By Trudy Ring
Originally published on Advocate.com October 31 2012 6:00 AM ET
While many right-wing politicians have tried to underplay their antigay ideology in this election cycle, preferring to emphasize economic issues, there are still plenty of candidates who oppose basic rights for LGBT citizens. To them, allowing gay people to marry their partners or serve openly in the military will do more damage to civilization than, well, anything else they can think of.
Here we present 10 of the most extreme antigay candidates seeking election or reelection to Congress, either the House or the Senate, in 2012. All but one, Mark Clayton of Tennessee, are Republicans.
Michele Bachmann, U.S. House of Representatives, Minnesota, sixth district
The title of queen (so to speak) of the antigay congressional candidates has to go to Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. Having failed in her presidential bid, she is seeking her fourth term in the House, representing a district in the suburbs of Minneapolis–St. Paul. She has described being gay as “bondage” and “part of Satan,” and her husband Marcus’s counseling clinics offer so-called reparative therapy, a widely discredited practice aimed at turning gay people straight (the Bachmanns have denied the clinics provide this type of therapy, but undercover investigations indicate they do). And as Minnesotans vote this November on whether to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage, remember it was Michele who first proposed the idea, as a member of the state legislature in 2004. Without the amendment, she said at the time, “sex curriculum would essentially be taught by the gay community” and “little K-12 children will be forced to learn that homosexuality is normal, natural, and perhaps they should try it.” She has even claimed that the high rate of suicide among gay teens is due simply to being gay, not to bullying or discrimination. All this despite having a lesbian stepsister.
Steve King, U.S. House of Representatives, Iowa, fourth district
One of the National Organization for Marriage's closest allies is Steve King, who is seeking his sixth term from a district in western Iowa. King said he feared his state would become a “gay marriage mecca” after a 2009 state Supreme Court decision struck down barriers to legal marriage by same-sex couples. He went on a bus tour around the state encouraging voters to recall the justices who joined in that decision; the three who were up for retention votes in 2010 were indeed ousted, and another faces a vote this year. King also has contended that marriage equality was a step toward a society that took children away from their parents to be raised in warehouses. “There have been civilizations that have tried to do that,” he said. “The Spartans did that. They took the children away and taught them to be warriors.” Does he think LGBT people will abduct straight couples’ children and teach them to be … tolerant?
Allen West, U.S. House of Representatives, Florida, 18th district
This Tea Party favorite, running for his second term, once said that people don’t get fired for being gay, so antidiscrimination laws are unnecessary. He opposed repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” on the grounds that gay and lesbian service members “can change their behavior,” adding that repeal was the first step in a process that would eventually “break down the military.” Another West gem: “The term ‘gay marriage’ is an oxymoron,” and with its legalization, along with abortion and the national debt, “it just becomes a matter of time before you don’t have society.”
Virginia Foxx, U.S. House of Representatives, North Carolina, fifth district
Most of America met Virginia Foxx in 2009 during the debate over the expansion of the federal hate-crimes law. “The hate-crimes bill that’s called the Matthew Shepard bill is named after a very unfortunate incident that happened where a young man was killed, but we know that that young man was killed in the commitment of a robbery. It wasn’t because he was gay. … It’s really a hoax that that continues to be used as an excuse for passing these bills.” The bill passed despite her unfortunate statement, expanding the federal definition of hate crimes to cover those based on sexual orientation or gender identity, allowing greater resources for investigation, prosecution, and prevention of such crimes. Her district, however, was not afraid to return her to Congress for a fourth term in 2010, and now she’s seeking a fifth.
Marsha Blackburn, U.S. House of Representatives, Tennessee, seventh district
Marsha Blackburn’s official website touts her support for “individual freedom,” but apparently she doesn’t extend that consideration to LGBT people. She was one of 39 members of Congress who attempted to overturn marriage equality in Washington, D.C. And Blackburn cochaired the committee that drafted this year’s national Republican platform, considered the most antigay in history. Platform contributor Tony Perkins, president of the virulently homophobic Family Research Council, boasted of his friendship with Blackburn as key to getting so much of his hateful language adopted. Among other things, the platform says, “The court-ordered redefinition of marriage in several States … is an assault on the foundations of our society, challenging the institution which, for thousands of years in virtually every civilization, has been entrusted with the rearing of children and the transmission of cultural values.” Such an “activist judiciary,” it says, is “a serious threat to our country’s constitutional order, perhaps even more dangerous than presidential malfeasance.” And President Obama’s gay-friendly policies, including his administration’s decision to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act in court, amount to “a mockery of the President’s inaugural oath.”
