Let there be no cheers for Rob Portman.
The Ohio senator is, pardon the tautology, a conservative Republican and last week, he did something conservative Republicans do not do. He came out for same-sex marriage. This is a man whose anti-gay bona fides were so pronounced that his 2011 selection as commencement speaker at the University of Michigan law school prompted an uproar among the graduates, many of whom signed a letter protesting his appearance as an insult to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.
Yet, there he was, telling CNN he’s had “a change of heart.” And what prompted this? Well, as it turns out, the senator made his U-turn because of Will.
That would be Will Portman, 21, who came out to his parents two years ago. His son, the senator said, explained to them that his sexuality “was not a choice and that that’s just part of who he is.” As a result, said Portman, “I’ve come to the conclusion that for me, personally, I think this is something that we should allow people to do, to get married, and to have the joy and stability of marriage that I’ve had for over 26 years.”
It was, make no mistake, an act of paternal love and empathy and deserves to be celebrated on that basis. He did the only thing a good father could have done. And yet, if Portman’s change of mind warms the heart, it also, paradoxically, illustrates the moral cowardice so often found at the heart of social conservatism.
Look, the senator’s son is doubtless a fine and admirable young man. But with all due respect to his son, to heck with his son. This is not about Will Portman. It’s far bigger than that.
So one can’t help but be frustrated and vexed by the senator’s inability to “get it” until “it” included his son. Will explained to him that his sexuality “was not a choice”? Lovely. But was the senator not listening when all those other gay men and lesbians tried to tell him the exact same thing?
Apparently not. Like Dick Cheney, father of a lesbian daughter, Portman changed his view because the issue became personal. Which suggests a glaring lack of the courage and vision needed to put oneself into someone else’s shoes, imagine one’s way inside someone else’s life. These are capabilities that often seem to elude social conservatives.
Small wonder: If you allow yourself to see the world from someone else’s vantage point, there is a chance it will change your own. Can’t have that.
So instead we have this. And by extension of the “logic”: Here, we must wait on Herman Cain to adopt a Mexican child before he sees how offensive it is to suggest electrocuting Mexicans at the border. And if Michele Bachmann would only have an affair with a Muslim, she might stop seeing terrorists on every street corner.
Tellingly, Portman’s change of heart elicited mainly an embarrassed silence from his ideological soulmates who, 10 years ago, would have been on him like paparazzi on a Kardashian. But then, 10 years ago, gay rights was still an open question. Ten years later, that question is closing with startling speed, as in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll that finds support for same-sex marriage at a record high. Change is coming, gathering momentum like an avalanche.
And once again, conservatives will stand rebuked by history, be left on the platform by progress. Or else, split the difference, do the right thing for the wrong reasons like Rob Portman.
No, you cannot condemn a man for loving his child.
But true compassion and leadership require the ability to look beyond the narrow confines of one’s own life, to project into someone else’s situation and to want for them what you’d want for your own. Portman’s inability to do that created hardship for an untold number of gay men and lesbians.
Each of them was also someone’s child.
By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., The National Memo, March 20,2013
In the wake of his party’s defeats in the 2012 elections, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) has positioned himself as a leader in setting the GOP on a smarter path. He was the first Republican to publicly condemn Mitt Romney’s “gifts” comments, and soon after, Jindal declared he wants Republicans to “stop being the stupid party.”
And while these efforts are drawing praise from some on the right, let’s pause to note the superficiality of Jindal’s vision. Take his comments yesterday on Fox News, for example.
Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) accused failed Senate candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock of saying “stupid” and “offensive” things that damaged the Republican Party.
“We also don’t need to be saying stupid things,” he said. “Look, we had candidates in Indiana and Missouri that said offensive things that not only hurt themselves and lost us two Senate seats but also hurt the Republican Party across the board.”
On abortion, while Jindal said he’s pro-life, “we don’t need to demonize those that disagree with us. We need to respect the fact that others have come to different conclusions based on their own sincerely held beliefs.”
Here’s the detail Jindal neglected to mention: he opposes any and all abortion rights, without exception. If the Louisiana governor had his way, women impregnated by a rapist would be forced by the American government to take that pregnancy to term. The same would be true in cases of incest or pregnancies in which the health of the mother is at risk.
