Wednesday, November 30, 2011

GOP nominees will have to face NH marriage equality issue


Republican presidential candidates are joining New Hampshire’s intensifying same-sex marriage debate -- whether they like it or not.

State lawmakers plan to take up a measure to repeal the law allowing same-sex couples to wed and a vote is expected at some point in January -- the same month New Hampshire holds the nation’s first Republican presidential primary contest.

The impending focus on marriage equality carries risk for several of White House contenders -- including former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former businessman Herman Cain -- whose inconsistencies on the topic are well documented.

The Republican candidates’ increasingly vocal support for "traditional marriage" also threatens to alienate a growing number of younger Republicans and independents here who support legal recognition of same-sex couples. That note of divisiveness could bode poorly for the eventual Republican challenger to Obama in the general election.

Romney was the Massachusetts governor when his state legalized same-sex marriage. The Romney administration, as directed by the courts, granted nearly 200 same-sex marriage requests for gay and lesbian couples in 2005.

This past June, he said during a debate that he favors a federal constitutional amendment banning the practice. That’s been his position at least since the beginning of his 2008 presidential bid, when he was the only major Republican candidate to support such an amendment.

But as a Massachusetts Senate candidate back in 1994, Romney told a Boston-area newspaper that same-sex marriage is "a state issue as you know -- the authorization of marriage on a same-sex basis falls under state jurisdiction."

Herman Cain told the Christian Broadcasting Network that federal legislation is necessary to protect traditional marriage. That seemed to be a direct contradiction from his statement of just six days earlier, when he told "Meet the Press" host David Gregory that states should be allowed to make up their own minds.

"I wouldn’t seek a constitutional ban for same sex marriage, but I am pro traditional marriage," Cain told Gregory.

In Rick Perry’s case, the Texas governor says he supports the New Hampshire repeal. But in July he said that New York’s move to legalize same-sex marriage was "fine by me." A week later, facing social conservative criticism, he walked back the comments.

"It’s fine with me that the state is using their sovereign right to decide an issue. Obviously gay marriage is not fine with me," he said then.

While I think most conservatives won't worry over the flip flops, come the general election these positions could come back to haunt the eventual GOP nominee in terms of some all important independent voters.

Time will tell.
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