getting married in Massachusetts (not, shall we say, a view widely shared among marriage equality activists).
Paul Weyrich, a founder of the modern Religious Right political movement, closed the first section of the program by asking what candidates would do to counteract “the homosexual agenda.” Most candidates went back to the need for a marriage amendment to prevent, in Keyes’ typically tempered words, the “destruction of traditional marriage.” Brownback and Rep. Duncan Hunter talked about keeping gays from serving openly in the military. Libertarian Ron Paul, while saying he is opposed to legislating morality, called for eradicating hate crime laws. Brownback also attacked hate crimes laws as criminalizing thought and moving into an agenda of not allowing people to speak their beliefs. Businessman John Cox talked about common sense but spouted nonsense, talking about opening floodgates to bestiality and polygamy and warning darkly of “transvestite” teachers in public schools as a reason to support “school choice” and homeschooling.
During the “yes or no” segment of the program, Stephen Bennett, self-proclaimed “former homosexual,” argued that homosexual behavior is immoral and dangerous, and asked whether, as president, candidates would support legislation ensuring that schools would forfeit federal funding if they expose children to “homosexual propaganda” that puts them at risk. All the candidates clicked their green lights to answer “yes.” A later question asking whether they would pledge to veto ENDA also won unanimous support.
During a segment in which questions were directed at a single candidate, anti-gay zealot Peter LaBarbera asked the absent Mitt Romney why voters should trust him when he spent so much of his career promoting “anti-life” and “pro-homosexual” policies and not challenging Marriott’s providing pornography in its hotels as a member of its board. But perhaps the most memorable anti-gay question came from Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver, who cited Abraham Lincoln in criticizing Fred Thompson’s “federalist” approach to marriage, essentially making marriage equality the moral equivalent of slavery:
While you were senator you opposed the Federal Marriage Amendment, but recently you stated that you would support a marriage amendment that would prevent judges from imposing same-sex marriage, so long as it would not prohibit state legislatures from adopting same-sex marriage. This reasoning is like saying that you favor a constitutional amendment that prohibits judges from imposing slavery, so long as the state legislatures were free to do so. Does not your position fundamentally misunderstand the universal importance of marriage in the same way my latter example about slavery indicates a misunderstanding of human dignity?