THE BLOG
11/13/2014 12:32 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Bizarro Election 2014: When Homophobes Backed Gay-Equality Supporters and Vice Versa

AP Photo/John Minchillo

In 2014 hedge-fund billionaire Paul Singer backed some of the most anti-gay politicians -- and defeated others committed to full LGBT equality -- by pouring millions into super PACS and the Republican Governor's Association.

He helped anti-gay, personhood-amendment-backing Joni Ernst win a U.S. Senate seat in Iowa. He aided the kooky anti-gay extremist Paul LePage (who's obsessed with sodomy and Vaseline and once said President Obama "hates white people") in winning reelection as governor of Maine, sinking the near win of U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine), who would have become the first openly gay man elected as a governor in the United States. Singer helped defeat Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, who signed a gay-marriage bill into law. And he backed Shelley Moore Capito in West Virginia, Cory Gardner in Colorado and other anti-gay right-wingers who helped the GOP take the Senate. They will no doubt join Ted Cruz as he further stokes anti-gay sentiments (he's pushing another marriage amendment) and rails about how "religious liberties" are under assault by gays while he seeks a possible presidential run.

But Paul Singer considers himself pro-gay. He's characterized as such in puffy media stories (which mention none of his support of anti-gay candidates) that conveniently dovetailed with the GOP leadership's desire to make the party seem more inclusive. "GOP super PAC plans gay-rights push this fall," ran the headline in USA Today. The Washington Post headline read, "Meet the billionaire hedge fund manager quietly shaping the GOP gay marriage debate." In these stories Singer is portrayed as elusive (only answering questions by email for the Washington Post), but the reporters get the scoop to tell us how he created a PAC that would be backing the very few GOP candidates who already support gay marriage. Singer's PAC got behind Carl DeMaio, the openly gay GOP congressional candidate now infamous for allegedly masturbating in front of more than one staffer (and was reviled in the gay community in San Diego, having not spoken out against Prop 8 in years past), and openly gay GOPer Richard Tisei in Massachusetts.

Both were of course running in districts in very blue states where Democrats held the seat, and these gay candidates would both help expand the GOP majority and put some gay face on a not-so-gay-friendly Republican Party. Their first vote would be for the majority leader John Boehner, who won't let a vote happen on any legislation to protect LGBT people. Both of them thankfully lost.

But in the bizarro election of 2014, the viciously anti-gay National Organization for Marriage (NOM) actually supported DeMaio's and Tisei's progressive, gay-friendly Democratic opponents. The group even took credit on its website for helping defeat the two gay GOPers. In the Massachusetts race, NOM endorsed Seth Moulton, a progressive Democrat and former Marine who was mentored by the late, openly gay Harvard chaplain Peter Gomes and was a candidate who proudly stated that his brother is gay and deserves full equality. (Moulton had beaten long-time Democratic incumbent John Tierney in the Democratic primary; for the record, he vehemently rejected NOM's endorsement, as he should have.) And NOM's Brian Brown robocalled voters in San Diego urging them to vote for pro-gay U.S. Rep. Scott Peters (D-California) over DeMaio.

This seemed bonkers (and was pretty desperate), but NOM and other radical-right groups like the Family Research Council (FRC) have their priorities. They want to show the GOP that they will help defeat any Republican candidate who veers from the evangelical right's agenda on gay marriage, abortion and a number of other issues. Conversely, NOM and FRC heralded the election of Ernst and Gardner, and, according to exit polling, despite the fact that the GOP concealed the extremism of these two and others for the general election, religious conservatives did turn out to vote for them, secure in the understanding that they will deliver for them.

Paul Singer is showing where his priorities lie too. In Marc Solomon's fast-paced and informative new history of the marriage-equality movement, Winning Marriage: The Inside Story of How Same-Sex Couples Took on the Politicians and Pundits -- and Won, Singer is described as being moved by looking through his gay son's wedding album, and in 2011 he put his heart into helping pass marriage equality in New York, where his influence and money helped convince four Republicans in the New York State Senate to join all but one of the Democrats in passing the bill that Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed. Singer has given millions to groups like the Human Rights Campaign and Freedom to Marry, the group for which Solomon is National Campaign Director.

But here he is helping the corporate-friendly GOP take control of the U.S. Senate even if that means electing social conservatives who will try to halt further rights for LGBT people and attempt to strip those gained. In this wave election, more Republicans were elected to state legislatures than at any time since the 1920s, something that will have a dramatic effect on state legislation and on congressional redistricting for a long time to come.

Already we're seeing bills like the proposed constitutional amendment introduced in Texas that would allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT people based on their owners' religious beliefs. Again, don't think Ted Cruz, joined by Ernst, Gardner and others, won't push such bills at the federal level, while we can forget about any pro-gay legislation getting a vote. In the bizarro election of 2014, where anti-gay NOM backed pro-gay candidates, pro-gay Paul Singer helped create this new reality.