One candidate is half way, another seeks loyalty oath, a third backs down
The Democratic presidential candidate who appears to have the most LGBT support narrowly lost a major primary Tuesday to the Democratic presidential candidate who boasts the most consistently pro-gay record. The only Republican presidential candidate who has encouraged business owners to respect LGBT people appeared this week to back off that position. And to this mix, add the Republican frontrunner’s new rally feature: asking participants to raise their hands and “solemnly swear” to vote for him and saying, “Bad things happen if you don’t live up to what you just did.”
Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders picked up a surprise win in the Michigan primary Tuesday, as did Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump. Polls leading up to Tuesday gave Democrat Hillary Clinton the advantage in Michigan. She appeared to have had significant support from the LGBT community in Michigan. Gay philanthropist Jon Stryker, head of the Kalamazoo-based Arcus Foundation, contributed heavily to political action committees supporting Clinton. LGBT organizers in Royal Oak on Sunday hosted former President Bill Clinton. And Michigan LGBT newspaper publisher Susan Horowitz said she supports Clinton.
But of the six states that held Democratic balloting between Saturday and Tuesday, Sanders won Michigan and three others (Kansas, Maine, and Nebraska) and Clinton won two (Louisiana and Mississippi). That kept up a general trend, so far, of Sanders winning in the northeast and Midwest, and Clinton winning in the south.
Though Clinton won fewer states in the past week, she picked up more delegates (152 to Sanders’ 136) and is now more than halfway to securing the 2,383 delegates needed to win the Democratic nomination. Sanders is 24 percent of the way.
While Trump is the Republican frontrunner, he has only 37 percent of the 1,237 delegate votes needed to secure the nomination. U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas has 29 percent, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio has 12 percent, and Ohio Governor John Kasich has four percent.
Unless Kasich and Rubio can pull off victories in their home states next Tuesday, the Republican contest could soon be a two-man race.
But Trump continues to lead in most of the remaining polls –including in Florida and Ohio – and maintains the lion’s share of media attention. That continued this week when Trump began asking rally participants to swear an oath to him, unleashing open discussion of a concern that Trump’s rhetoric and tactics are reminiscent of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. Trump has also had security personnel to remove protesters from his rally.
A former head of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, told The Times of Israel, “As a Jew who survived the Holocaust, to see an audience of thousands of people raising their hands in what looks like the ‘Heil Hitler’ salute is about as offensive, obnoxious and disgusting as anything I thought I would ever witness in the United States of America.”
Trump called on his audience to make the pledge in Orlando, Florida, Saturday and Concord, North Carolina, on Monday. Photos from the events show some people holding their hands up in a classic pledge pose, with their forearms perpendicular to their upper arms. But many held their arms straight out from their bodies in a pose that is reminiscent of Hitler’s salute.
Asked about it by various television news reporters, Trump said the oath was just “for fun” and that his audiences were beckoning him to “do the swear in.”
Republican Party leaders are distraught over the seeming likelihood that Trump will win the nomination and many have been throwing their support behind Rubio and Kasich. Anecdotal information suggests LGBT Republicans are, too. Many were pleased with Kasich’s remarks during a February 25 debate in Houston about the refusal of some to do business with same-sex couples.
“If you’re in the business of selling things, if you’re not going to sell to somebody you don’t agree with –OK, ‘Today, I’m not going to sell to somebody who’s gay and tomorrow maybe I won’t sell to somebody who’s divorced’.
“If you’re in the business of commerce, conduct commerce,” said Kasich. “That’s my view. And if you don’t agree with their lifestyle, say a prayer for them when they leave [the shop] and hope they change their behavior.”
But during the latest debate, March 3, Fox News reporter Bret Baier said “some faith leaders got nervous about that answer” and asked Kasich “Do gay marriage dissenters have rights?”
Suddenly, Kasich seemed to waffle. After rambling about trying to be “a man of faith every day as best as I can,” he then restructured the conflict into one that gay couples were causing.
“Look, you’re in the commerce business, you want to sell somebody a cupcake, great, OK? But now they ask you to participate in something you really don’t like –that’s a whole ‘nother issue, OK? Another issue,” said Kasich.
He reiterated that he didn’t agree with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down state bans on same-sex marriage and that he favors “traditional marriage, a man and a woman.”
“If you go to a photographer to take pictures at your wedding, and he says, ‘I’d rather not do it,’ find another photographer. Don’t sue them in court,” said Kasich. “You know what the problem is in our country? In our country, we need to learn to respect each other and be a little bit tolerant for one another.”
“…At the end of the day, if somebody is being pressured to participate in something that is against their deeply-held religious beliefs, then we’re going to have to think about dealing with the law.”
Baier then asked Cruz, “Do you believe a gay couple should be able to adopt?” (This was four days before the U.S. Supreme Court issued an order that said Alabama had to accept an adoption approved in Georgia for a same-sex couple.)
Cruz said “adoption is decided at the state level, and I am a believer of the 10th Amendment in the Constitution. I would leave the question of marriage to the states. I would leave the question of adoption to the states.”
On Monday, a voter in Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan, confronted Kasich about his revised position. According to the Washington Post, the voter “asked if the governor would stand for the rights of gay people to be served just as Lyndon Johnson had stood for the rights of black people.” The Post said Kasich “tried to pull [the voter] over [to his side] by portraying the religious liberty fight as one good people could agree not to have.”
“Don’t make laws until you think you need to,” Kasich said, according to the Post. “Let’s take a deep breath and see if we can get along….If common sense doesn’t prevail, we can pass a law.” He did not, apparently, identify which law he would want to pass.
Reacting to Kasich’s remarks, the Clinton campaign Twitter feed posted a graphic of a smiling Clinton against a rainbow background with the message “Marriage equality is the law of the land –Deal with it.”
The race for the nomination in both parties now rushes into the District of Columbia (Saturday) and five delegate-heavy states: Illinois, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Missouri.
The Clinton Twitter feed, @HillaryClinton, has been posting numerous LGBT-related messages. A March 4 post says, “Today, nearly 100 #LGBT leaders from all across Illinois announced their support for @Hillary Clinton.” The list includes State Rep. Kelly Cassidy; Chicago Aldermen James Cappleman, Ray Lopez, and Deb Mell; Community Leader Bernard Cherkasov; long-time activist Rick Garcia; and NGLTF Creating Change Co-Chair Kenny Martin-Ocasio. March 5 post says, “We should be supporting LGBT kids—not trying to change them. It’s time to end conversion therapy for minors.” And a March 6 video showed same-sex couples together, with Clinton saying that “I’m running for president to stand up for the rights of LGBT Americans and all Americans.”