Your GOP Primary Guide

By Michelle Garcia

Originally published on Advocate.com January 10 2012 4:00 AM ET

This primary season has sparked some heavy debate on issues ranging from job creation to abortion, but nothing gets conservatives riled up quite like gay rights. The field of Republican candidates may be narrowing — Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain most notably exiting — but LGBT Republicans and their allies still have the choice of several candidates. On the eve of the nation's first primary for 2012, we take a look at the main candidates' most recent polling numbers and some of their strong stances from the past year. Whether you're headed to the polls in the coming months or waiting for the big election in November, we hope this guide can help. 2012 VOTERS IN THE NEW HAMPSHIRE PRIMARY X390 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COM

 Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney

 Public Policy Polling as of January 8: 35%

On Marriage Equality:
Romney unveiled his three-tier plan for marriage and partner recognition in December. According to the Boston Herald, Romney would allow "maintaining marriage rights for straight couples, allowing gays who have already married to remain married, but barring future same-sex marriages." Although he said signing the Family Leader pledge was inappropriate (without explaining why), Romney signed one from the National Organization for Marriage that has him on the record as supporting an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

On Gays' Adoption and Custody Rights:
 In 2006, Romney said same-sex couples have "a legitimate interest in being able to receive adoptive services." In October, Romney told CNS News that states should be able to decide whether same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt children. But he's also complained that religious groups such as Catholic Charities were barred from discriminating against same-sex couples in adoption and foster care services while receiving state funds. Also, earlier this year, he said two gay parents are not "ideal," compared to a mother and father.

On HIV/AIDS Funding or Advocacy:
 Romney has indicated that aid to foreign governments for HIV/AIDS assistance should be handled more from charitable donations and the private sector.

On "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Repeal:
 In December, Romney said "don't ask, don't tell" should not have been repealed during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he said if elected, he would not reinstate the law, which means gay troops would continue to serve openly in the military. "I was not comfortable making the change during a period of conflict, due to the complicating features of a new program in the middle of two wars going on, but those wars are winding down, and moving in that direction at this stage no longer presents that problem,” he said.

On Workplace Discrimination and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act
While he downplayed his stance on workplace discrimination when he ran for president in 2008, Romney had indicated support for some protections for LGBT employees. But as with many issues, other statements make the depth of his support unclear. The Human Rights Campaign claimed in a news release that Romney opposes the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, saying it would “open a litigation floodgate and unfairly penalize employers at the hands of activist judges.”

MITT ROMNEY 20110624 X390 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COM Former Utah governor and ambassador to China Jon Huntsman
Public Policy Polling as of January 8: 16%

On Marriage Equality:
Huntsman is on the record as supporting civil unions, but he still says that the Defense of Marriage Act is necessary as a "safeguard" to ensure states can each decide. Since Huntsman sees marriage as a state issue, it's no surprise he declined to sign pledges from the Iowa Family Leader and National Organization for Marriage that would have committed him to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning same-sex marriage. Huntsman rebuffed both pledges, saying he doesn't sign pledges as a rule.

On Gays' Adoption and Custody Rights:
In 2008, Governor Huntsman signed three gay rights bills into law, including one that made it a felony to abandon a child, namely for his or her sexual orientation. The law also holds accountable organizations — like churches — or people who coerce parents to abandon their children or kick them out of their home.

On HIV/AIDS Funding or Advocacy:
As governor, Huntsman signed into law the Control and Prevention of Sexually Transmitted Diseases bill, which allotted $175,000 to boost education of STIs, including chlamydia and gonorrhea, in 2008. The bill was a watered-down version, which reduced the cost of the program and barred such education from public schools.

On Workplace Discrimination and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act:
While governor of Utah, Huntsman endorsed a package of legislative proposals to protect LGBT people from discrimination. The package never passed the legislature.

On Bullying in Schools:
In 2008, Huntsman signed into law an antibullying and antihazing bill, after narrowing down the definition of bullying and removing language that encouraged students and parents who witnessed bullying to file reports with school officials.

On International Gay Rights and Hillary Clinton's U.N. Address:
The former ambassador to China under the Obama administration said the United States should get its "house in order here in terms of how we treat one another, the respect we feel for one another, getting our economy back on track and fixing our core. If we can do that, I think the rest of the world will pay us a little more attention."JON HUNTSMAN 20120109 X390 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COM Former House speaker Newt Gingrich
Public Policy Polling as of January 8: 12%

On Marriage Equality:
Shortly after President Obama directed the Justice Department to cease defending the Defense of Marriage Act during legal challenges, Gingrich said Obama's directive could have been an "impeachable offense." He also said he would support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning marriage equality, and he has even taken credit for the Defense of Marriage Act, which was enacted during his time as House speaker. "As President, I will vigorously enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, which was enacted under my leadership as Speaker of the House, and ensure compliance with its provisions, especially in the military," he wrote in a letter to Family Leader, partially endorsing that group's pledge in December. "I will also aggressively defend the constitutionality of DOMA in federal and state courts," he wrote. Gingrich has also signed a pledge from the National Organization for Marriage.

On Gays' Adoption and Custody Rights:
 Gingrich said marriage equality hurts children because several Catholic organizations ended their adoption and foster care services when it became clear the law would no longer allow them to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples while receiving state funds in places such as Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.

On "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Repeal:
Gingrich has pledged to ensure that, if elected, he would bar the Defense Department from recognizing any relationships of service members and their partners or spouses. "I don't think in the military, that you particularly want sexual behavior to be an overt issue," he said in December. He has promised to launch a review of whether DADT should be reinstated and contends that generals have been hiding their opposition to the repeal out of deference to President Obama.

On the Uniting American Families Act and Binational Couples
Though he said he would back a "humane" immigration policy to allow undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States, Gingrich would likely not support the Uniting American Families Act because of his endorsement of DOMA.

On Workplace Discrimination and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act
Gingrich was not a cosponsor of ENDA during his time in Congress.NEWT GINGRICH 20111210 X390 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COM U.S. representative from Texas Ron Paul
Public Policy Polling as of January 8: 18%

On Marriage Equality:
 In October, Paul said, "The government has no business in your private life, you know, so if one person is allowed to do something, so should everyone else." "The whole gay marriage issue is a private affair and the federal government has no say." However, while there was a lapse in his congressional service when the House took up the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, Paul said earlier this year that DOMA was an appropriate way to establish states' rights when governing marriage. He has refused to sign pledges from the Iowa Family Leader and the National Organization for Marriage.

On Gays' Adoption and Custody Rights:
In 1999, Paul voted against federal funding to boost child adoption services for same-sex couples in Washington, D.C.

On HIV/AIDS Funding or Advocacy:
Paul famously released newsletters for two decades to his constituents, some of which contained homophobic diatribes that blamed gay men for AIDS. Someone on his staff wrote, “Those who don’t commit sodomy, who don’t get blood a transfusion, and who don’t swap needles, are virtually assured of not getting AIDS unless they are deliberately infected by a malicious gay.” Paul has since denounced the newsletters, said they were a product of managerial negligence, and denied writing or editing their controversial portions. 

Issues With Homophobia
 Former aide Eric Dondero said Paul does not discriminate against gay people but has a personal problem with homophobia. Paul once refused to use the bathroom at the home of a gay supporter from San Francisco, Dondero said, even though he spent several days campaigning with Paul.

On "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Repeal:
Paul wrote in an op-ed. "Gay marriage sends a very loud and clear message to LGBT youth that they are equal.” After the 2009 Maine election, which invalidated the state's marriage equality law, Karger launched an investigation into the National Organization for Marriage over allegations of money laundering and voter fraud.

On Gay Rights in General
 Karger said at the 2010 Southern Republican Leadership Conference, “I will work hard to end 'don’t ask, don’t tell,' pass the federal employment antidiscrimination law, eliminate the federal Defense of Marriage Act, make gay marriage the law of the land. and make finding a cure for HIV/AIDS and a vaccine to prevent HIV a new national priority.”

