Herman Cain's controversial view of homosexuality as a choice has once again thrust the same-sex marriage and LGBT rights stances of each of the various 2012 Republican hopefuls back into the spotlight.
"I think it's a sin because of my biblical beliefs and, although people don't agree with me, I happen to think that it is a personal choice," Cain, who has also spoken out in favor of a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, told talk show host Piers Morgan last week. "I respect their right to make that choice. You don't see me bashing them. I respect them to have the right to make that choice. I don't have to agree with it."
While his comments ruffled more than a few feathers (provoking a particularly memorable response from sex columnist Dan Savage), Cain is not the first potential 2012 candidate to come under fire on gay issues in recent months. Earlier this year, Michele Bachmann -- arguably the most socially conservative of the candidates -- faced allegations that a Christian counseling clinic she co-owned with her husband Marcus offered "reparative" therapy to patients seeking to "cure" their homosexuality.
In addition to Bachmann, candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum have reportedly signed a pledge from the National Organization for Marriage to ban same-sex marriage in the U.S. Constitution if they are elected.
So where do the individual GOP candidates stand on same-sex marriage and other gay issues? Find out below:
"I think it's a sin because of my biblical beliefs and, although people don't agree with me, I happen to think that it is a personal choice," the former Godfather's Pizza CEO told talk show host Piers Morgan. "Let me turn it around to you. What does science show? Show me evidence other than opinion and you might cause me to reconsider that. ... I respect their right to make that choice. You don't see me bashing them. I respect them to have the right to make that choice. I don't have to agree with it. That's all I'm saying."
After her husband Marcus' Christian counseling center came under scrutiny for allegedly promoting "reparative therapy," a form of counseling that seeks to make gay people renounce their sexuality, Bachmann's gay rights views have taken center stage. Described by The San Francisco Chronicle as "arguably the most socially conservative Republican running for president," Bachmann is a strong opponent of same-sex marriage. "If you're involved in the gay and lesbian lifestyle, it's bondage," she is quoted by the Human Rights Campaign as saying. "It is personal bondage, personal despair and personal enslavement."
Although he once vowed to be be a stronger advocate for gay rights than his former Massachusetts Senate opponent Ted Kennedy, Mitt Romney has since signed a pledge sponsored by the National Organization for Marriage promising to support a federal constitutional amendment "defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman," CBS News reported. "I can say look, there are a lot of folks who are raised by one parent, through divorce through death or through having a child out of wedlock," Romney said. "But my view is a society recognizes that the ideal setting for raising a child is when you have the benefit of two people working together and where one is male and one is female. I happen to believe that and that's the reason that I think as a society we say, 'You know what? We are going to call marriage what it has been called for 6,000 years.'"
The former senator from Pennsylvania has vowed to fight for a federal ban on same-sex marriage, claiming that allowing LGBT couples to wed would shake "the very foundation of our country, the family, what the family structure is going to look like." In September, he was condemned by gay rights group GOProud for saying he would reinstate the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy if elected president. "Removing 'don't ask, don't tell' I think tries to inject social policy into the military," Santorum said. "We executed a policy that I think was detrimental to everyone, including them, in my opinion because sex and sexual preference should not be an issue in the military, period. And it should not be something that is demonstrated in any shape or form in the military. And it shows how much our culture has changed that this is even a subject to be debated within the military."
In his 2008 book "On My Honor," the Texas governor stated, "Even if an alcoholic is powerless over alcohol once it enters his body, he still makes a choice to drink. And even if someone is attracted to a person of the same sex, he or she still makes a choice to engage in sexual activity with someone of the same gender," according to Time. After New York passed gay marriage in June, Perry (who has been called "the least LGBT-friendly candidate in the race" initially defended states' rights but then reportedly clarified his stance on Christian radio, saying. "Obviously gay marriage is not fine with me. My stance hasn't changed."
The former Obama-appointed U.S. Ambassador to China has said that he would not support marriage equality for gays and lesbians. "I think redefining marriage is something that would be impossible and it's something I would not be in favor of," he told MSNBC's Morning Joe in June. Still, he would reportedly continue to support civil unions: "I think we sometimes don't do an adequate job in talking about equality and in addressing fairness: hospital visitations, reciprocal beneficiary rights, insurance. There are a lot of these issues that I think we can do better with as people in the name of fairness and in the name of equality."
Paul reportedly did support the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," but has spoken out in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act. He also said he believes that states should have the right to legalize gay marriage, marijuana, and prostitution if they choose to do so, according to The Advocate: "If you do not protect liberty across the board, it's a First Amendment-type issue. We don't have a First Amendment so we can talk about the weather. We have the First Amendment so we can say very controversial things. So, for people to say that, 'Yes, we have our religious beliefs protected, but people who want to follow something else, or a controversial religion -- you can't do this' ... if you have the inconsistency, then you're really not defending liberty."
The former House Speaker has made a variety of statements against same-sex marriage, even linking it to the nation's economic troubles. "I believe that marriage is between a man and woman," he is quoted as saying. "It has been for all of recorded history and I think this is a temporary aberration that will dissipate. I think that it is just fundamentally goes against everything we know." When New York became the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage, Gingrich noted, "I think we are drifting towards a terrible muddle which I think is going to be very, very difficult and painful to work our way out of," according to Reuters.
The former two-term governor of New Mexico has what has been described as a "libertarian viewpoint on marriage," and says he does not believe that government should be involved in marriage, but that it should simply hand out civil unions. The Advocate quotes Johnson as having scolded his fellow candidates for signing a pledge with the National Organization for Marriage to ban same-sex marriage in the U.S. Constitution if they are elected. "If candidates who sign this pledge somehow think they are scoring some points with some core constituency of the Republican Party, they are doing so at the peril of writing off the vast majority of Americans who want no part of this 'pledge' and its offensive language," said Johnson. "The Republican Party cannot afford to have a presidential candidate who condones intolerance, bigotry and the denial of liberty to the citizens of this country."
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