Romney’s VP pick excites conservatives, troubles some queer rights activists
Paul Ryan, the conservative Tea Party darling, is a true budget hawk who has proposed major overhauls to Medicare, Social Security and other social services programs. Romney’s selection of the Wisconsin Congressman was not altogether surprising, but it was risky. His budget proposals are unpopular with the growing aging population of America and it seems that the national deficit and budget is all he wants to talk about.
While on Meet the Press last November, when asked about his views on marriage equality he confirmed his already reported stance that he is against it, but seemed frustrated the topic had even been broached.
“Actually, I came on to talk about the debt crisis we have and the budget,” Ryan said. “I don’t know why we are spending all this time talking about (marriage equality). We’ve got a debt crisis coming and the administration just gave us a budget that simply just charts another path to debt and decline.”
In 2004 and 2006, Ryan voted for a federal marriage amendment that would have defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman. In 2009 he voted against hate crimes protections for queer Americans, which became law in 2009. He also voiced his opposition to the repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy in 2010.
In 2001, Ryan voted to exempt faith-based initiatives from local and state civil rights laws. This was a measure targeted specifically at queer rights protections because other civil rights categories are protected by federal laws, as well as local measures.
During his first year in the House, he pushed for a ban on gay adoption in Washington, D.C. The next session, he opposed the funding of HIV prevention measures in the city. He also refused to sign a nondiscrimination policy protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees in his own office.
The Human Rights Campaign, which rates the performance of nationally elected representatives, has given him a 0 percent rating four times and a 10 percent once for a half-hearted, near approval of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which he later voted against.
“Ryan’s record of voting against fairness, dignity and equality is out of touch with the majority of Americans and a fast growing majority of Republicans,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “LGBT Americans need leadership that will continue to fight for their rights to protect their families, marry the person they love, and enjoy equal protections under the law.”
Regardless of his less-than-impressive record on queer rights, gay conservative groups are joining the loud chorus of approval for the VP pick.
“Congressman Paul Ryan is a strong choice for vice president, and his addition to the GOP ticket will help Republican candidates up and down the ballot,” said Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper. “As chairman of the House Budget Committee and author of the Republican ‘path to prosperity’ that provided the blueprint for serious spending cuts in this Congress, nobody is more qualified to articulate a conservative economic vision to restore the American economy and stimulate job creation.”
While acknowledging the large flaws in Ryan’s social policy, Utah Log Cabin Republican executive director James Humphreys said he hopes Ryan’s nomination will engender a serious economic discussion. Ryan’s budgetary emphasis and experience bring a new excitement to the Republican base and open up a chance for evolution of social issues, he said.
“The Republicans and Mr. Ryan have a long way to go when it comes to equality issues, but just like the president and so many others, evolution has already happened and can continue if we work at it,” he said. “The Log Cabin Republicans and other conservative LGBT groups are in a unique position to help with this process.”
Adding that the LCR is not solely focused on equality issues, generating jobs and solving a national debt crisis are issues that affect every American, Humphreys said.
However, along with a dubious voting record on queer rights issues, Ryan’s economic policies are dangerous to LGBT Americans, said Stonewall Democrats Executive Director Jerame Davis.
“Mitt Romney’s choice of Tea Party darling Paul Ryan as his running mate is as crass as it is cunning,” Davis said. “Romney knows the Tea Party base of the GOP still doesn’t trust him or believe in his conservative credentials; his choice of Ryan is nothing more than a craven attempt to shore up his base. Though Ryan brings relative youth and excites the base, he has little experience aside from being a Washington politician beholden to corporations and the wealthy.”
While Utah is a sure bet for the Republican ticket, how Ryan’s addition to the ticket will affect other swing states is still undetermined.