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Gingrich rebound troubles LGBT advocates

Former House speaker vaults to top of field: poll

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Newt Gingrich, Republican Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A new candidate is rising in the polls among Republicans seeking the White House, but the presidential contender’s anti-gay views aren’t winning him friends in the LGBT community.

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich — who earned a reputation during his tenure in Congress as the bane of the Clinton administration — has claimed the title of new favorite son among Republicans, according to a new poll.

Public Policy Polling reports that Gingrich leads among Republican voters with 28 percentage points. Following him is former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain at 25 points and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at 18 percent. Compared to a month ago, Gingrich has risen 13 points while Cain has dropped by 5 points and Romney has gone down by 4.

Cain enjoyed front-runner status a month ago, but has seen a precipitous drop in the polls after allegations emerged that he sexually harassed  in the 1990s at least two women while head of the National Restaurant Association, although the candidate has denied any wrongdoing. NBC News reported that at least one of these women received a cash settlement from the organization.

Whether Gingrich will remain at the top of the pack remains to be seen. Other candidates —including Cain, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) — have been at the top of the polls, but have since fallen, while Romney’s numbers remain relatively stable.

Jerame Davis, interim executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats, said Gingrich’s ascendance shows “the Republican primary field is in disarray” and “the GOP base is desperately searching for a standard bearer with little success.”

“It is preposterous to think that Gingrich, a serial philanderer and the only Speaker of the House of Representatives ever reprimanded for ethics violations, would become a nominee for president of the United States for any political party — let alone be elected president,” Davis said.

Davis added the LGBT community “should be particularly concerned about the possibility of a Gingrich presidency” because the candidate “is openly hostile toward LGBT rights.”

Speaking at a campaign event in Iowa in September, Gingrich called marriage equality “a temporary aberration that will dissipate,” according to the Des Moines Register. In the 2010 election, Gingrich reportedly contributed $150,000 of money he raised for his political group to the campaign to oust three Iowa justices who ruled in favor of same-sex marriage in 2009.

Gingrich has been critical of judges ruling in favor of marriage. During his speech before the 2011 Values Voter Summit in D.C., Gingrich denounced retired U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker for ruling against Proposition 8 in California, saying if judges “think that they are unchallengeable, they are inevitably corrupted.”

The former House speaker cited as an example of this corruption “one judge in California deciding he knows more than 8 million Californians about the definition of marriage.”

Vaughn’s ruling against California’s same-sex marriage ban in 2010 prompted Gingrich to call on Congress to send to the states a U.S. constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage throughout the country.

“Congress now has the responsibility to act immediately to reaffirm marriage as a union of one man and one woman as our national policy,” Gingrich said at the time.

Gingrich has also been critical of Obama’s decision to drop the defense of the Defense of Marriage Act in court. In February, Gingrich called on the U.S. House to retaliate against Obama after the administration declared the anti-gay law was unconstitutional and suggested the president could be impeached over the decision.

“I believe the House Republicans next week should pass a resolution instructing the president to enforce the law and to obey his own constitutional oath,” Gingrich said, “and they should say if he fails to do so that they will zero out [defund] the office of attorney general and take other steps as necessary until the president agrees to do his job.”

Asked by Newsmax TV whether President Obama could be subject to articles of impeachment, Gingrich said, “Clearly it is a dereliction of duty and a violation of his constitutional oath and is something that cannot be allowed to stand.”

Gingrich holds these views even though he has a lesbian sister: Candace Gingrich. An activist with the Human Rights Campaign, she served in the 1990s as the spokesperson for the organization’s coming out project.

R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the National Log Cabin Republicans, maintained Gingrich has held “more nuanced” positions on LGBT issues than some may think and pointed to an interview the speaker did with the conservative American View.

“Regarding marriage, Gingrich helped author DOMA in the 1990s, but now lines up with many conservative voters in that he believes there should be some sort of relationship recognition,” Cooper said.

In the interview, Gingrich said he favors “some kind of legal rights” for LGBT people and backs hospital visitation rights, although he doesn’t know how he feels about civil unions. Cooper said Gingrich articulated similar comments on hospital rights to him personally.

“Regarding gay Americans, the former House speaker has also noted to fellow conservatives, ‘there are many good and kind and decent people who also may be homosexual’ and that ‘you live in a very narrow world if you’ve never met one,'” Cooper said. “Like many Americans, Newt Gingrich remains conflicted on these issues.”

