October 6, 2011 at 7:10 am EDT | by Chris Johnson
Cain ignites firestorm with remarks on gays

Herman Cain (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain made headlines this week, after saying that homosexuality is a choice, just as a new poll showed him moving into a tie for second place for the GOP nomination.

Cain, former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, came under fire from LGBT advocates for indicating on Tuesday he believes people can choose their sexual orientation.

During an appearance on ABC’s “The View,” when asked by host Joy Behar whether he believes being gay is a choice, Cain replied, “Yes.”

“Well, you show me the science that it’s not and I’ll be persuaded,” Cain said. “Right now it’s my opinion against the opinions of others who feel differently. That’s just a difference of opinions.”

Cain’s remarks ignited a firestorm among many LGBT groups who called on the presidential hopeful — as well as other GOP candidates — to repudiate his remarks.

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement that Cain’s remarks are “frankly, jaw-dropping and certainly unbecoming of a presidential hopeful.”

“Leading medical organizations, including the American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association, all speak with a loud and clear voice — implying that someone’s sexual orientation can be chosen or changed is dangerous,” Solmonese said.

Solmonese said HRC is eager to connect Cain with medical professionals at these association to guide him through the basic science he said he seeks.

Jack Drescher, a distinguished fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and a member of the DSM-5 Workgroup on sexual and gender identity disorders, said he’s willing to meet with Cain to talk about the medical aspects of the issue.

“Herman Cain’s opinion that being gay is a choice has no basis in current scientific thinking,” Drescher said. “Not only is homosexuality ‘not a choice,’ as most efforts to try and change a person’s sexual orientation fail, but some attempts to change can cause harm and damage to an individual’s well-being.”

LGBT groups representing conservative and Republican interests had different takes on Cain’s remarks.

R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, also criticized Cain and said the organization would be happy to show him the science proving sexual orientation isn’t a choice.

“An individual’s orientation is no more a choice than the color of his skin or whether he is left-handed, and too many people have been hurt because of failed attempts to change the way they were born,” Cooper said.

But Chris Barron, chair of GOProud, defended Cain and said his remarks don’t reflect the candidate’s true position on LGBT issues.

“The attacks levied by the gay left and their allies at Log Cabin against Mr. Cain are despicable,” Cain said. “My partner and I have sat down with Herman Cain and talked with him about issues that are important to gay people, and I can tell you first hand that anyone or any organization that claims that Herman Cain is anti-gay is simply lying or doesn’t know the man at all.”

The attacks on Cain come as a new Washington Post/ABC News poll published Tuesday finds him gaining ground among the GOP candidates, with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney once again at the head of the pack.

Among responders who leaned Republican, Romney led the pack with 21 points and Cain was tied with Texas Gov. Rick Perry at 14 points. Among all registered voters, Romney led with 20 points while Cain and Perry both had 15 points.

Once the front-runner upon his entry into the race, Perry is now tied for second-place with Cain. The Washington Post reported Perry’s slide comes after “several uneven performances” in presidential debates and in response to renewed media emphasis on immigration policies in his state. In Texas, colleges allow the children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates.

Sean Theriault, a gay political scientist at the University of Texas, Austin, dismissed a reading of the poll as showing new strength for Romney.

Theriault noted Romney’s numbers hadn’t changed since earlier polling and the Massachusetts governor is only ahead now because of falling numbers for Perry.

“Perry is not doomed,” Theriault said. “Quite the contrary. A strong debate performance, a couple of good weeks of positive news and he’d be back on top. Romney’s numbers have been at 25 since the day he dropped out of the Republican primary in 2008. That’s a pretty strong ceiling effect.”

In related news, two high-profile Republicans who were thought to be possible entries in the presidential race officially announced they wouldn’t seek the nomination in 2012.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the GOP vice-presidential nominee in 2008, announced in a letter to supporters on Wednesday that she wouldn’t seek the nomination for the White House in 2012.

“I believe that at this time I can be more effective in a decisive role to help elect other true public servants to office from the nation’s governors to congressional seats and the presidency,” Palin said.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also announced this week that he wouldn’t join the pack of Republican candidates seeking to oust President Obama from the White House.

“Now is not my time,” said Christie at a news conference in Trenton, N.J., adding, “New Jersey, whether you like it or not, you’re stuck with me.”

Christie is reviled by many LGBT rights supporters for having pledged to veto any legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage in New Jersey.

But in January, Christie signed into law one of the nation’s strongest anti-bullying bills. The law was inspired by the death of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi, who committed suicide after his roommate secretly recorded a sexual encounter he had with another man.


Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

  • This is facinating. The gay community is furious at Cain for suggesting that homosexuality is a choice. But why? I thought it was supposed to be something to be proud of. Why would you be upset if someone told you it was choice if it was the *right* choice? You’re incenced because someone suggested you made a good choice?

    It sounds to me like they are saying, “How dare you suggest this “affliction” was my choice?” instead of, You’re right it was the right choice, and I’m proud of it”


    • When presidential candidates convince their followers that gays have chosen to be gay, then it lessens any guilt from taking away gay people’s rights. By saying it’s a choice, they shift the burden of blame from themselves for denying us our rights to gays because if it’s a choice we can simply choose to be straight and enjoy all the benefits they deny us.

