In the game of politics, it is rarely as simple as being for or against any one issue. Gay rights has proved to be one topic that is more derisive than most, but even some of our most prominent anti-gay or gay rights hostile politicians have, for their own political and personal reasons, taken turns at being gay-friendly. Here are five gay-friendly acts from politicians that might surprise you.
1) Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger Presided Over Gay Marriages
During Schwarzenegger’s time as California Governor, he earned a reputation as being hostile to gay marriage, though it would be a stretch to label him anti-gay, because he vetoed a same-sex marriage bill in 2005 and again in 2007.
What is interesting is that in a recent interview with CNN, Schwarzenegger spoke about how he in fact presided over two gay marriage ceremonies during his time as Governor, one for his chief of staff Susan Kennedy, and another for a former aid, both of them at the governor’s house.
Here’s what Schwarzenegger said in an un-aired segment posted on the show’s official site:
“I always said that I have nothing against people doing what they want to do. If couple wants to get married, they should get married. I personally always said that marriage is between a man and a woman, but I would never enforce my will on people. I always want people to make that decision. If they want to get married, let them get married.”
“I don’t have to be for gay marriage. I’m for that she gets the kind of wedding and the kind of ceremony that I had when I got married with (sic) Maria (Shriver). That she happens to love a woman, and I am – a guy that loves a woman, that is two different things. It doesn’t make any difference. She should still have her ceremony.”
This might not be that surprising, however. Schwarzenegger was by most standards a moderate and he famously refused to defend California’s Proposition 8 in court, saying he believed it unconstitutional.
2) Paul Ryan Supported the Employment Non-Discrimination Act
Since becoming a prospective VP to Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan has certainly made it a mission to cement his religious conservative credentials. He had no trouble convincing us he was anti-gay, though.
In 2004, he supported a federal amendment against gay marriage, had voted against expanding hate crimes laws, and most recently voted against a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
Interestingly, though, Ryan in 2007 voted along with 34 other House Republicans for the gay rights employment bill the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill traditionally opposed by religious conservatives.
This vote was used by Republican gay groups to hail Ryan as a progressive on gay causes (despite all the evidence to the contrary).
Sadly, the truth has a habit of undercutting things, and an investigation by several interested parties led to a closer reading of the voting record for that day. As Daily Kos points out, while it is true Ryan did vote to pass the bill, he had just five minutes earlier voted to kill the bill before a proper debate could be had.
3) John McCain Voted Against a Federal Marriage Amendment
We know how aggressively anti-gay Senator John McCain has been, from writing to support California’s Proposition 8, to opposing hate crimes legislation and ENDA, and throwing everything into derailing the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
Also, McCain has been consistent on his stance on gay marriage: he opposes same-sex unions but believes that it is a state rights issue.
Indeed, in 2006 McCain supported a (failed) initiative in Arizona to amend the state constitution and ban same-sex marriage.
But, following through on his own (faulty but at least consistent) logic that voters at state level should decide the marriage issue, John McCain in 2004 decided to break with his more conservative colleagues and voted against President Bush’s constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage at the federal level.
A polite thanks, but probably don’t bother putting him on your holiday card list just yet.
4) Mitt Romney Once Wanted to be An “Aggressive” Gay Rights Advocate
We all know Mitt Romney has gone to great lengths to let us know he is anti-gay, abandoning his once more moderate leanings to appeal to religious conservatives that he is the man to, for instance, finally enact a federal marriage amendment.
However, it may surprise you to learn that Romney, during his unsuccessful 1994 bid for a place in the US Senate, wrote to the gay Republican group the Log Cabin Republicans saying he supported “full equality” for gay and lesbian citizens and that he would be a more aggressive supporter than his Democratic rival.
Now, it would be incorrect to suggest that Romney would have considered marriage as part of that package. Romney does, however, have a history (convoluted as it is) of supporting some form of domestic partnerships, so this is likely to be what he envisioned.
Romney, in case you were wondering, has always said he does not support civil unions because, by design, they are like marriage.
Except that one time when he did support civil unions…
5) Mitt Romney Once Supported Civil Unions
Yes, Mitt appears twice. But he’s positively gymnastic when it comes to policy, so you’ll forgive me.
And it’s true. Mitt once supported civil unions — but only as a means to stop marriage equality in Massachusetts.
As Governor of Massachusetts, almost a decade on from that 1994 letter, and already eyeing national ambitions, Romney would set about trying to dismantle and block the state supreme court’s 2003 ruling that effectively legalized gay marriage.
Crucially, Romney was on record as opposing civil unions by that time but, under pressure from conservatives to block the court ruling from going into effect, he reneged on an earlier promise to follow the ruling and attempted to push through the state legislature an amendment that would ban same-sex marriage but that would have allowed for civil unions.
Romney quickly abandoned that bid — it wasn’t popular with mostly anyone — in order to pursue other avenues, including trying to resurrect a law that had been used to prevent states having to recognize interracial marriages that were enacted in other states. All unsuccessful but still, quite telling.