In the interest of full disclosure, I avow that I have not directly contributed funds to any candidates or political parties during this election cycle. All my prior campaign contributions should be available online.
With the Iowa caucuses less than a week away, with many legal issues affecting the queer community subject to debate and potential power shifts next year, and with nearly one third of self-identified lesbigay voters recently having voted Republican, a current Republican frontrunner, Rep. Ron Paul, recently has been under fire for vile things -- not so recently -- written under his name, regarding racial minorities, religious minorities, and queer people.
Imagine a candidate who, more than 15 years ago, fundraised and attempted to garner financial and political support from a group of people based on a letter taking a political position offensive to many U.S. voters. That letter was sent from "Friends of" the candidate, contained the candidate's name and signature, and misstated a position that offends many U.S. voters today, 15 years later.
Over a decade later, that formerly obscure candidate starts to matter in politics. And in an attempt to deflect attention from that letter, the candidate's communications director suggests that the document from the 1990s was a fake, "filled out by someone else," not the candidate.
The candidate from 15 years ago is now President Barack Obama.
Specifically, the letter, dated Feb. 15, 1996, addressed by "Friends of Barack Obama," signed by "Barack Obama, Candidate for State Senate, 13th District," supported equal marriage rights for lesbian and gay couples.
But as recently as June 17, 2011, President Obama's communications director, Dan Pfeiffer, stated, "If you actually go back and look, that questionnaire was actually filled out by someone else, not the president."
Yet history shows that in 1979, Rep. Paul was the only Texas House Republican to vote in favor of making Rev. Martin Luther King Day a national holiday -- hardly a racist use of political power.
Compared Rep. Paul's vote with that of the most recent GOP presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain. Despite no racist newsletters appearing under his name, John McCain voted against recognizing a national holiday for Rev. King.
Which matters more: newsletters or votes that carry the force of law for millions of people?
And what's written under Ron Paul's name relative to queer people should disgust any reasonable person. But as President Obama demonstrated, what's written under a candidate's name simply doesn't equate to that candidate's ultimate use of power: how the candidate votes.
Examining Votes Ron Paul Has Cast on Political Issues Important to Many Queer Advocates
Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA)
Ron Paul voted against the George-W.-Bush-pushed FMA in both 2004 and 2006. If unfamiliar, think of the FMA as a nationwide Prop 8, nullifying all marriages between persons of the same sex in the U.S, regardless of where a couple lived or married.
Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)
Because I could find nothing in which Paul specifically addressed DOMA Section 3 rather than DOMA in its entirety (including legislative history, as Paul wasn't a member of Congress during the DOMA vote), I requested comment from the Paul campaign on short notice. I did not receive a response prior to submitting this piece. (I'll include an update should I receive a response.)
My guess is that if specifically asked regarding support for DOMA Section 3, Paul would answer no. My further suspicion is that since he supports most of DOMA, Paul can justify saying that he supports DOMA, enabling him to pander to the party primary base.
Even if Paul supports DOMA entirely, President Clinton signed all of DOMA into law, despite being hailed as possibly having "courted the gay vote" more than any other prior candidate. President Clinton's campaign messages didn't equate with his "voting" as president.
Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT)
Of 167 Republican House members voting on the repeal DADT in May 2010, Ron Paul was one of only five GOP members to break with his party and vote for DADT's repeal. Thus, independent of 97 percent of his party's House delegation, Ron Paul supported DADT's repeal, even before the Pentagon survey that many GOP members demanded prior to permitting a vote on DADT. Following release of the report, which allowed DADT to receive a vote in the full Congress, of 179 Republican House members at that time, Ron Paul was one of only 15 who voted to repeal DADT last December.
Unlike 91 percent of his party's House delegation, unlike Sen. John McCain, the GOP's "moderate" presidential candidate in 2008 (and unlike President Clinton, who signed DADT into law), Ron Paul's vote helped queer advocates achieve a landmark victory for many (albeit not enough) people wishing to serve this country openly and honestly.
What gets written under a candidate's name or signature doesn't necessarily reflect that candidate's views or how that candidate will govern.
Comparing President Obama's old letters with his governance regarding equal civil marriage rights for same-sex couples demonstrates a disturbing cognitive dissonance.
President Clinton's pro-queer speeches compared with his use of power in office by signing DADT and DOMA into law demonstrated his beliefs about how queer people should be treated under the law, regardless of his folksy demeanor in courting our vote and funding.
No newsletters may exist evidencing an anti-queer bias from moderate Republican John McCain, but McCain's votes on a recognizing national holiday for Rev. King or repealing DADT may argue otherwise.
As a result, a meaningful disconnect exists between political candidates' disavowed solicitations and those candidates' demonstrated use of power once elected.
I will not be voting Republican in my state's upcoming primary, which means I will not be voting for Ron Paul. But if you plan to vote Republican in your state's primary or caucus, and if queer rights are important factors in determining which GOP candidate earns your approval, then how Ron Paul has wielded the power that his constituents gave him (i.e., his voting record, and not the noise about outdated newsletters and campaign solicitations) deserves your scrutiny, consideration, and perhaps your support.
Because your decisions today become our likely collective choices in November, please be thoughtful in using your vote to help decide which candidates stay and which ones sashay away.
Follow David Groshoff on Twitter: www.twitter.com/davidgroshoff