Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was big on symbolism while announcing his presidential campaign this morning, making a speech from his hometown of Hope after being saluted by a line of Boy Scouts.
Video from MSNBC shows Huckabee being welcomed on stage by a line of saluting Boy Scouts, an organization whose ban on openly gay adults Huckabee has repeatedly defended. In fact, Huckabee is among a number of conservative supporters of the Boy Scouts of America's policy who claim that gay scout leaders are child molesters.
Huckabee had fellow GOP presidential contender Ted Cruz to compete with on antigay symbology. The Texas senator announced his own bid from stage at Liberty University, which was founded by noted homophobe, Jerry Falwell.
The former Fox News host did manage to distinguish himself from his fellow antigay Republicans by making the most thinly veiled reference to same-sex marriage of any GOP candidate who has thus far declared their candidacy. Although his Tuesday speech didn't directly mention marriage equality, Huckabee decried:
"Many of our politicians have surrendered to the false God of judicial supremacy, which would allow black-robed and un-elected judges the power to make law as well as enforce it, upending the equality of our three branches of government as well as the separation of powers so very central to the Constitution. My friends, the Supreme Court is not the Supreme Being and they cannot overturn the laws of nature or of nature's God."
Eschewing his high-profile recent past as a Fox News host, Huckabee drew on his small-town roots in Tuesday's speech, unveiling his campaign slogan, "From hope to higher ground." Listing off his formative accomplishments in Hope -- including his first-ever campaign for elected office as student council at Hope Junior High School -- Huckabee hammered home his Arkansas roots.
"So it seems perfectly fitting that it would be here that I announce that I am a candidate for president of the United States of America," Huckabee said, as the crowd erupted in cheers.
Several outlets -- and Huckabee himself -- noted that the former governor's hometown is one he shares with former President Bill Clinton. In his wide-ranging speech, Huckabee painted himself as a politician experienced in defeating the "Clinton machine," an obvious if not explicit reference to presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, notes The New York Times.
The 59-year-old ordained Southern Baptist minister's campaign speech went on to detail his platform, which included making abortion illegal, abolishing the IRS to replace all federal taxes with a sales tax, enacting term limits for all members of Congress, defending Social Security by calling on members of Congress to "end their own pensions" instead of gutting the national retirement program, and slamming U.S. trade agreements that Huckabee said undermine wage equity in the U.S.
Huckabee enters an already-crowded field for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, where even the governor's famed antigay stances may not set him apart from his competitors enough to rally a sufficiently sized section of his conservative base.
Huckabee is the proud founder of "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day," launched in response to nationwide boycotts of the fast-food chain after its CEO came out against marriage equality in 2012, and it was revealed that the company's charitable arm donatedmillions of dollars to antigay causes each year.
A longtime opponent of marriage equality, Huckabee last year said he was prepared to leave the GOP because the party's reaction to advances in the freedom to marry wasn't antigay enough.
Huckabee started off 2015 by peddling the inaccurate claim that states could simply ignore a potential ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that established marriage equality nationwide. Also in January, Huckabee claimed that legal marriage equality will result in bisexual Americans demanding to marry one person of each sex.
By February, Huckabee was channelling fellow former presidential hopeful Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, by saying he considered being gay to be like drinking or swearing -- in that he can have friends who are gay, who drink, or who curse, without actually supporting any of those actions himself.
As the nation turned its eyes to Indiana in March, in the wake of Gov. Mike Pence's controversial (and subsequently amended) Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Huckabee claimed that the national backlash to the so-called license to discriminate bill was actually an effort to discriminate against Christians.
After Huckabee's home state of Arkansas passed similar legislation to Indiana's RFRA (the Arkansas law was amended before it was signed amid outcry from businesses and advocates) in April, Huckabee appeared on the right-wing radio show of certified antigay hate-group leader Tony Perkins to bemoan "true discrimination."
"It is a classic example of -- really a page out of 1984, when what things mean are the opposite of what they really are," Huckabee told the Family Research Council president in early April, referring to the George Orwell novel about a dystopian future. "And that's what I'm seeing here is that in the name of tolerance, there's intolerance. In the name of diversity, there's uniformity. In the name of acceptance, there's true discrimination."
He claimed that "intolerance" of Christians "won't stop until there are no more churches, until there are no more people who are spreading the Gospel, and I'm talking now about the unabridged, unapologetic Gospel that is really God's truth."
The Washington Blade notes that Huckabee's animus isn't limited to marriage equality, or to even gay people more broadly. In 2013, the former governor launched a tirade against the California law that gives transgender students equal access to the sports teams and facilities that correspond with their gender identity.
"So, Jerry Brown, the governor of California, this week signed a bill -- by the same legislature that passed a bill that said if 6-year-olds, who are biologically boys, think that they are really girls, that they should be able to go to the girls restroom," Huckabee told attendees of the Values Voters Summit in October 2013. "And if they're 16 and they really -- maybe you're biologically all male but they identify as female, they should be able to go to the locker room with, shower with, and play on the sports teams of the girls. And, to those of us who believe that there is a difference between male and female, we would say 'We have been told you're on your own.' Is that not the craziest thing you've ever heard?"