On Gays' Adoption and Custody Rights:
Karger fully supports gay parents' right to adopt.FRED KARGER OUTSIDE NEWS CORP 390x (COURTESY) ADVOCATE.COM Former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania Rick Santorum
Public Policy Polling as of January 8: 11%
 
On Marriage Equality:
Santorum told MSNBC's Chuck Todd that if elected president, he would support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman, which he said would thereby invalidate all existing same-sex marriages. Santorum's tenure as U.S. senator has become synonymous with his staunchly conservative stances on gay rights and marriage equality. For more on his quotes, check our recent report "Marriage Metaphors With Rick Santorum." He was among the first to sign antigay pledges from the Iowa Family Leader and the National Organization for Marriage.

On Gays' Adoption and Custody Rights:
Earlier this year Santorum told CNS News that a state assigning a child to live with gay foster parents “is not doing a service to the child and to society by not putting that child in a home where there is a mother and a father.” He said, “This is common sense. This is nature.” While on the campaign trail, he's cited research that supposedly shows a father in jail would make a better parent to a child than a same-sex couple. If a same-sex couple were to raise a child, they would be "robbing children of something they need, they deserve, they have a right to. You may rationalize that that isn't true, but in your own life and in your own heart, you know it's true."

On HIV/AIDS Funding or Advocacy:
Santorum has expressed his support for limited international AIDS outreach but accused the Obama administration's special attention toward gay people with HIV globally as simply pushing a liberal agenda. 

On "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Repeal:
At a GOP debate Santorum said lifting the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military was "playing social experimentation." He has pledged to reinstate the policy.
 
On Workplace Discrimination and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act
Introduced with Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry a bipartisan Workplace Religious Freedom Act, which would have required employers to make accommodations for an employee's religious practices. The American Civil Liberties Union condemned the act.  

On International Gay Rights and Hillary Clinton's U.N. Address:
 Santorum said Clinton's address was counter to President Obama's overall stance supporting marriage only for heterosexual couples.
“I would suggest that we give out humanitarian aid based on humanitarian need, not based on whether people are promoting their particular agenda,” Santorum said. “Obviously the administration is promoting their particular agenda in this country, and now they feel it’s their obligation to promote those values not just in the military, not just in our society, but now around the world with taxpayer dollars.”RICK SANTORUM SIGNS 390x (GETTY) ADVOCATE.COM Texas governor Rick Perry
Public Policy Polling as of January 8: 1%

On Marriage Equality:
 Perry signed pledges from Family Leader and the National Organization for Marriage, in which he promised to enact an amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning same-sex marriage.

On Gays' Adoption and Custody Rights:
Perry advocated a federal marriage amendment, which could also prohibit gay couples from adopting children. “But until [the Federal Marriage Amendment] does pass, as in the state of Texas, a gay couple cannot adopt a child in the state of Texas, so the states have the ability again until there is a federal marriage amendment that clearly states that marriage is between one man and one woman and in that as well you cannot adopt a child unless it is one man and one woman," he said in November, according to OnTopMag.com.

On "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Repeal:
His infamous Iowa ad, "Strong," features him questioning why soldiers can serve openly in the military while children “can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school." When confronted by bisexual teenager Rebecka Green, Perry said his stance on gay people in the military was based on his religious beliefs: “I don’t agree that openly gays should be serving in the military. ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ was working, and my position is just like I told a guy yesterday. He said, ‘How would you feel if one of your children was gay?’ I said I’d feel the same way. I hate the sin, but I love the sinner, but having them openly serve in the military, I happen to think as a commander in chief of some 20,000-plus people in the military, is not good public policy, and this president was forced by his base to change that policy, and I don’t think it was good policy, and I don’t think people in the military thought it was good policy.”

On Bullying in Schools:
As Texas governor Perry has signed legislation that requires schools to prohibit bullying.

On International Gay Rights and Hillary Clinton's U.N. Address:
In response to Secretary of State Clinton's address to the world on global gay rights, Perry said in a statement, "“Just when you thought Barack Obama couldn’t get any more out of touch with America’s values, AP reports his administration wants to make foreign aid decisions based on gay rights.” He said the Obama administration is making “war on traditional American values” and on “people of faith” by “promoting a lifestyle” they find “deeply objectionable.”