      That’s why were upset.

      • You’re answer acually makes sense, unlike the other emotional ones. Almost all the others claim scientific proof that this is physiological. Am I missing something? Matbe it is, and maybe it isn’t.
        But I’ve looked around, and I still haven’t found any evidence of a “gay” gene being discovered.

    • Because it is a lie that promotes, and gives fuel to, the haters… are you too ignorant to understand that?

    • You are quite misguided,, homosexuality is not a choice, just as heterosexuality is not a choice. it is GENETIC…do your research before you spew hatred

    • because it simply is *not* a choice, and there is ample scientific knowledge to back up this statement.

    • I find it fascinating that you’re so interested in this that you read a gay paper and make comments. There is no contradiction in saying it’s not a choice, but if it were, there’d be nothing wrong with it. Adulterers and fornicators should be put to death according your favorite book Leviticus, but we don’t do it or say adulterers don’thave the same rights as others. And that really is a choice.

      • I commented because it was about Cain and it was a random article selected by Google. I didn’t even know it was a gay newspaper. Ewwww.

        And sorry, but my favorite book would be on military history or something along those lines.

    • I don’t agree with this statement at all. The reason gays and others are angered by this statement is the fact that he is talking about something he obviously has no knowledge of. It’s like saying “I choose to wear a red shirt today” instead of “I’m born with red skin”. We can change what we wear, but we can’t change what we are. If he plans on being president, he’ll have to really think about what he’s saying before he becomes the “Face of America”. Hopefully this is a lesson learned.

    • But Peter, you are missing the point. It’s not about whether Herman Cain is homophobic or not. It’s about his blatant ignorance or his disingenuous pandering to a narrow constituency in the face of conventional wisdom in order to make me look like the bad guy here. Like many, I have fully accepted with much pride that, as a child of God, I am gay, just like I am black, male and five feet eleven. With all of my immutable human characteristics, I have created my life to be the best black, gay, and five feet eleven male that I can be, even in the face of religious demonization social stigma. Of course if Cain and his ilk can convince themselves that it is my choice to be gay (and maybe even black or five feet eleven), then they can blame me, not themselves, for their demonization of me. After all, I can’t be just another child of God, who conforms to his human condition just as each of them claim to do. Cain’s espousal that being homosexual is a conscious choice that flies in the face of conventional wisdom which consents that ones sexual orientation is an innate immutable characteristic of ones human nature just like my brown eyes and my curly hair. It is not about whether any of us made the “right choice ” or not.

      Let’s not give Cain too much credit here however. Like most politicians, no one really knows what Herman Cain really believes accept Herman Cain. He will pander and grovel to the lowest instincts of his political constituency by saying what they want to hear.

  • Scientific thinking not facts, what a joke people just want to have their behavior to not be their fault why this country is failing. Not my fault I got a mortgage I could not or will not pay back and so on and so on.

    • Gays don’t choose their orientation anymore than straight people do. And, by the way, it’s no one’s “fault” that they’re gay. You say it as if it’s a bad thing, and it isn’t.

  • Sounds like Cain is a dangerous man as are all the Repubilcan men and woman.

  • The problem with GOProud is that that the “anyone” saying Herman Cain is anti-gay….IS Herman Cain!

  • @wiick You make your statement as though homosexuality is a bad behavior. It isn’t a bad behavior so why would we make an excuse for it?

    @Peter The reason why we don’t think consider it “the right choice” is due to the fact that it is not a choice at all. Why can people not listen to us or others when we tell you our experience. It is not a choice.

  • I also agree it is choice. I hate Broccoli, so I don’t eat it. Was I “born” hating Broccoli? I don’t think any reasonable person would think that. It has become a habit to immediately dismiss Broccoli. I CHOOSE not to eat it. You experiment in something, you find a comfort zone…a preference, and you keep doing it.

    If I were to put aside my dumb aversion to Broccoli, who knows, maybe I would start liking it….or if my mother made me eat it more of it as a kid, or less. Who knows.

    But I was NOT born with a “Broccoli hating gene”

    If you’re raised on “Hetero Island”, you’re gonna be straight.
    If you are raised on “Gay Island” you’re gonna be gay.

    • I was raised on your so called ‘hetero island’ but I am gay. So much for that stupid theory. Being gay is not a choice, it is who you are. And, yes, I am proud of that fact. By the way, I am a health care professional, and you have no clue to what you are talking about.

      • Heath care professional or not. You cannot cite a shred of real evidence that *proves* you are born gay any more than I can prove you are not. So you’re opinion is as much theory as mine.

        • Maybe one actually has be gay to understand it, but it definitely is NOT a choice. I did not choose to be attracted to men. If fact, I struggled with it for a long time…even hated myself for it. Why the hell would I choose that? Now I accept it…I’m gay…I did not choose it…I just am. Did you make a choice to be heterosexual? I doubt it…you just are.

    • This is absolute horse puckey! WOW!! “..raised on a “Gay Island”.. vs “hetero Island”. Where did yoiu come up with this dribble.

