January 12, 2015 at 10:14 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Huckabee moderates tone on marriage in new book
Mike Huckabee, CPAC, Conservative Political Action Conference, gay news, Washington Blade

Mike Huckabee now says harms of gay nuptials ‘greatly overstated.’ (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Potential Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee seems to be moderating his stalwart opposition to same-sex marriage in his new book, but LGBT advocates are unimpressed with his new comments on the issue.

According to a recent report from CNN, Huckabee’s new book, “God, Guns, Grits and Gravy,” touches on his views on marriage equality in addition to his views of pop culture and other potential Republican presidential nominees.

“The claim that same-sex marriage is destroying society is actually greatly overstated,” Huckabee reportedly concedes in the book.

According to CNN, the former Arkansas governor, who enjoys widespread support in the evangelical community, faults Christians for what he sees as the pervasiveness of divorce and remarriages as well as LGBT advocates for “militantly” seeking marriage rights for same-sex couples.

“Christians who themselves abandoned the primacy of lifelong marriage to follow the divorce and remarriage customs of a secular society have as much to answer for as do those who militantly push to redefine marriage,” he reportedly says.

Those words mark a change in tone for Huckabee, who announced this month he’s ending his show on Fox News in a move that observers have said demonstrates he’s heading toward a run for the White House in 2016. In October, Huckabee threatened in an interview with the American Family Association to bolt the Republican Party if it capitulates on same-sex marriage.

“If the Republicans wanna lose guys like me, and a whole bunch of still God-fearing Bible-believing people, go ahead and just abdicate on this issue, and go ahead and say abortion doesn’t matter, either,” Huckabee said. “Because at that point, you lose me, I’m gone. I’ll become an independent, I’ll start finding people that have guts to stand, I’m tired of this.”

Despite the apparent change in tone from Huckabee on same-sex marriage in his new book, advocates were unimpressed with his remarks.

Stephen Peters, a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, said Huckabee’s new thoughts on marriage equality don’t detract from what many consider an abysmal record on LGBT issues.

“In keeping with the majority of Americans, we expect the next president of the United States to support nationwide marriage equality,” Peters said. “Mike Huckabee has clearly established himself as an extreme, anti-equality politician. One sentence in a book is not going to change that.”

Ian Sams, spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee, also criticized Huckabee’s record, which includes support for an Arizona bill vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer that would have allowed individuals and businesses to refuse services for same-sex couples.

“For years, LGBT Americans and their allies have known that marriage equality leads to a stronger, fairer society — and now that 70 percent of Americans live in states where marriage equality is reality, the forces for progress are stronger than ever,” Sams said. “Unfortunately, Mike Huckabee hasn’t seen it that way. Instead, he’s been one of the loudest anti-gay voices within a Republican Party that has opposed LGBT equality for decades.”

Sams added, “His recent comments beg one simple question: If you don’t think marriage equality is harming society, then why do you continue to oppose it so intensely?”

Gregory Angelo, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, said he doesn’t think the comments represent any change from what the potential 2016 contender has said in the past.

“I don’t think Governor Huckabee has had any great epiphany,” Angelo said. “In his book he’s doing what he does best — preaching. Elsewhere in the book he invokes polygamy — a favorite chestnut of marriage equality opponents — as a way of framing his continued opposition to marriage equality.”

Still, Angelo said the remarks serve as a reminder that members of the Republican Party aren’t as stalwart in their opposition to same-sex marriage as progressive make them out to be.

“If anything, Governor Huckabee’s remarks will hopefully show independents — and especially hard-line liberals — what I have always said: That opinions on marriage equality among the GOP are more nuanced than the general narrative pushed by the media leads people to believe,” Angelo said.

Also in the book, Huckabee reportedly describes a memory he has of a Boy Scout troop leader molesting members of his troop as his introduction to gay people.

“To be clear, I am not equating all gay men with pedophiles; I’m just relating how this particular person was my introduction to the then-unfathomable concept of same-sex attraction,” Huckabee is quoted as saying.

Moreover, Huckabee reportedly offer questions about homosexuality, saying he describes his outlook as “God-centered and not man-centered.”

“Are such variations normal?” Huckabee reportedly asks. “Which ones? Are there any limits on what is an acceptable attraction? If so, what is the objective basis for those limits, and who gets to draw that line?”

Another question reportedly in the book: “Is Lady Gaga correct when she sings about being ‘Born this Way’?”

Evan Wolfson, president of the LGBT group Freedom to Marry, disputed any notion that Huckabee was moving ahead on the issue of same-sex marriage.

“Progress is the last word to come to mind when reading Huckabee’s latest swirl of insinuations and anti-gay smears evoking pedophilia, repeating the empty talking-point that gay couples seeking the same freedom to marry as others are somehow trying to ‘radically redefine’ marriage, and lumping inclusion in marriage with destructive forces on the family,” Wolfson said. “And that doesn’t even take account of his contempt for the separation of church and state and other bedrock constitutional guarantees that keep Americans free.”