But the biggest complaints about Gingrich from the LGBT community resulted from his role as House speaker in the late 1990s.

Elizabeth Birch, a Democratic consultant who was head of the Human Rights Campaign from 1995 to 2004, said Gingrich’s relationship with the LGBT community at that time left much to be desired.

“He was 100 percent uncooperative in moving any legislation, concepts or ideas that would advance LGBT equality during the years I was at the Human Rights Campaign,” Birch said.

Birch said HRC privately met with Gingrich and he was “courteous” in conservations, but she added “the truth is he’s one of those monolithic political blocks to advancement because he will always serve ideology over humanity.”

According to HRC, Gingrich — before he became speaker in 1995 — voted in favor of the putting in place the recently repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law and in favor of legislation to defund D.C.’s domestic partner registry.

But perhaps Gingrich’s signature anti-gay achievement was passage of DOMA, the statute that continues to prohibit federal recognition of same-sex marriage.

Birch recalled that Gingrich by virtue of his position as speaker had a significant role in the passage of the anti-gay law, which was signed by Clinton in 1996.

“Just by virtue of his station at the time, he was instrumental in having that pass very quickly and efficiently,” Birch said.

Bob Barr, the former Republican U.S. House member who sponsored the bill, and Clinton, who signed the bill into law, now say DOMA should be repealed, but Gingrich still backs the statute.

“That’s who he is,” Birch said. “He was always, always adjusting his plans, his actions and his goals to the right of the party.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misstated the year in which Gingrich became speaker. The Washington Blade regrets the error.

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. wayne

    November 16, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    I am pleased that Gingrich, who is on his third marriage, vowed to “protect the sanctity” of marriage !

  2. I'm Just Sayin'

    November 16, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    LCR boasts on their FB page, that they are “once again the voice of reason” when it comes to Gingrich and his views on LGBT equality, but Mr. Cooper’s comments seem more a kin to a “voice of acquiescence.” Perhaps if LCR demanded more from the current GOP field or Republican leadership, they might have to do less equivocating. If Cooper has a 2012 campaign strategy, he really should try to look less desperate in how he employs it. Gingrich has done nothing to earn even tacit support from the LGBT community, so why would LCR diminish itself by defending such a flawed candidate over a few scraps? If you’re happy eating off the floor, do you really think somebody is going to offer you a seat at the table?

  3. laurelboy2

    November 16, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    Fear not. He’s a brilliant man. I’d welcome him as president. Talk about someone who can kick some derriere…. He may be just what this country needs right now.

  4. Tracy

    November 17, 2011 at 10:40 am

    Like this guy knows the definition of marriage?? Newt Gingrich: Former Speaker of the House, Thought of as a (fundamentally) intelligent person. Kinda fails the family values test. If you don’t already know he’s been married 3 times. He divorced his 1st wife to marry the woman he was having an affair with, while his wife was in the hospital. Funny thing he divorced his 2nd wife to marry, wait for it… a woman he was having an affair with notice a pattern. So you would think he would be a non-starter for social conservatives.
    But he did help engineer the “Contract with America” in 1994. It brought the republicans to power, in the house, for the first time in 40 years. He was speaker when during the good old days of balanced budgets, but he really can’t take too much credit, because of a little thing called PAYGO which was part of the Budget Enforcement Act of 1990. Paygo was a budget rule requiring that, relative to current law, any tax cuts or entitlement and other mandatory spending increases must be paid for by a tax increase or a cut in mandatory spending. The legislation must be paid for over two time periods: 1) the period of the current year, the budget year and the ensuing four fiscal years, and 2) the period of the current year, the budget year and the ensuing nine fiscal years. So they really had no choice. He is also blamed for shutting down the government in 1995-1996 when President Clinton called his bluff by vetoing a spending bill that cut funding for Medicare, education, the environment, and public health. He later helped to impeach the President, while having an affair at the same time (multi-tasker). Mr. Gingrich’s national approval rating was 45% (look familiar) in April 1998. He resigned in 1999. Remember the “simple solutions for complex problems” I mentioned earlier, His ideas look good at first glance but when you really flesh them out… Here’s an easy example. His 527 organization ‘American Solutions for Winning the Future’ came up with “Drill Here. Drill Now. Pay Less”. Sounds good until you realize it takes years for a well-site to begin producing, if it ever does, and that oil is sold on the world market, not in a U.S. only market. Drill here, doesn’t mean, stays here. And as long as there is OPEC, and speculators, we will never control of the price of oil. He’s also been writing semi-historical works of fiction. Which also sounds like his plans to govern our nation.

  5. Lee

    November 17, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    Don’t forget the time Newt Gingrich said in a New York Times interview that homosexuality is “an orientation in the way that alcoholism is an orientation.”

    (BTW, he became Speaker in January 1995, not in 1993.)

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National

Does a potential overturn of Roe imperil LGBTQ rights?

Some fear that Obergefell marriage decision could fall

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Protests outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1. (Photo by Cathy Renna)

The oral arguments before the justices of the United States Supreme Court had barely ended in the case brought by the state of Mississippi defending its law banning abortion after 15 weeks, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, when alarms were set off in legal circles as some argued that Obergefell v. Hodges — the same-sex marriage decision — would be in danger should the high court rule to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Florida State University law professor Mary Ziegler, appearing on NPR’s ‘Heard on All Things Considered,’ told host Mary Louise Kelly that there was a basis for concern over whether the court would actually overrule its precedents in other cases based on the questions and statements raised during the hearing by the conservative members of the court.

Asked by Kelly if she saw a legal door opening Ziegler affirmed that she did. Kelly then asked her, “Them taking up cases to do with that. What about same-sex marriage?”

Ziegler answered, “Yeah, same-sex marriage is definitely a candidate. Justices Alito and Thomas have in passing mentioned in dicta that they think it might be worth revisiting Obergefell v. Hodges – the same-sex marriage decision.

“And I think it’s fair to say that in the sort of panoply of culture war issues, that rights for same-sex couples and sexual orientation are still among the most contested, even though certainly same-sex marriage is more subtle than it was and than abortion was.

“I think that certainly the sort of balance between LGBTIQ rights and religious liberty writ large is a very much alive issue, and I think some states may try to test the boundaries with Obergefell, particularly knowing that they have a few justices potentially willing to go there with them.”

As almost if to underscore the point raised by Ziegler during the hearing, Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia M. Sotomayor pointed out that the high court has taken and “discerned” certain rights in cases from the Constitution.

Along with abortion, the court has “recognized them in terms of the religion parents will teach their children. We’ve recognized it in their ability to educate at home if they choose,” Sotomayor said. “We have recognized that sense of privacy in people’s choices about whether to use contraception or not. We’ve recognized it in their right to choose who they’re going to marry.”

In following up the cases cited by Justice Sotomayor, Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett asked Mississippi Solicitor General Scott Stewart, who was defending the state’s abortion law, whether a decision in his favor would affect the legal precedents in those cases cited by Justice Sotomayor.

In his answer to Justice Barrett, the state’s Solicitor General said cases involving contraception, same-sex marriage and sodomy wouldn’t be called into question because they involve “clear rules that have engendered strong reliance interests and that have not produced negative consequences or all the many other negative stare decisis considerations we pointed out.”

However, Lambda Legal Chief Strategy Officer and Legal Director, Sharon McGowan had a different take and interpreted remarks by Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh to mean that the decisions in Lawrence v. Texas, which decriminalized private sexual intimacy between same-sex couples, and Obergefell v. Hodges, which struck down remaining bans on the freedom of same-sex couples to marry, would actually justify overturning Roe v. Wade.

In a publicly released media statement McGowan noted: “During today’s argument, Justice Kavanaugh suggested that two key Supreme Court decisions protecting LGBTQ civil rights—Lawrence v. Texas and Obergefell v. Hodges—support overruling Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

‘To that we say, NOT IN OUR NAME. LGBTQ people need abortions. Just as important, those landmark LGBTQ decisions EXPANDED individual liberty, not the opposite. They reflected the growing societal understanding of our common humanity and equality under law.

“Just as the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education rejected the lie of ‘separate but equal,’ the Supreme Court’s decisions in Lawrence and Obergefell appropriately overruled precedent where it was clear that, as was true with regard to race, our ancestors failed properly to acknowledge that gender and sexual orientation must not be barriers to our ability to live, love, and thrive free of governmental oppression. … 

“These landmark LGBTQ cases, which Lambda Legal litigated and won, and on which we rely today to protect our community’s civil rights, were built directly on the foundation of Casey and Roe. Our interests in equal dignity, autonomy, and liberty are shared, intertwined, and fundamental.” 

On Sunday, the Blade spoke with Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national LGBTQ+ legal organization that represented three same-sex couples from Tennessee, whose case was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court along with Obergefell and two other cases.

Minter is urging caution in how people interpret the court arguments and remarks made by the justices.

“We should be cautious about taking the bait from anti-LGBTQ groups who falsely argue that if the Supreme Court reverses or undermines Roe v. Wade, they are likely to reverse or undermine Obergefell or Lawrence. In fact, that is highly unlikely, as the argument in Dobbs itself showed,” he said.

“The only reason Justice Kavanaugh mentioned Obergefell and Lawrence, along with Brown v. Board of Education, was to cite them as examples of cases in which the Supreme Court clearly did the right thing. All of those decisions rely at least as strongly on equal protection as on fundamental rights, and even this extremely conservative Supreme Court has not questioned the foundational role of equal protection in our nation’s constitutional law,” Minter stressed.

During an interview with Bloomberg magazine, David Cortman, of the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based anti-LGBTQ legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, which has been listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an extremist hate group, said “two things in particular distinguish abortion from those other privacy rights: the right to life and the states’ interest in protecting a child.”

Cortman, whose group urged the justices to allow states to ban same-sex marriages, said those other rights may be just as wrong as the right to an abortion. “But the fundamental interest in life that’s at issue in abortion means those other rights are probably not in any real danger of being overturned.”

But Cortman is of the opinion that there is little impetus among the court’s conservatives to take up challenges to those cases.

However, the fact that the six to three makeup of the high court with a conservative majority has progressives clamoring for the public to pay closer attention and be more proactively engaged.

Kierra Johnson, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, in an emailed statement to the Blade underscored those concerns:

“Reports and analysis coming out of Wednesday’s Supreme Court hearing on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization are extremely disturbing and represent a threat to our individual constitutional rights to privacy and autonomy. There is no ‘middle ground’ on what the Constitution guarantees and what was decided decades ago with the Roe v Wade decision. 

“This is about liberty, equality, and the rule of law, not the political or partisan views of those sitting on the bench. The unprecedented decision to remove a constitutional right recognized by the Supreme Court 50 years ago would set back civil rights by decades. ….

“Abortion access is essential, and a fundamental right under the U.S. Constitution. Bans on abortion are deeply racist and profoundly sexist – the harshest impacts fall on Black and Brown women and pregnant people and on our families and communities.

“If you think this decision will not affect you, think again: a wrong decision by the Supreme Court means you, too, will lose your bodily autonomy, your ability to own your own personal and community power. This is not just about abortion; it is about controlling bodies based on someone else determining your worthiness. This is a racial justice issue. This is a women’s issue. It is an LGBTQ issue. It is a civil rights issue. These are our fundamental rights that are at stake.”

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Minnesota

Minnesota middle school principal ousted for displaying Pride flag

Critics ramped up attacks on the career educator- some compared her to the Devil after publicly associating with LGBTQ+ people and students

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Screenshot via Marshall Public Schools, YouTube Channel

MARSHALL, Mn. — A former middle school principal in Minnesota who lost her job after displaying a Pride flag alleges in a federal lawsuit that the school system retaliated against her for supporting LGBTQ+ students.

Mary Kay Thomas filed the complaint against Marshall Public Schools in the U.S. District Court of Minnesota Tuesday after anti-LGBTQ+ middle school staff, parents, students and local clergy began efforts to remove the Pride flag that she put up in her middle school’s cafeteria in 2020 as a part of an inclusiveness effort.

According to the lawsuit, Thomas has been a teacher and principal for more than three decades with a long track record of success. She held the principal position at Marshall Middle School for 15 years, receiving contract renewals, pay raises and praise for her performance.

“But when Thomas decided to display an LGBTQ Pride Flag in the school cafeteria in early 2020, everything changed,” reads the complaint. 

Thomas refused to take down the Pride flag as critics ramped up attacks on the career educator. The lawsuit alleges that some even compared her to the Devil after publicly associating with LGBTQ+ people and students. 

“Sadly, the Marshall School District has sided with these critics,” her lawyers wrote. 

What followed was an “escalating series of adverse actions” taken by the Marshall School District, said the lawsuit. She claims that the school targeted her by threatening her employment, conducting a “bad-faith” investigation, putting her on indefinite involuntary leave, suspending her without pay and putting a notice of deficiency in her personnel file. 

The complaint says that the deficiencies were “false, distorted, and/or related to Thomas’s association with members of the LGBTQ community.”

Thomas also claims that the District attempted to get her to quit by removing her as principal and assigning her to a “demeaning ‘special projects’ position.”

At one point, Marshall Public Schools Superintendent Jeremy Williams, who is named as a defendant in the case, told Thomas he could “make this all go away” if she stepped down, according to the complaint. 

The school removed the Pride flag in August 2021 after settling a lawsuit brought by residents who opposed it. 

The Blade reached out to Williams for comment but did not receive a response. However, according to the Marshall Independent, Williams did release a statement on the matter. 

“Marshall Public Schools is committed to the education of every child and has strong policies and practices in place against discrimination, against both students and staff members. The school district is committed to creating a respectful, inclusive, and safe learning and working environment for students, staff and our families,” Williams said. “While the school cannot comment about the specific allegations made in the complaint, the school district strongly denies any allegation of discriminatory conduct. The school will vigorously defend itself against these allegations.”

In addition, Thomas alleges that she resisted unwanted sexual advancements from school board member Bill Swope. She claims she told Williams about the sexual harassment.

As of Thursday, the school has not filed a response, and no hearing has been scheduled yet. 

Thomas is seeking a jury trial, damages and reinstatement as principal of Marshall Middle School.

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National

Matthew Shepard honored at National Cathedral

Daylong services held to mark his 45th birthday

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Matthew Shepard, gay news, Washington Blade
Matthew Shepard Thanksgiving and Celebration at the National Cathedral in 2018. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The parents of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, who was murdered in a 1998 hate crime that drew international attention to anti-LGBTQ violence, were among those attending a day of religious services commemorating Shepard’s 45th birthday on Wednesday at the Washington National Cathedral.

The services, which the Cathedral organized in partnership with the Matthew Shepard Foundation, included tributes to Shepard at the Cathedral’s St. Joseph’s Chapel, where his remains were interred in a ceremony in 2018.  

“Matthew Shepard’s death is an enduring tragedy affecting all people and should serve as an ongoing call to the nation to reject anti-LGBTQ bigotry and instead embrace each of our neighbors for who they are,” the Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, Dean of Washington National Cathedral, said at the time of Shepard’s interment.

“In the years since Matthew’s death, the Shepard family has shown extraordinary courage and grace in keeping his spirit and memory alive, and the Cathedral is honored and humbled to serve as his final resting place,” Hollerith said.

The first of the Cathedral’s Dec. 1 services for Shepard began at 7 a.m. with prayers, scripture readings, and music led by the Cathedral’s Rev. Canon Rosemarie Logan Duncan. The service was live streamed on YouTube.

An online, all-day service was also held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. that Cathedral officials said was intended to “connect people around the world to honor Shepard and the LGBTQ community and pray for a more just world.”

The Shepard services concluded with a 5:30 p.m. in-person remembrance of Shepard in the Cathedral’s Nave, its main worship space. Among those attending were Shepard’s parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, who have said they created the Matthew Shepard Foundation to continue their son’s support for equality for all.

A statement released by the Cathedral says a bronze plaque honoring Matthew Shepard was installed in St. Joseph’s Chapel to mark his final resting place at the time Shepard was interred there in 2018. 
Following the Cathedral’s Dec. 1 services for Shepard, the Adams Morgan gay bar Pitchers hosted a reception for Dennis and Judy Shepard, according to Pitchers’ owner David Perruzza.

One of the two men charged with Shepard’s murder, Russell Henderson, pleaded guilty to the charge after prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty for him. The second of the two men charged, Aaron McKinney, was convicted of the murder following a lengthy jury trial.

Prosecutors said McKinney repeatedly and fatally struck Shepard in the head with the barrel of a handgun after he and Henderson tied Shepard to a wooden fence in a remote field outside Laramie, Wy., on Oct. 6, 1998. Police and prosecutors presented evidence at McKinney’s trial that McKinney and Henderson met Shepard at a bar in Laramie on that day and lured him into their car, where they drove him to the field where authorities said McKinney fatally assaulted him.

Shepard died six days later at a hospital in Ft. Collins, Colo., where he was taken after being found unconscious while still tied to the fence.

In a dramatic courtroom scene following the jury’s guilty verdict for McKinney, Dennis Shepard urged the judge to spare McKinney’s life by not handing down a death sentence. He said that out of compassion and in honor of his son’s life, McKinney should be allowed to live. The judge sentenced McKinney to two consecutive terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole, the same sentence given to Henderson.

(VIDEO COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON NATIONAL CATHEDRAL VIA YOUTUBE)
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