Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives revealed their “Pledge to America” Thursday, September 23, and it includes a pledge to “to honor families, traditional marriage, life, and the private and faith-based organizations that form the core of our American values.” That reference to traditional marriage was too much for most LGBT leaders and too little for right-wing conservatives.
The document, unveiled by House Minority Leader John Boehner, is essentially a campaign tool—part of the GOP’s effort to win a majority of seats in the House, where polls show they currently have the better likelihood, compared to the Senate. It is inspired by its predecessor, “Contract with America,” that was issued to help Republicans take back the House in the 1994 elections.
The difference in this year’s document is the promise to “honor…traditional marriage.” The 1994 Contract had no similar statement.
That statement, said Fred Sainz, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, the preeminent LGBT lobby group on Capitol Hill, signals that Republicans “clearly are not going to be supportive of any form of relationship recognition—civil unions, domestic partnerships, or marriage.”
“On the whole,” he said, the Pledge is “very bad for LGBT people.”
“It is the same tired conservative agenda that drove our nation backward, not forward,” said Sainz.
National Stonewall Democrats leader Michael Mitchell agreed.
“For anyone who believed a few weeks ago that the GOP was thawing when it comes to LGBT rights, especially marriage rights, this document is a great object lesson in the lengths the Republicans will go in order to exclude millions of LGBT Americans from their stated vision of ‘greater liberty and wider opportunity’.”
“This Pledge to America is nothing but recycled talking points about policies that have failed again and again and that fail to recognize the greatness of fair-minded Americans,” said Mitchell.
But R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, said the Pledge includes “important pro-equality language.”
“It states, ‘We pledge to advance policies that promote greater liberty, wider opportunity, a robust defense, and national economic prosperity’,” noted Cooper. But, he noted, “the Republican party, like the Democratic party, remains on a journey toward completely embracing marriage equality.”
“If there is any silver lining in it,” said HRC’s Sainz, “it’s that there’s no mention of a federal marriage amendment. That’s a victory. There’s no mention of [opposition to] Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal. That’s also a victory.
“But make no mistake about it,” said Sainz. “Under a Republican Congress—Senate or House—LGBT equality legislation will never see the light of day.”
The Pledge also makes not that Republicans would like to eradicate the so-called “marriage penalty” in their taxes.
According to the document, 35 million married couples will pay an average of $595 more in taxes next year “due to a reinstatement of the marriage penalty.” The document says this is because of a $3.8 trillion tax hike that is due to go into effect January 1.
But M.V. Lee Badgett, director of the Center for Public Policy and Administration at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, notes that many gay married couples suffer an even larger marriage penalty.
According to her recent analysis of federal income taxes paid by same-sex couples in Massachusetts, where they can obtain marriage licenses, 66 percent of gay couples pay an average of more than $2,325 more in taxes because they are not allowed to file federal taxes as “married filing jointly.”
Another 11 percent of same-sex couples would see no change in their federal taxes if they could file married filing jointly. And 23 percent would end up paying about $500 more if they filed as such.
The Pledge makes no mention of the inequity in taxes for married same-sex couples.
Although House Democrats have not staged a press conference, the Democratic Party does have, on its website, a document entitled “What We Stand For.” Under the topic of “Civil Rights,” the post says “Democrats are committed to” enacting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and repealing the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy “in a sensible way.” It also promises to ensure “civil unions and equal federal rights for LGBT couples, as well as fully repealing the Defense of Marriage Act.”
Rea Carey, head of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said her organization urges “all of our country’s political leaders to support the fundamental rights, dignity and equality of all people.”
“That’s the type of agenda they should be promoting,” said Carey, regarding the GOP Pledge to America. “That’s the type of agenda that celebrates the ideals of America. That’s the type of agenda that will make our country stronger.”
CBS News reported Thursday that some House Republicans, including Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence of Indiana tried to have the Pledge include a statement supporting the Defense of Marriage Act. CBS said that effort failed. Family Research Council President Tony Perkins issued a statement expressing “disappointment” that the Pledge did not include more specifics, such as support for DOMA.