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Gay Iowa caucus goers: economy first, LGBT rights on back burner, and DADT repeal was a ‘gimme’

Over at the Washington Blade, Chris Johnson has a story up, “Young, gay caucus-goers talk politics, support for GOP” that is just another reminder that the information gap between LGBT activists, citizen journalists, traditional media and the average LGBT citizen out there is sometimes a canyon. Johnson interviews several Iowa caucus attendees who are also gay and asked them about their priorities in selecting a candidate to support.

As Republicans, you expect them to find a way to support members of the GOP Clown Car — and they draw the line at those pols who are specifically riding in on an anti-gay social agenda (save one interviewee, Bryan Pulda, 21, who is still considering Rick Perry, of all people).

Candidates like former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, Texas Gov. Rick Perry or Rep. Michele Bachmann, who make anti-gay rhetoric a foundation of their campaigns, are turn-offs as potential candidates.

Peterson said he wouldn’t support a candidate who would make social issues a “central tenet of their campaign.

“I’m a Republican, but I’m not stupid,” [Romney supporter C.J.] Peterson said. “If they want to use those issues as a wedge to get voters to support them, I’m not really attracted to that.”

But some of the comments that follow are politically disheartening. Anyone who has followed the Blend, the Blade or any of the blogs and media covering the advance and setbacks in LGBT rights knows that the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was not a “gimme” or foregone conclusion. From the Obama administration dragging its feet, to the HRC playing a sadly passive role in pressuring for action until after GetEqual and activists directly involved in repeal efforts brought the fight to allow open service into the media spotlight the ups and downs were well chronicled.

Now take this view of DADT repeal expressed by gay Iowan caucus-goer:

Peterson took a dig at Obama, saying he’s been paying lip service to the LGBT community and that one of his major accomplishments — repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — “just kind of came to him.”

“It was basically Senators [Susan Collins] and Joe Lieberman who said they were getting this done at the end of the year,” Peterson said. “What ended up happening is a great victory for us in the sense that LGBT Americans can now serve their country in uniform. That’s a great thing, but I don’t really credit that to President Obama.”

Yes, the Obama administration does deserve credit for finally pushing it through after the Pentagon report was issued, but the repeal didn’t “just kind of come to him.” I have no idea where this revisionist thinking is coming from, but it isn’t what the record shows. Perhaps Peterson should also tune into HBO’s “The Strange History Of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” for a little primer on recent history.

While that tidbit was disappointing, the next quote is a numbing blow for a gay man living in a state with marriage equality that is still at risk of being rolled back.

“I don’t know if it’s because I’ve always lived in Iowa, and Iowa is one of the states where you can be married,” Coffin said. “With the amount of rights that gay people have right now, I feel totally comfortable with what we have.”

While Iowa has achieved marriage equality, if a Republican administration succeeds in passing a Federal Marriage Amendment as many of the candidates have promised, the measure would abrogate the 2009 court ruling allowing gay couples to marry in the state.

Well, damn, Mr. Coffin — this sounds like the old “pull up the ladder and leave the rest of us in states with ZERO rights behind” mantra. He thinks that it’s just fine and dandy for the rest of us to suffer under a GOP administration promising to persecute LGBTs as policy.

I can’t believe how comfortable some of these young Republicans are, who seem to be convinced that the rights they have gained cannot be legislated (or voted) away, even as it occurred in other states as we speak.

No one is saying that LGBTs need to be single-issue voters — many in the community are among the unemployed waiting for the economy to improve. But embracing any candidate with anti-gay views and building a base of support based on those views is clearly unacceptable. And besides, Romney, the current Clown Car leader and the current President don’t support marriage equality.

Marriage equality may be at the top of some LGBT’s list of issues, but by far, ENDA would affect and help many more people, and allow them to come out of the closet to fight for their rights in the open. I wonder what those five young gay Republican Iowans think about that? They should know this, living in flyover country, but as you can see, it’s easy, even in those states, for some to get jaded and want to pull that ladder up.


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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding