Republican Candidates Prepare to Debate in State Where Marriage Equality Polls Strongest
Tonight, six Republican candidates for President are set to debate in New Hampshire. The Granite State has gained national notoriety for a unique streak of independent thinking. So it should be no surprise that marriage equality polls stronger in New Hampshire than any other in the Union. Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) has reported that a 75 percent majority of New Hampshire residents support the right of same-sex couples to marry.
Over time, New Hampshire’s particularly independent streak has translated into some important progress for LGBT equality that has far outpaced that of dozens of other states as well as the nation. Not only did it enact civil unions through the legislative process in 2007, it legalized marriage equality by the same process in 2009.
What would a Republican candidate say to earn the vote of an LGBT American? So what better place to ask the candidates whether they would appoint Supreme Court justices that would overturn last year’s marriage equality ruling? Not only that, but would the candidates support the Equality Act, which would extend existing non-discrimination protections to cover sexual orientation and gender identity in the 33 states (such as New Hampshire) that lack fully-inclusive protections? What would these candidates do to combat the epidemic of violence against transgender people?
The reality is that the three leading candidates on the Republican side -- Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, according to a new WMUR poll released Friday--all share deeply disturbing anti-equality track records. While the branding and packaging may differ, the product inside is equally terrible for LGBT and other pro-equality voters.
- On Marriage Equality: After declaring marriage equality “bad law,” Rubio said: “What is wrong is that the Supreme Court has found this hidden constitutional right that 200 years of jurisprudence had not discovered and basically overturn the will of voters in Florida where over 60 percent passed a constitutional amendment that defined marriage in the state constitution as the union of one man and one woman.” Chuck Todd pressed, “So are you accepting the idea of same sex marriage in perpetuity?” Rubio responded: “It is the current law. I don't believe any case law is settled law. Any future Supreme Court can change it. And ultimately, I will appoint Supreme Court justices that will interpret the Constitution as originally constructed.”
- On Employment Protections: Rubio opposed the Employment Non-Discrimination act, stating that it went “far beyond” protecting against discrimination according to the Tampa Bay Times, and that he was not for any “special protections” based on orientation. Last month, Rubio vowed to repeal Obama’s executive orders “on day one” and has specifically included rescinding President Obama’s executive order protecting against LGBT discrimination by federal contractors.
- On LGBT Discrimination: Rubio is an original cosponsor of the so-called First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), which puts LGBT people at risk for more Kim Davis-like discrimination. Rubio has also pledged to sign it within his first 100 days in office. For example, FADA would allow an employee at the Department of Veterans Affairs to argue that they were not required to process a claim for survivor benefits for the same-sex spouse of a servicemember for personal religious reasons.
- On Marriage Equality: CBN reported that “Speaking of the law, Trump says he disagrees with the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage. ‘We have some very terrible Supreme Court justices, and frankly, they should have at least had that [same-sex marriage case] as a state's right issue,’” he said.
- On LGBT Discrimination: Trump was one of six candidates to quietly sign on to support the so-called “First Amendment Defense Act” (FADA) in late December. FADA would allow government employees to cite religious objections and argue that they would not be required to serve same-sex couples.
- On Marriage Equality: The Dallas Morning News reported that at an event at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa, “‘Every one of us is concerned about the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision likely coming in June,’ [Cruz] said...He reiterated his vow to press for a constitutional amendment that would clarify the power of state legislatures to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. If the high court does legalize gay marriage nationwide, he added, he would prod Congress to strip federal courts of jurisdiction over the issue, a rarely invoked legislative tool. ‘If the court tries to do this it will be rampant judicial activism. It will be lawlessness, it will be fundamentally illegitimate,’ he said.”
- On LGBT Discrimination: Cruz is an original cosponsor FADA. Cruz has also pledged to sign it within his first 100 days in office.
- On Employment Protections: Cruz opposed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, saying it would lead to abusive lawsuits and lacked religious liberty protections. He also vowed to rescind Obama’s executive orders on his first day in office and called 2016 the “religious liberty election.”