Two black conservatives are urging the Republican Party to emphasize social issues — such as opposition to same-sex marriage — to build appeal for the GOP among racial minority groups.
Bishop Harry Jackson of the Hope Christian Church, known for leading efforts against legalizing same-sex marriage in D.C., and Rev. Michael Faulkner, author of “Restoring the American Dream,” called for greater attention to social issues at the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference in D.C.
During a panel titled “Traditional Marriage and Society,” Jackson said the conservative movement has “an opportunity to engage a multi-racial, multi-cultural group of people,” but only if the Republican Party doesn’t throw social issues “under the bus.”
“Whether I like the GOP or not, whether I like Republicans or not, there is no other party now that really is advocating any of the social issues that are consistent with my faith,” Jackson said.
Faulkner, who campaigned against Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), said conservatives need to develop their message to racial minorities because they are ready to support the conservative movement.
“As I campaigned, especially in Latino churches, I was required before the pastor would allow me to speak to give my position on same-sex marriage and on abortion,” Faulkner said. “So they are staunch conservatives, probably more conservative than we are.”
Jackson spoke out against the advancement of marriage rights for gay couples and said it would interfere with parents’ rights in children’s education.
“If you change marriage, you redefine the family; if you redefine the family, you redefine parenting; if you redefine parenting, you must of necessity, redefine education, and in that redefinition, that’s where we get ‘Heather Has Two Mommies’ and a generation of kids as young as five-years-old are told that they are to be gay allies in the State of California,” Jackson said.
Faulker also railed against the advancement of gay nuptials and said pressure to be politically correct can’t change marriage.
“We need to stand for traditional marriage,” Faulkner said. “Not just stand against anyone else, but to stand for our society, stand for our culture, stand for our nation, stand for the children and the families in our nation. If we do not, we will indeed destroy ourselves.”
One LGBT rights group, on the other hand, says that Republicans must continue emphasizing fiscal issues as opposed to social issues to win support among the American public.
R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, said the focus of most conservatives is the economy as some within the movement continue to rail against same-sex marriage.
“There are going to be members of the conservative movement who are still going to hold social issues as their No. 1 focus, but what we saw at CPAC this last year was that was not the primary focus,” Cooper said.
Cooper pointed to the results of CPAC straw poll, which showed that same-sex marriage wasn’t a major concern among attendees.
Support for “protecting tradional marriage” was a priority for 3 percent of straw poll responders. Meanwhile, 53 percent of attendees said reducing the size of the federal government was a priority and 38 percent said reducing government spending was a priority.
Also during the panel discussion, Tom Minnery, senior president of government and public policy for CitizenLink, offered statistics that he said demonstrate countries with same-sex marriage are worse off than places that deny marriage rights to gay couples. LGBT advocates have long disputed the statistical accuracy of Minnery’s work.
Minnery said responders to a survey were asked whether married people were happier in countries with varying levels of relationship recognition for same-sex couples.
According to Minnery, in countries with same-sex marriage, 21 percent of responders said married people were happier; in countries with civil unions; 36 percent say married people are happier; in countries with only regional recognition, 42 percent of people said married people were happier; and in countries with no same-sex marriage, the respect for marriage “goes high.”
For another question on whether children need both a mother and a father to be happy, Minnery said 76 percent of responders said “yes” in countries with same-sex marriage; 80 percent of responders said “yes” in nations with regional recognition; and 93.8 percent of responders said “yes” in countries with no same-sex marriage.
“As the marriage culture in a country declines, the respect for marriage and the belief in its power also declines,” Minnery said. “That’s why our organization continues to believe if this country loses our marriage culture, we’re headed for a lot of trouble.”
In response, Gary Gates, a scholar at the Williams Institute, a think tank on sexual orientation law at the University of California, Los Angeles, said that in the United States, divorce rates are lower in places where same-sex marriage is legal.
“That doesn’t directly say people are quote, happier, but heterosexual relationships are more stable in places where same-sex couples can get married,” Gates said.
According to data last year from U.S. Census Bureau, in Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage has been legal since 2003, the divorce rate is 1.8 percent — the lowest in the nation.
With regard to statistics on having a mother and father being important for children, Gates said just because people have that belief doesn’t make it true.
“I just saw a report today: 50 percent of Republicans believe that Obama isn’t a natural-born citizen,” Gates said. ”Because people believe it, doesn’t make it true.”