The newest entry in the field of Republican presidential hopefuls — and current front-runner in the GOP field — has signed his name to an anti-gay pledge to oppose same-sex marriage if elected to the White House.
On Friday, the National Organization for Marriage announced Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who earlier this month officially declared his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, had penned his name to a document committing himself to various initiatives in opposition to same-sex marriage.
In a statement, Brian Brown, NOM’s president, praised Perry and called the thrice-elected Texas governor a “marriage champion” for signing the pledge.
“By doing so, Perry makes crystal clear that, contrary to the conventional wisdom, gay marriage is going to be a bigger issue in 2012 than it was in 2008, because the difference between the GOP nominee and President Obama is going to be large and clear,” Brown said. “We look forward to demonstrating that being for marriage is a winning position for a presidential candidate.”
The Perry campaign didn’t immediately respond to the Washington Blade’s request to comment on the candidate’s signing of the pledge.
Other Republican presidential candidates signed the pledge prior to Perry’s entry into the race: former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania Rick Santorum and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). NOM asserted that former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty had also agreed to sign his name to the pledge, but he has since exited the race.
By signing the document, Perry commits upon election as president to undertake several initiatives against same-sex marriage:
* supporting congressional passage and sending to the states a U.S. constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage throughout the country;
* defending in court the Defense of Marriage of Act, a 1996 law that prohibit federal recognition of same-sex marriage;
* appointing judges and a U.S. attorney general who “will respect the original meaning” of the U.S. Constitution;
* supporting legislation allowing D.C. residents to vote on whether or not to abrogate the district’s same-sex marriage law;
* and appointing a presidential commission to “investigate harassment of traditional marriage supporters.”
Michael Cole-Schwartz, spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, said Perry’s signature on the anti-gay pledge demonstrates his presidency would be bad news for LGBT Americans.
“Rick Perry’s alignment with NOM and their McCarthy-esque pledge is yet further evidence that a President Perry would be terrible for LGBT equality,” Cole-Schwartz said.
Perry has long been opponent of same-sex marriage. In 2005, he helped pass a state constitutional amendment in Texas banning gay nuptials and civil unions. This year, after initially saying he was “fine” with New York legalizing same-sex marriage, Perry later reiterated support for a Federal Marriage Amendment, which would rescind the Empire State’s marriage law and prohibit same-sex marriage throughout the country.
Since officially entering the race, Perry has become leader in the polls among the Republican presidential candidates. Several polls have shown him with double-digit leads.
According to a Gallup poll published on Wednesday, Perry is 11 points ahead of other prospective Republican presidential candidates. Twenty-nine percent of responders said they’re most likely to support Perry, with Romney next, at 17 percent.
Similarly, according to data published Wednesday from Public Policy Polling, Perry has a full-third of responders’ support among Republican voters. Romney trailed behind with 13 points and Bachmann had 16 percent.
Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling, said in a statement Perry’s lead could be temporary because he’s just entered the race, but added the significant lead he has over other candidates may indicate he’ll stay on top longer.
“There have been a lot of flavors of the month in the Republican Presidential race and it’s possible that Rick Perry is just another of those,” Debnam said. “But his support right now is stronger than Michele Bachmann or Herman Cain or Donald Trump or Mike Huckabee’s ever was which suggests he should have more staying power.”
Sean Theriault, who’s gay and a political scientist at University of Texas, Austin, said LGBT people should be “fearful” of Perry’s lead in the polls because the Texas governor on marriage is ”at least two steps to the right on this issue than [former President] George W. Bush.”
“If LGBT folks are disappointed in [President] Obama’s lack of progress on LGBT issues, they just don’t understand how politics works,” Theriault said. “To have a friend, who isn’t willing to go all the way to marriage, yet, in the White House is much, much, much better than having an opponent. I’m not certain that Perry would prioritize our issues as much as a President Bachmann, but I think the difference between them on the issues would be marginal at best.”
LGBT people have expressed disappointment with Obama for not being in favor of same-sex marriage — although he once voiced support for gay nuptials in 1996 questionnaire response and suggested his views on marriage could “evolve.” Obama has opposed a Federal Marriage Amendment and, starting this year, has litigated with LGBT advocates against DOMA in court.