Todd Akin, U.S. Senate, Missouri
Todd Akin, a U.S. House member seeking to move up to the Senate, became infamous this year with his remark about women’s bodies being able to prevent pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape.” His antigay rhetoric is just as mind-boggling. He said expansion of the federal hate-crimes law would actually “increase hatred,” and he referred to repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” as “an eclipse of reason.” He tried to create a “conscience protection clause” for military personnel, including chaplains, who object to open service of gay members of the military. And he sponsored an amendment to ban the use of military bases for same-sex weddings. When President Obama endorsed marriage equality in May, Akin put out a press release saying, “The Obama administration has once again revealed its unquenchable desire to tear down the traditional family unit brick by brick.”
Tom McClintock, U.S. House of Representatives, California, fourth district
When California recalled Gov. Gray Davis from office in 2004 and had to choose a replacement, Tom McClintock, then a state senator, was the pick of right-wing true believers who thought the eventual winner, movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican in name only. Elected to Congress in 2008 and now running for a third term, McClintock still takes an interest in state legislation; on his campaign website he has promoted the effort to repeal a California law mandating the inclusion of LGBT people and accomplishments in public school curricula. The law, he said, represents “a gross overreach by the state Legislature to usurp the parental rights of Californians” and “exposes young children to curriculums and textbooks promoting objectionable lifestyles.” So far, however, the repeal effort has failed.
Linda Lingle, U.S. Senate, Hawaii
Former Hawaii governor Linda Lingle, seeking election to the U.S. Senate, recently defended her decision to veto a civil unions bill in 2010 with supporters of the legislation gathered to watch. In a debate, her opponent, Marie Hirono, noted, “Before she vetoed it, she invited members of the LGBT leadership to join her. And they thought that she was going to sign that bill into law. And instead, right in front of them, the very group that had worked so hard to pass this legislation, she vetoed that bill. I thought that was extremely insensitive and disrespectful of their position.” Lingle responded that this was a contentious issue and difficult decision, and she had invited both supporters and opponents to join her. (Her successor as governor, Neil Abercrombie, signed a civil unions bill the following year.) Lingle also said she supports putting a state constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage before voters; when it looked like Hawaii courts would rule for marriage equality, the state took the intermediate step of a constitutional amendment allowing the legislature to define marriage, and it did so to the exclusion of gay couples. “Personally, I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman,” Lingle said in the debate. “But I also think the people of Hawaii should be able to make that decision.”
George Allen, U.S. Senate, Virginia
George Allen, who lost a Senate reelection bid in 2006 after being caught on tape using a derogatory racial term, is seeking to return to the chamber this year. Perhaps he’d like to go back to a time before that incident happened; at least, his campaign website reveals an anachronism. It says that as senator, he would “vote against adding sexual orientation to federal hate crimes statutes,” not mentioning that a bill doing just that was passed and signed into law in 2009. Maybe this son of a pro football coach needs to watch an instant replay. Or maybe he just felt the need to appease social conservatives, who were upset by his support of such legislation earlier in his career, leading him to make a right turn and vote against an inclusive hate-crimes measure in 2005. His website also notes that he “does not support same-sex couples adopting children” and thinks the Defense of Marriage Act “does not fully protect the institution of marriage,” so he supports an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to keep gay couples out.
Mark Clayton, U.S. Senate, Tennessee
The lone Democrat on the list and undoubtedly the biggest gadfly, flooring installer Mark Clayton was disowned by the party after his surprising victory in August’s primary, apparently helped by an alphabetical-order ballot. The Democratic leadership’s favorite, Empty Nest actress Park Overall, came in third after a lackluster campaign. The party declined to support Clayton because of his volunteer work with Public Advocate, an antigay organization designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and suggests that Democrats write in a name in the race against incumbent Republican Bob Corker. And The Washington Post, which has dubbed Clayton “2012’s Worst Candidate,” notes that his “policy ideas set him apart from many other Democrats: He is unusual in opposing abortion rights and same-sex marriage, but he’s downright exceptional in saying that the Transportation Security Administration ‘mandates [transsexuals] and homosexuals grabbing children in their stranger-danger zones.’” Politicos and pundits put his chances of winning the election at slim to none, but Clayton has kept the faith, telling the Post, “Jesus did not have a campaign staff. And he had the most successful campaign in human history.”