(COVER DESIGN: MICHAEL SHIREY)
As the Republican convention convenes in Tampa this week, speculation centers on whether the party’s presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, can forge the personal connection with American voters he will need if they are to give him the fair hearing he believes his economic message deserves.
With President Barack Obama outstripping him handily in polling on measures of trust, empathy, and likeability, pundits have focused on the GOP’s need to close its yawning gap relative to Democrats with women voters and to persuade seniors and others concerned about their future health needs that vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s proposal on Medicare does not represent a wrenching breach of a longstanding social compact.
But Republicans also face an age problem, with their views on social issues –– particularly LGBT rights –– increasingly out of step with the attitudes of younger voters.
The Log Cabin Republicans, while lamenting that the final platform, agreed on in hearings last week, is “marred by outdated social conservative ideology,” were nevertheless at pains to emphasize “the significant debate” that took place during the document’s drafting. The group hailed minor victories, like the removal of any direct reference to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the incorporation of language “recognizing that all Americans have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.” With the Young Republicans for the Freedom to Marry, Log Cabin is taking out a full-page ad in the August 29 Tampa Tribune calling on the GOP to support the freedom to marry.
“This may well be the last time a platform will cater to the likes of the Family Research Council on marriage, and the fact is, platforms rarely influence policy,” Log Cabin executive director R. Clarke Cooper said in a written statement aimed at putting the best face on the proceedings in Tampa.
The following outlines and analyzes major provisions of the Republican platform related to LGBT and women’s rights and health.
We consider discrimination based on sex, race, age, religion, creed, disability, or national origin unacceptable and immoral. (Platform, page 9)
The GOP continues to omit sexual orientation and gender identity from its non-discrimination plank, while Democrats favor an employment bill providing protections for those categories.
There has been no political traction in either party on broader federal non-discrimination protections in housing, public accommodations, or credit.
President Barack Obama declined to move forward this year on an executive order barring anti-LGBT discrimination by federal contractors.
The GOP platform takes up gay marriage in three of its six chapters:
A serious threat to our country’s constitutional order, perhaps even more dangerous than presidential malfeasance, is an activist judiciary, in which some judges usurp the powers reserved to other branches of government. A blatant example has been the court-ordered redefinition of marriage in several States. This is more than a matter of warring legal concepts and ideals. It is an assault on the foundations of our society, challenging the institution which, for thousands of years in virtually every civilization, has been entrusted with the rearing of children and the transmission of cultural values.
That is why Congressional Republicans took the lead in enacting the Defense of Marriage Act, affirming the right of States and the federal government not to recognize same-sex relationships licensed in other jurisdictions. The current Administration’s open defiance of this constitutional principle — in its handling of immigration cases, in federal personnel benefits, in allowing a same-sex marriage at a military base, and in refusing to defend DOMA in the courts — makes a mockery of the President’s inaugural oath… We reaffirm our support for a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. We applaud the citizens of the majority of States which have enshrined in their constitutions the traditional concept of marriage, and we support the campaigns underway in several other States to do so. (page 10)
This theme is reiterated on page 25 in a section entitled “Judicial Activism: A Threat to the U.S. Constitution,” and again in a section titled “Preserving and Protecting Traditional Marriage”:
The institution of marriage is the foundation of civil society. Its success as an institution will determine our success as a nation. It has been proven by both experience and endless social science studies that traditional marriage is best for children. Children raised in intact married families are more likely to attend college, are physically and emotionally healthier, are less likely to use drugs or alcohol, engage in crime, or get pregnant outside of marriage. The success of marriage directly impacts the economic well-being of individuals. Furthermore, the future of marriage affects freedom. The lack of family formation not only leads to more government costs, but also to more government control over the lives of its citizens in all aspects… We embrace the principle that all Americans should be treated with respect and dignity. (page 31)
The Obama administration has stopped defending the Defense of Marriage Act in federal court, but the GOP House leadership has stepped into the breach.
The administration supports repeal of DOMA and federal recognition of valid same-sex marriages. In May, the president endorsed full marriage equality.
The final sentence above regarding “respect and dignity” was a consolation prize to Log Cabin Republicans who were fighting to remove any reference to DOMA or to have the party endorse civil unions.
WOMEN’S RIGHT TO CHOOSE
We assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. (page 13)
Recent media reports have emphasized that the plank calling for this extension of the Fourteenth Amendment not only aims to overturn Roe v. Wade but also makes no provision for rape and incest exceptions, but this is essentially the same language the GOP adopted in 2008. The renewed focus on this plank resulted from Missouri Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin’s recent controversial rape comments and the fact that Akin and vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan jointly supported a bill limiting government funding for abortion to cases of “forcible rape,” a phrase that seemed to many an effort to limit the definition of rape.
Mitt Romney has said he supports a ban on abortion, but with exceptions for rape, incest, and the life and health of a pregnant woman.
We renew our call for replacing “family planning” programs for teens with abstinence education which teaches abstinence until marriage as the responsible and respected standard of behavior. (page 36)
While Obama administration policy has aimed at curbing spending on abstinence-only education, which is at odds with HIV prevention, Republicans have been successful in preserving some of that funding.
The most offensive instance of this war on religion has been the current Administration’s attempt to compel faith-related institutions, as well as believing individuals, to contravene their deeply held religious, moral, or ethical beliefs regarding health services, traditional marriage, or abortion. This forcible secularization of religious and religiously affiliated organizations, including faith-based hospitals and colleges, has been in tandem with the current Administration’s audacity in declaring which faith-related activities are, or are not, protected by the First Amendment…
We oppose government discrimination against businesses due to religious views. We support the First Amendment right of freedom of association of the Boy Scouts of America and other service organizations whose values are under assault and condemn the State blacklisting of religious groups which decline to arrange adoptions by same-sex couples. We condemn the hate campaigns, threats of violence, and vandalism by proponents of same-sex marriage against advocates of traditional marriage and call for a federal investigation into attempts to deny religious believers their civil rights. (page 12)
Recent media reports on religious exemptions have focused on mandated employer coverage of contraceptive health costs, but “religious freedom” arguments have long been used to evade civil rights protections and equal healthcare guarantees for the LGBT community. Here, the GOP ties the two issues together explicitly.
Mitt Romney has repeatedly misstated the reason that Catholic Charities got out of the adoption business in Massachusetts. The Church was responding not to the enactment of marriage equality there, but rather to its obligations under public accommodations requirements of state human rights law. A board member active with Catholic Charities told Gay City News earlier this year that the group was responsible for five percent or less of all adoptions in Massachusetts, not 50 percent as Romney has repeatedly stated.
We reject the use of the military as a platform for social experimentation and will not accept attempts to undermine military priorities and mission readiness… We support rights of conscience and religious freedom for military chaplains and people of faith… We will enforce and defend in court the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the Armed Forces as well as in the civilian world…. We oppose anything which might divide or weaken team cohesion, including intramilitary special interest demonstrations. We will support an objective and open-minded review of the current Administration’s management of military personnel policies and will correct problems with appropriate administrative, legal, or legislative action. (page 42)
This language is an advance over the 2008 platform, which stated, “We affirm… the incompatibility of homosexuality with military service.”
Language about the “conscience and religious freedom of military chaplains” seems aimed at instances of same-sex union ceremonies on base and active duty service members marching in uniform in pride celebrations.
The overall tone of this section clearly does not preclude the party from pushing to reinstate Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
GLOBAL LGBT RIGHTS
The effectiveness of our foreign aid has been limited by the cultural agenda of the current Administration, attempting to impose on foreign countries, especially the peoples of Africa, legalized abortion and the homosexual rights agenda. At the same time, faith-based groups — the sector that has had the best track record in promoting lasting development — have been excluded from grants because they will not conform to the administration’s social agenda. (page 45)
This section takes direct aim at Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remarkable speech last December on global LGBT rights and the president’s accompanying foreign policy directives.
As with domestic abstinence-only funding, the administration, hobbled by GOP opposition, has achieved only partial success in its efforts to remove morality clauses –– such as promoting abstinence and denying funds to groups that serve sex workers –– in its global AIDS efforts.