Although gay rights were not mentioned specifically in last night's first presidential debate, all three of the largest partisan gay groups in the country weighed in, along party lines.
Jerame Davis, the executive director of the Stonewall Democrats, called Mitt Romney's behavior "boorish" and accused the Republican presidential nominee of taking "pot shots" at President Barack Obama, while the latter "addressed the American people directly and laid out a vision for the next four years." Davis also recalled an expose from the Washington Post published in May that described an incident from Romney's boarding school days, when he and some friends held down a classmate who was often teased for his "presumed homosexuality," and clipped his hair off with a pair of scissors.
"Knowing that Romney bullied a gay teen during prep school helps to explain his churlish behavior at tonight's debate," Davis wrote in the press release. "Instead of looking presidential, Romney appeared to be nothing more than a belligerent schoolyard bully."
R. Clarke Cooper, the executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay rights group founded in the 70s that lobbies conservative politicians to support issues like same-sex marriage and employment discrimination laws to protect gay people, cheered the absence of social issues in the evening's debate.
"One thing came through loud and clear tonight, and we hope our fellow Republicans take note," Cooper wrote in an email to The Huffington Post, "in a domestic debate without divisive and distracting social issues, conservative ideas resonate, moderates and independents listen, and the Republican wins."
Although neither candidate addressed the issue of same-sex marriage Wednesday night, this is one of their sharpest differences. In May, Obama said he personally supports same-sex marriage, and in 2011, declared that his Justice Department would no longer defend the government in an onslaught of lawsuits challenging the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as the “legal union of one man and one woman.” Romney, on the other hand, has personally pledged to ban gay marriage, and to appoint judges committed to protecting that legacy.
Despite Cooper's assertion that the Republican won, the Log Cabin Republicans have not yet endorsed Romney. Meanwhile, Log Cabin's more conservative counterpart, the 3-year-old GOProud, has repeatedly touted the fact that it is "the only national gay organization to endorse Mitt Romney." In a press release Wednesday night, GOProud's executive director Jimmy LaSalvia declared, "Tonight was a very good night for Mitt Romney, a very bad night for Barack Obama."
“The media tries to pigeon-hole gay voters and gay issues," LaSalvia wrote. "They think the only thing that qualifies as a ‘gay issue’ and the only thing that gay voters care about is gay marriage. The truth is that jobs and the economy are a gay issue -– and indeed, the most important gay issue in this election."