In other words, as far as public policy is concerned, the only difference between Jindal, Akin, and Mourdock is word choice. Jindal doesn’t want candidates in his party “saying stupid things,” but he’s entirely comfortable with those candidates adopting the same extremist positions he espouses.
Indeed, the larger irony of Jindal presenting himself as a forward-thinking, far-right leader is realizing just how odd a choice he is.
On the one hand, the Louisiana governor says he’s “had enough of this dumbed-down conservatism”; on the other, Jindal is a fierce, anti-gay culture warrior who wants children to be taught creationism and believes he participated in an exorcism.
As this relates to abortion, Jindal is effectively urging his party to adopt the same vision as Mourdock and Akin, but present their agenda with less-offensive talking points. It’s reminiscent of Charles Krauthammer’s advice to the GOP: “The problem … for Republicans is not policy but delicacy.”
They’re both misguided if they think softer, more polite language can make the right-wing social agenda seem more palatable to the American mainstream.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 19, 2012
Every Republican politician seems to have at least one gay friend these days. That’s not too difficult: even if you tried, it would be hard to live and work in America without meeting at least one openly gay person you can get along with. But for a right-wing politician having gay friends, shall we say, has benefits. These unnamed, unseen gay friends send a message that an anti-gay politician isn’t a hater. I mean, how can you hate your friends? It’s just policy, nothing personal.
Of course, the problem is that it is personal. Having gay friends doesn’t absolve one of anti-gay prejudice any more than loving one’s wife and daughters absolves one of defunding Planned Parenthood. Even if you’d be happy to have gay people over to dinner, that doesn’t give you a pass to deny them fundamental rights.
The “gay friends” defense is weak, but popular. And Mitt Romney, scrambling to clarify his position on equal rights after President Obama’s endorsement of marriage equality, must be considering it right about now.
Romney has always been careful to stipulate that his various and elusive anti-gay policies have nothing to do with any personal anti-gay animus. This strategy was clear in a 2006 speech to the right-wing Family Research Council, recently unearthed by PFAW’s Right Wing Watch. In it, taking homophobia to a whole new level, the candidate declares that “the price of same-sex marriage is paid by the children” and amazingly asserts that marriage equality is the result of “spreading secular religion and its substitute values.” He then offers a spoon full a sugar with a call for an “outpouring of respect and tolerance for all people” and laughably encourages his listeners to “vigorously protest discrimination and bigotry.”
When President Obama announced last week that he supports marriage equality, Romney responded by repeating his opposition to not only marriage equality but also to civil unions. He then insisted that same-sex couples have the “right” to “have a loving relationship, or even to adopt a child.” The next day, he changed his mind about the adoption part. The day after that, he delivered a commencement address to Liberty University, which bans openly gay students and is allied with some of the most vile anti-gay rhetoric in the Religious Right today.
But none of this wavering matches Romney’s recent, brief hiring of an openly gay staffer, foreign policy spokesman Richard Grenell. A Republican adviser told the New York Times after Grenell was forced out of Romney’s campaign, “It’s not that the campaign cared whether Ric Grenell was gay. They believed this was a nonissue. But they didn’t want to confront the religious right.” Increasingly, when it comes to choosing between basic dignity and futile attempts to appease the far right, the mainstream GOP has been choosing the far right.
Unfortunately for Romney, the Religious Right, the object of his caving, isn’t buying his frantic attempts to pander. The most outspoken critic of Romney’s decision to hire Grenell quickly, the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer, became the most outspoken critic of the decision to fire him. “How is he going to stand up to North Korea if he can be pushed around by a yokel like me?” Fischer demanded.
It has to give at least some Republicans pause that the far right has become so extreme, and Republican leaders have become so subservient to their demands, that it is now not even possible to have any gay people work for a GOP campaign.
But soon Mitt Romney will tell us that he has gay friends.
By: MIchael B. Keegan, The Huffington Post, may 15, 2012
The resignation of Richard Grenell is a sign that the former Massachusetts governor will cave to anti-gay forces.
Two weeks ago, the Romney campaign hired Richard Grenell—a long-time Republican and former staffer for the Bush White House—to act as a spokesperson on foreign policy and national security. Grenell received tough criticism from Democrats for a series of sexist tweets, but that wasn’t enough to spark reticience from the Romney team.
What was, however, were attacks from religious conservatives on Grenell’s sexuality. Conservative activists hammered Romney for hiring an openly gay spokesperson, and questioned Grenell’s commitment to the conservative cause. “Suppose Barack Obama comes out — as Grenell wishes he would — in favor of same-sex marriage in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention,“ wrote Matthew J. Franck at the National Review, ”How fast and how publicly will Richard Grenell decamp from Romney to Obama?”
This afternoon, Grenell announced his resignation from the Romney campaign, citing the relentless attacks on his sexuality:
I have decided to resign from the Romney campaign as the Foreign Policy and National Security Spokesman. While I welcomed the challenge to confront President Obama’s foreign policy failures and weak leadership on the world stage, my ability to speak clearly and forcefully on the issues has been greatly diminished by the hyper-partisan discussion of personal issues that sometimes comes from a presidential campaign. I want to thank Governor Romney for his belief in me and my abilities and his clear message to me that being openly gay was a non-issue for him and his team.
A few things to highlight. First is the remarkable fact that, in 2012, a gay person can’t serve as spokesperson for a Republican campaign, lest they attract criticism from conservative activists. Second, and significantly, is the fact of Romney’s weakness; as standard-bearer for the GOP, Romney was well within his rights to hold fast and reject attacks from the Right. That he didn’t—and allowed Grenell to resign—is a sign of Romney’s skittishness with social conservatives. He is worried enough about their support that he will cave to anti-gay bigotry if necessary. It’s also fitting that this comes on a day when we’re still debating President Obama’s decision to run on the killing of Osama bin Laden. Bowing to pressure from bigots isn’t a great way to inspire confidence in your “resolve.”
One last point. This incident is a better indication of how Romney would govern than anything he’s said or any plan he’s released; he is completely captive to the right-wing, and will cave if they push him. It’s something to keep in mind if you’re tempted to describe the former Massachusetts governor as a moderate.
By: Jamelle Bouie, The American Prospect, May 1, 2012
Mitt Romney — who at an earlier point in his career had promised to advance the equality of gay and lesbian people — is scheduled to deliverthe Commencement address at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University on May 12, an Evangelical Christian college that refuses to recognize people or ideas that don’t adhere to its social conservative worldview.
The university — founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell in 1971 — seeks to impress on its students a “commitment to the Christian life” that “leads people to Jesus Christ as the Lord of the universe and their own personal Savior” and forbids openly gay enrollees. Students are required to abide by a strict Code of Conduct, which prohibits them from engaging in “[n]on-marital sexual relations,” drinking, smoking, watching R-rated movies, dancing, cursing or hugging for longer than three seconds. In 2009, the school attracted controversy after it revoked its recognition of a Democratic club, because “[t]he Democratic Party platform is contrary to the mission of Liberty University and to Christian doctrine.” The school condemned the party for supporting abortion rights, “same-sex marriage, hate crimes, LGBT rights, and socialism.”
To that end, Liberty is heavily invested in the anti-gay and ex-gay movement. The school withdrew from the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in 2010 to protest the inclusion of a gay rights group and hosted a one-day symposium to address the consequences of being gay. The event offered sessions on “[u]nderstanding Same-sex Attractions and Their Consequences” and “Homosexual Rights and First Amendment Freedoms: Can They Truly Coexist?” Liberty University law professors Matt Barber and Judith Reisman have also linked gay and lesbian rights to “the pedophile movement,” while the school’s affiliates describe marriage equality as a “rebellion against God” and claim that gay people are more likely to commit suicide because they know “what they are doing is unnatural, is wrong, [and] is immoral.”
Significantly, this isn’t the first time Romney has embraced conservative Christian Evangelicals in an effort to endear himself to Republican voters. In 2007, he addressed Regent University, the school founded by televangelist Pat Robertson.
By: Igor Volsky, Think Progress, April 19, 2012