But one LGBT advocate who saw promise in Huckabee’s new remarks on marriage was Brandan Robertson, national spokesperson for Evangelicals for Marriage Equality, who said Huckabee’s change in tone isn’t unique among conservatives.

“Many conservative politicians and theologians have begun to recognize that the staunch anti-LGBTQ rhetoric that has traditionally been used in conversations and public discourse around marriage equality not only is turning away the millennial constituency who largely support and affirm LGBTQ people but also that the rhetoric has actually been a source of great harm and trauma to many LGBTQ individuals,” Robertson said. “Many conservatives have realized that a softening of tone is essential and I view this change as a small step in the right direction.”

Still, Robertson acknowledged that Huckabee’s position “is still the same” and he’s unlikely to change minds with the comments he’s made in his book.

“He is still articulating a view that equates same-sex marriage with occurrences like divorce and still argues that same-sex civil marriage is a fundamental attempt to redefine the institution of marriage,” Robertson said. “These arguments, though dressed in a much more compassionate tone, are the same ones that have been leveled against the LGBTQ community for decades. Huckabee is far from promoting same-sex marriage or arguing for civil equality for LGBTQ individuals, so it’s unlikely that his statements will have much of an effect at all on advancing equality in Evangelicalism.”

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

  • What "much more compassionate tone"? "Militant" gays are just as much to blame for social ills as straight couples who divorce? Not one word in his new comment demonstrates anything that fits any reasonable definition of "compassionate." OMG I'm so tired of desperate gay Christians fawning over being hit slightly less hard with a baseball bat.

  • Apologies if this comes up twice, but I made this comment earlier and it seems to have gone into a black hole of some sort.

    Mike Huckabee is not backing away or being more compassionate or even, as Steve Clark suggested, hitting anyone slightly less hard. What that statement reflects is not a change in attitude about the freedom to marry, but a newer hardline stance on divorce. There are three states with a special type of civil marriage called a covenant marriage. A covenant marriage is harder to enter into (you have to get premarital counseling, for example), and more importantly, makes it harder to get a divorce. Arkansas is one of those three states. Huckabee signed it into law in 2001 when he was governor and then he and Jan went and got one in 2005. He's not shifting his opinion on same sex couples marrying, he's not equating the freedom to marry with a thing that he sees as not that bad; he's taking a much harder stance on divorce. He now holds a much tougher position on divorce than the Pope. There's no reason to see this as a softer, more compassionate, or less ridiculous stance on letting same sex couples marry. That is not what's happening here. He's still the guy who'll leave the GOP if they decide to be reasonable on the freedom to marry.

  • It never fails to appall me to discover that one more self-proclaimed "righteous religious" figure has no problem lying through his or her teeth to get his or her way. They're not righteous, they're self-righteous. Big difference.

    And none are more self-righteous than Huckabee, whose hypocrisy is exceeded only by his political ambition. He knows he can't win an election with his extremist and hate-driven message, so he needs to temper it for the masses, while continuing to lie about gays and threaten everyone in sight when he doesn't get his way.

    It was only a couple of weeks ago when he called on politicians to defy the Supreme Court in an act of open insurrection. A week before that, he threatened to leave the TeaPublican party because it wasn't radical enough for him, and too many governors gave in to the Constitution and enforced the rulings of the Federal Courts.

    Huckabee is a fraud, a liar and a coward – who doesn't even have the courage of his own convictions when groveling on his knees to rich people to fund his campaign. Just thinking about this snake-oil salesman turns my stomach.

  • I'm sorry, but Huckabee and his ilk need to recognize that they have already lost on marriage equality, abortion and LGBT rights. There is no longer a public concensus supporting their positions on those issues. They need to realize that not every belief, no matter how fervently held, should be a public law.

    Thirty-six states and DC have same sex marriage laws. Marriage as a fundamental right is rapidly becoming settled law and public sentiment has shifted dramatically to support marriage equity. Likewise, it will be 42 years this month since the Roe v. Wade decision was handed down and abortion is still legal in every state in the union – despite the fact that the GOP has controlled the White House for 24 of those 42 years and both houses of Congress for almost 12 of those years. Moreover, Republican presidents have filled nine vacancies on the Supreme Court. Roe is staying because there is no concensus among the American public to get rid of it. And every time the Supreme Court has taken a case on LGBT rights over the past 20 years it has affirmed and expanded LGBT citizenship rights. There is no reason to think it will reverse course any time soon.

  • More proof that Huckabee and his party just won't get into the 21st century. This is getting absolutely and utterly ridiculous.

  • Huckabee hasn't "toned down" his beliefs. he hasn't suddenly changed in tune in the last month. He's simply in politician mode right now and trying to come across as less hateful. Don't believe it for a minute.

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