Despite optimism that New York will become the next state in the nation to endorse marriage equality -- a victory that hinges on support from key state Republican lawmakers -- many candidates vying for the 2012 GOP nomination presented a regressive view of the future during Monday's CNN presidential debate in New Hampshire, with a solid majority supporting a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
Of the candidates invited to the debate, only Herman Cain and Rep. Ron Paul opposed a federal marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Cain said the matter should be left up to the states, while Paul held a libertarian view and argued that government should not be in the business of marriage.
The remaining candidates, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Rep. Michele Bachmann, expressed support for a constitutional amendment.
Bachmann, who officially announced her 2012 candidacy at the debate, said "I don't see that it's the role of a president to go into states and interfere with their state laws," yet moments later said she supported an amendment restricting marriage to a man and a woman, arguing in part that "the best possible way to raise children is to have a mother and father in their life."
Gingrich, who presided over the House of Representatives as Speaker during the passage of the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, criticized the Obama administration's decision not to defend the law in federal court and said that if the law is struck down, a constitutional amendment would become necessary.
Former Georgia representative Bob Barr, author of DOMA, has since said that the Obama administration should take steps not to enforce the law and has called for its legislative repeal.
"I can see a number of folks, including some that are making sounds about running for president on the Republican side, using [DOMA] as a rallying cry to push for a Federal Marriage Amendment again," Barr toldThe Advocate in April. "I don't think it would succeed, but I think ... the implication is that it could lead to a renewed effort to get a Federal Marriage Amendment through in this lead-up to the 2012 election."
The candidates took an equally regressive stance on repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," which Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in a Monday interview with the AP could be formally certified by the time he leaves office on June 30: The same group of debate participants who called for a federal marriage amendment also voiced support for keeping the ban on open service in the armed forces.
"I believe it should have been kept in place until conflict was over," Romney said.
The lack of pro-gay candidate participation in the debate, Log Cabin Republicans executive director R. Clarke Cooper noted on Saturday, "perpetuates the myth that Republicans are uniform in their opinions on social issues -- a myth which hurts the Republican Party among independents, moderates, and younger voters."
Fred Karger, a Republican and the first openly gay presidential candidate, was not invited to the debate. Asked about the candidates' performance on Monday evening, Karger replied via email, "Bachmann is looking good. The rest of the bunch, not."
Update: Cooper of Log Cabin Republicans issued the following statement on "don't ask, don't tell" and federal marriage amendment comments from the candidates during Monday's debate:
"The candidates in this CNN debate did not make a strong case to the American people, particularly not to the moderates or younger voters we will need in 2012 to defeat Barack Obama. Some of the views expressed by the candidates were out of sync with today's GOP. A clear majority of Republicans today support the end of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' The stark contrast between candidates looking to turn back the clock on repeal on the same day that Republican-appointed Defense Secretary Gates declared that the military would soon be ready for open service makes our party appear fearful of change. Calls for a federal marriage amendment while in New Hampshire, a state which currently enjoys marriage equality, showed several candidates to be out of touch. True conservatives know that the federal government should respect individual liberty.
"Front-runner Mitt Romney, in particular, knows better. Seventeen years ago he opposed 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and vowed to support the Employment Nondiscrimination Act. Log Cabin Republicans remember that promise, and are committed to reminding all conservatives that inclusion wins. The pointed exclusion of pro-equality candidates, such as former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson and openly gay Republican candidate Fred Karger, from this debate wrongly perpetuated the myth that Republicans are uniform in their opinions on social issues. Our party deserves candidates who will represent the values which unite us - individual liberty, fiscal responsibility, and limited government."