On Monday, Brian wrote about an interesting schism emerging within one of the nation’s largest anti-choice groups, National Right to Life.
When Ohio Sen. Rob Portman announced earlier this year that, inspired by his openly gay son, he had switched his position to support marriage equality, the National Right to Life’s Cleveland affiliate announced that it would no longer support Portman. In response, National Right to Life cut ties with the Cleveland group, citing its “public criticisms of and implicit political threats against a U.S. Senator who has supported the right-to-life position” over “a non-right-to-life issue.”
Although National Right to Life’s letter [PDF] was sent in July, it hit the news this week when Cleveland Right to Life decided to fight back, releasing the letter to the media, alleging “coordination” between Sen. Portman’s office and the national group and asking, “How can you be for the child if you are not for the family?”
Yesterday, Cleveland Right to Life President Molly Smith took the group’s case to the Steve Deace show, where she speculated that National Right to Life dropped her chapter because they are “terrified about Sen. Portman’s position and the fact that they might lose his support on his pro-life stance.”
Smith told Deace that she had met with Portman and that “he assures us he’s never going to abandon the pro-life cause when it comes to abortion and the issues we’ve just spoken about.”
“But when it comes to gay marriage, he’s 100 percent behind his son,” she said. “That’s not pro-life!”
Deace was skeptical that Portman would hold onto his opposition to abortion rights. “Does that mean that if he has a daughter that has an abortion, he changes his mind on that too, Molly?” he asked. Smith responded, “Absolutely.”
Smith concluded her interview with an odd caveat: “Even as I say all of this, Steve, I feel so terrible, because this is a very private matter for Sen. Portman’s family.”
The National Right to Life Committee has cut ties with its Cleveland chapter after the local group announced that it would oppose Ohio Sen. Rob Portman’s re-election because of his support for marriage equality.
NRLC president Carol Tobias told [PDF] the Cleveland Right to Life that its “public criticisms of and implicit political threats against a U.S. Senator who has supported the right-to-life position” over “a non-right-to-life issue” has “violated National Right to Life policy, causing the chapter to disaffiliate itself from the NRLC.”
“We respectfully insist that you remove from your website the claim that you are affiliated with NRLC,” Tobias writes.
The Cleveland group blamed the disaffiliation on “coordination” between the national group and Sen. Portman’s office and reiterated that “any politician, including Portman, who supports the break-up of the American family and supports the denial of a mother and father for children has forfeited the right of support and endorsement of the prolife movement.”
Seeing that Portman became persona non grata among Religious Right organizations after he endorsed marriage equality, NRLC’s decision to stick by him is likely to provoke the ire of other anti-choice groups that are more vocal opponents of same-sex marriage.
Linda Harvey yesterday hailed Cleveland Right to Life for adding opposition to marriage equality to its mission statement, which previously focused on issues like abortion rights and stem-cell research. During a radio alert, Harvey said that Cleveland Right to Life leaders recently met with Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) and “made it clear that going forward his support for same-sex marriage will put him at odds with any official endorsement they are willing to give.”
“As part of that meeting, Portman revealed that he would throw his support behind any upcoming effort to overturn our Ohio marriage amendment.”
While Portman announced that he backs marriage equality earlier this year, the Associated Press reported this month that “the senator has indicated he doesn’t want to take a position as a campaign operative.”
Harvey later recounted her experience at a Pride Parade this year to rant against same-sex parents, suggesting that their kids intrinsically know something is wrong and are disturbed by their parents’ relationship: “Children know and sense deep deception and most children will sense something is not right with being proud of homosexuality.”
She found it “heartbreaking to see homosexuals haul their children proudly in front of thousands of people in the recent Columbus Pride Parade,” particularly a family with an “exploitative sign” which read “I love my two dads.”
Harvey hopes listeners tell the kids of same-sex couples that they should urge their parents to become ex-gays: “No one has to pursue a homosexual lifestyle and anyone with sense and genuine love for both the child and for our God and for his plans for us will tell that child the truth: lots of people have left homosexual desires and behavior to live lives consistent with the way God clearly made us.”
National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown is convinced that marriage equality advocates, who just helped pass laws legalizing same-sex marriage in Delaware and Rhode Island, will go down in defeat since they are opposed to “the will of the majority of Americans” and solely rely on the support of “our cultural elite.”
Speaking with Janet Mefferd yesterday, Brown argued that Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Mark Kirk (R-IL), who both support marriage equality, will lose their re-election races in 2016 over the marriage issue…if they even opt to run again.
Brown: If the Republican Party were to change its platform, that would be the death knell for the Republican Party. Right now the Democratic Party has changed its platform, has wholeheartedly embraced the redefinition of marriage. The Republican Party right now gives voters — and again, the majority of voters who have been able to vote on this issue have voted to protect marriage in this country — it gives those voters a party that at this point stands up for traditional marriage. We need to be encouraging Republican lawmakers to be speaking out more on the importance of marriage, not attempting to imitate the Democratic Party in embracing the redefinition of marriage.
Mefferd: Very, very well said. You’re seeing people like Rob Portman and Mark Kirk come out as Republicans backing now homosexual so-called marriage. What do you think the response needs to be from the voters, working very hard to get them out of office? Brown: They need to be primaried, period. I think that folks in Ohio, if Rob Portman decides to run again, he will be primaried, he may not run again because there’s been such a backlash in his state, and I think the same is true of Mark Kirk.
Sen. Rob Portman has, unsurprisingly, been faced with a barrage of criticism from Religious Right groups since he announced that, inspired by his gay son, he had changed his mind to support marriage equality. But perhaps no one has been more upset with Portman than Ohio anti-gay leader Phil Burress of Citizens for Community Values. Last week, Burress called Portman “a very troubled man” who is “distraught over what’s happened to his son.”
On Wednesday, Burress took to “ex-gay” activist Michael Brown’s “Line of Fire” radio program to recount a conversation he had with Portman shortly before the senator’s announcement. Portman was “dejected” and “basically sad throughout the conversation,” Burress says. And while Burress had initially thought Portman was “looking for help for his son to walk away from the lifestyle” through "ex-gay" therapy, it eventually became “obvious that he was going to embrace his son’s behavior, which was devastating, because he just gives his son no chance whatsoever of understanding, you know, that he doesn’t have to be that way.”
Burress knows who to blame for this change of heart in father and son: Yale University, where the younger Portman is currently a freshman. At Yale, Burress says, Portman’s son was “probably associating with the other homosexual activists” and ultimately “forced his dad’s hand on this thing.”
Burress: He called me the night before he went public and told me that he was the first one that he wanted to call, and we shared ideas and thoughts. And when he first called me, I thought he was looking for help for his son to walk away from the lifestyle, because I’m pretty sure that he knows that I spent four and a half years on the board of an international organization helping people walk away. And he dropped the bomb on me by saying he was going to change his opinion, which I still today cannot believe that he did that because this is a principled issue and you just don’t turn your back on principled issues.
Brown: Phil, do you think, and you wrote a very gracious but firm editorial that’s getting a lot of national exposure, do you think that he was unaware before this that his son felt that his homosexuality was not a choice? Because he announced it as if this was a new revelation.
Burress: Well, he knew about it for two and a half years. So, apparently in thinking back, he, they learned about it while he was a freshman in high school, and now he’s a, excuse me, a junior in high school, and now he’s a freshman at Yale. And I don’t think there’s any coincidence to this whatsoever that he came home, probably associating with the other homosexual activists at Yale, and I think maybe he forced his dad’s hand on this thing because, that’s just my gut feeling, because Rob started off the conversation by saying, ‘I’ve got some really bad news,’ and he was dejected and basically sad throughout the whole conversation. And it ended up being a conversation, a dad to a dad, but it was obvious that he was going to embrace his son’s behavior, which was devastating, because he just gives his son no chance whatsoever of understanding, you know, that he doesn’t have to be that way. And I told him that it’s not innate, it’s a learned behavior.
Later in the program, Burress promised electoral defeat for Portman if he runs for reelection in 2016. Burress notes that former Ohio Republican Sen. Mike DeWine lost his bid for reelection in 2006 after opposing a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Burress neglects to mention that DeWine, who supported a federal gay marriage ban, in fact lost to Democrat and gay-rights supporter Sherrod Brown.
Brown: What do we do now? Do we just say, ‘Another loss, throw in the towel, America’s capitulating,’ or can we bring about change?
Burress: We can bring about change alright, and what’s surfacing now is what happened to Mike DeWine, Senator Mike DeWine, when he opposed us in 2004. I chaired the marriage amendment in Ohio to change the constitution here in Ohio and Senator DeWine came out against us. And he’d been in the Senate for, I think, two or three terms, and obviously that cost him his election. When he ran again, he got beat because he switched his position. And there’s no doubt in my mind that the same thing’s going to happen, based on the emails and the calls we’re getting, is that people are not only devastated but are angry that they have somebody up there that they voted for to represent their point of view and their values and he’s turned his back on them. This is a non-negotiable issue with our organization and he will be listed on our annual, what we call Ohio Election Central, our reporting agency where we endorse candidates, as ‘unacceptable for public office.’
Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition kicked off its 2012 conference with a splashy show of the Reed’s political muscle in the form of three U.S. Senators. Rob Portman of Ohio, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, and Marco Rubio of Florida all delivered speeches that reflect Reed’s goal for 2012 and beyond: merging the messages and organizing energies of the overlapping Tea Party and Religious Right movements to elect conservative Republicans.
“American exceptionalism” was a major theme of the day – defined generally as America being uniquely blessed by God for its commitment to limited government and free-market economics grounded in a belief that individual rights come from God. And – no surprise -- President Obama was portrayed as an enemy of faith and freedom.
Portman declared that the Obama administration had treated freedom of religion as a “second-class right.” He argued that life should be held sacred “from conception til death.”
DeMint charged the President with wanting a country and economy run from the top down, and called for a stop to government “purging faith” from the American way of life. “We need to realize we’re blessed,” said DeMint. “We need to know that we’re in trouble. And we need to know that 2012 may be our last chance to turn this thing around.”
Reed introduced Rubio as one of the greatest talents and most transformational figures that any of us have ever seen. Rubio, who is hawking a new book, argued that social and fiscal conservatism are indistinguishable, and that the notion of God as the source of freedom is essential to freedom itself. “You cannot have your freedom without your faith, because the source of your freedom is your faith.” He argued that calling for the wealthy to pay more taxes is “divisive” and pits Americans against each other for the purposes of winning an election, claiming, “that is never who we have been.” (Surely even Rubio does not actually believe that the Republican Party and Tea Party have never run divisive campaigns in order to win elections.)
Listening to Rubio, you can understand why GOP strategists have such high hopes for him. He calls on people to help their neighbors. He says the conservative movement is not about imposing its values on others or leaving people behind. He says conservatives want drinking water to be clean and the air to be breathable. (In reality, of course, policies backed by today’s far-right GOP would indeed impose their values on others, leave millions of Americans behind, and eviscerate regulations that protect our families’ food, air, and water.)
Before the conference started, an FFC press release claimed that its activists will be “phoning, mailing, and knocking on the doors of 27 million conservative and pro-family voters, distributing 35 million voter guides, and making a total of 120 million voter contacts” in 2012. At today’s luncheon, Reed encouraged members of the audience to imagine what could happen with another 10 or 20 senators like Rubio. Yes, just imagine.
Cleveland, Ohio – Representatives from over a dozen Ohio social justice, legal and community action organizations from every part of the state participated in a conference call with White House staff today to discuss growing concern about the ongoing crisis in the federal courts.