  • Many respectable people do still legally refer homosexuality it as a sexual “preference” which suggests that a “choice” is being made. Certainly bi-sexuals (the B in LGBT) give some basis to the idea that homosexuality for some is something they freely choose. We should respect choice even though some may find more comfort in the idea that we are hard-wired.

    Leave Herman Cain alone. He’s the most entertaining GOPer we have now that Palin fell the F off. TheBlade and the LGBT communities across the country should be more circumspect and support Obama on issues outside of narrow LGBT concerns (ie: economic solutions, jobs strategies, healthcare, energy and the environment — eeGLeeBeeTees need jobs, breath air, use fuel too) if we are going to win in 2012.

  • After all it is his personal opinion and everyone is entitle to that..

  • Sexual orientation is essentially “hard-wired” by Nature. in that respect, Mr. Cain in dead wrong when he says that homosexuality is a choice.

    But many gay activists are equally wrong when they say that sexual orientation is unalterable. It is, in fact, fluid and can be influenced by changes in one’s social environment and by aging.

    I am living proof of this. I’m a 58-year-old bisexual man who’s been erotically attracted to other males since I was 14. I was also attracted to females when I was a teenager, but the AC side of my AC/DC sexual orientation fell dormant by the time of my senior year in high school at age 18 and my DC side predominated for the next 22 years.

    Then when I turned 40, my AC side re-awakened. Today, 18 years later, I’m more AC than DC, due to the fact that I now live in a rural area far from the gay urban centers. My longest relationship was with a man that lasted 21 years (and whom I still love dearly to this day, in spite of our having gone our separate ways in 2006). Today, I’m married to a woman, but my wife and I maintain an open marriage, as we are both bisexual.

  • I have to wonder what Mr. Cain would reply to a comment that states that he’s black by choice. He could take the proper drugs and become white just as Michael Jackson did. Then he wouldn’t be one of those immoral black people. I suspect he would be outraged and then we could point out why we object to this nonsense based on Bible bullshit.

  • Once more, the homophobes at GOProud excuse away any anti-gay statement from the republican candidates. They practically begged Michelle Bachmann to meet with them despite her refusal. Lapdogs, all of them, to the homophobes of the republican party.

    • If being gay is hard-wired, and some here seem to be fairly convincing of that, then you must accept what you label “homo-phobia” as well. You can’t have it both ways.

      I was “hard-wired” a certain way myself. No one taught me to feel that homo-sexuality was distasteful…I just naturally feel that way. No one raised me to feel repulsed by it…it’s just how I feel.

      Look. I wish no harm to anyone. But I also resent being made out a bigot for not accepting a lifestyle which disgusts me. I’m tired of all the “in your face” promotion of homo-sexuality by the media and Hollywood these days. What you do on your own is your business, but I resent you trying to make it mine.

      So if you want us “phobes” to accept there’s nothing you can do about it, accept there’s nothing we can do to change the way it makes US feel.

      You can’t change your behavior, but I’m required to. That’s bull.

    • I took the time to reply, but it sems this newspaper decides for itself which views to print, and which to supresso. So I’ m done here.

  • It is obvious to the proverbial blind man. Cain is some sort of a church preacher, deacon or bishop. You can hear it in his voice, see it in his body language. I call a spade a spade. This type will NEVER hear anything that does not agree with fixed dogmatic religious interpretation of the bible. So his invitation to bring him “the science” is a rouse. That is why when he is actually questioned on the subject, he has no answer. He then dodges the question altogether by saying, “Next question please”. The more one is deeply bound to organized religion, the lower the genuine intelligence of that person. These two are diametrically apposed to one another.

  • Peter asks — out of ignorance — why Cain is criticized for saying that homosexuality is a choice, and then Peter goes on to — again, ignorantly — repeat the same mistake.

    Orientation and identity are not a choice.

    Cain gets criticized because he’s wrong, and because he lamely says “show me the science” as if he already knows that there isn’t any science, when, in fact, many studies for many years have linked biology to orientation.

    The factors that already linked biology with orientation include: female fertility, fraternal birth order, orientation among twins, brain hemisphere size, hypothalamus size, brain area INAH-3, fluoxetine intake, suprachiasmatic nucleus, sex pheromone brain reaction, brain amygdala activity, left-handedness/ambidextrousness (more likely among homosexuals), counterclockwise men’s hair whirl (23% among gays, 8% among straights), women’s finger length ratio, Caucasian men’s limb/hand length compared to height, penis size (slightly longer, thicker penises in gays), reaction to men’s sweat aroma, eye blink after loud sound, verbal fluency (higher among homosexuals), object location memory in males (better among gays), hearing, vocal pitch, eye blinks, stress, and X chromosomes.

    While the exact mechanisms and relationships need further definition, it remains undeniable that biology before birth is linked to orientation afterward.

    Homophobes often say “there’s no gay gene” as their only evidence that orientation/identity are a choice. But they’re wrong. Temporarily being unable to identify any genetic cause is irrelevant, because other factors have already linked biology to orientation. Genetic evidence may be identified later, or maybe never, but that no longer matters, as the biological link is already proven.

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