DES MOINES, Iowa — GOP presidential hopeful and front runner, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, on Thursday attacked the LGBTQ community, first on the subject of same-sex marriage, and then on the topics of sexual orientation and the repeal of “Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell.”
In a question and answer session today with the editorial board of the Des Moines Register, Gingrich noted that LGBTQ people have a “significant range of choice within a genetic pattern” and can choose to be straight just like someone can “choose to be celibate.”
Earlier this week, Gingrich lent his support to the Iowa far-right group, The Family Leader. In a letter to the anti-gay organization, Gingrich vowed to support the Defense of Marriage Act, and a federal marriage amendment. The Family Leader, led by Iowa conservative Bob Vander Platts, asserts that homosexuality a choice and a threat to public health.
The pledge calls on candidates to vigorously support the Defense of Marriage Act, push for a federal marriage amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman, repeal marriage equality in the nation’s capital, appoint anti-equality judges, and form a McCarthy-like commission to look into alleged incidents of harassment against NOM supporters.
“Newt Gingrich’s signature to the NOM Marriage Pledge is just the latest indicator of how beholden the GOP presidential candidates are to anti-gay groups,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese, in a statement.
“The tenets of the NOM pledge are rooted in hatred against LGBT Americans – by signing it, Gingrich and his fellow candidates are distancing themselves from mainstream opinion and taking an astonishingly extremist stance,” Solmonese said.
“We know that more than 50 percent of Americans support marriage equality, 77 percent of voters favor anti-discrimination laws, and a resounding number of people of faith believe their religion calls on them to support LGBT equality. His support for the NOM Marriage Pledge firmly puts Newt Gingrich on the wrong side of history.”
In the round-table interview with the Register today, Gingrich stated that there is a “big difference between saying that you’re to have an acceptance of people’s lifestyles and saying that you’re now going to normalize that as a standard for the whole country.”
Question: Do you believe that people choose to be gay?
GINGRICH: I believe it’s a combination of genetics and environment. I think both are involved. I think people have many ranges of choices. Part of the question is, do you want a society which has a bias in one direction or another?
Question: So people can then choose one way or another?
GINGRICH: I think people have a significant range of choice within a genetic pattern. I don’t believe in genetic determinism and I don’t think there is any great evidence of genetic determinism. There are propensities. Are you more likely to do this or more likely to do that? But that doesn’t mean it’s definitional.
Question: So a person can then choose to be straight?
GINGRICH: Look, people choose to be celibate. People choose many things in life. You know, there is a bias in favor of non-celibacy. It’s part of how the species recreates. And yet there is a substantial amount of people who choose celibacy as a religious vocation or for other reasons.
Gingrich on Civil Rights, Gay Marriage:
Question: With your view of history do you see comparisons between the civil rights era and the push these days for gay rights? There were lots of people in the South in the ’60s who would have never had consented to blacks and whites marrying, and that’s become the law of the land. There are lots of gay folks who see themselves in the same predicament. Talk about that.
GINGRICH: I think there is an enormous difference between an inescapable fact of race — and you have to decide whether or not you are in fact going to tolerate discrimination based on race — and a question about culture, a question about what are your values. I think marriage is between a man and a woman. That’s a value proposition.
I think it is very important for society to try and emphasize that relationship. I think people growing up in a structure in which children have parents that they look up to and parents that they relate to is a very important thing.
I think there is a big difference between saying that you are going to have an acceptance of people’s lifestyle and saying you now are going to normalize that as the standard for the whole country. The fact is I am a traditional classic conservative. And I am defending a value system which has a several-thousand-year history behind it, which is pretty clear. And I think that almost nobody who studies that value system has any doubts about that clarity.
Question: A lot of people from the South in the ’50s and ’60s would have said mixed-race marriage was a cultural thing that they couldn’t accept at the time.
GINGRICH: Look, you can always make parallels if you want to. I don’t accept that parallel. I think that it is fairly ludicrous. Nobody is suggesting that we have legal segregation of gays, nobody is suggesting they not be allowed to use the bathroom, they not be allowed to drink at the water fountain. I mean, segregation was a horrible thing. And I grew up, I was born in Pennsylvania, I grew up in an integrated U.S. Army. I arrived at Fort Benning when I was a junior in high school. Segregation was still legal, it was a totally different thing. And I think that it is frankly offensive to have this whole effort to draw the contrast and to say that if you feel strongly about marriage being between a man and a woman, gee, is that parallel to being a racist? The answer is no. I am defending a 3,000-year tradition. It’s very deep in our culture for very profound reasons.
Question: But marriage is about to be a minority status in this country, marriage between a man and a woman.
GINGRICH: And that’s a problem.
Question: Is there something as president you would see that you could do to turn that tide if that’s what your value is?
GINGRICH: I think part of it is to shift the benefit patterns economically so there is a greater benefit to being married. Look at the impact. You go back and look at [then–Assistant Secretary of Labor Daniel Patrick] Moynihan’s original warnings on this topic 40 years ago. And by every criteria, the breakdown of the family has gotten worse, the number of children who are growing up rootless and without any kind of adult supervision has gotten worse. And yet Moynihan was roundly attacked for having said things that are now patently true, very clearly obvious. I think [Rick] Santorum is actually on to something important, that finding a way to create a positive environment to maximize the desirability of marriage being the central building block and family being the central building block of society is a very important step we ought to take.
Question: So apart from marriage you say you support equal treatment of gay Americans?
GINGRICH: I’m against discrimination against people based on their private behavior.
Gingrich on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”:
Question: So what is your position on the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy?
GINGRICH: That would be my policy — don’t ask, don’t tell.
Question: So in the military, you would have separate standards?
GINGRICH: I don’t think in the military, that you particularly want sexual behavior to be an overt issue.
Question: So you would not have wanted that repealed?
GINGRICH: I would not have wanted it repealed.
Question: Would you try and reinstate it?
GINGRICH: I would sign a reinstatement.
Question: Would you actively work to get it reinstated?
GINGRICH: Well, I would encourage the Congress to pass reinstatement, and I suspect the next Congress will pass reinstatement. And by the way, when the president moved in the opposite direction, the two major ground combat forces — the Army and the Marine Corps — were both deeply opposed.
Question: They aren’t now, though.
GINGRICH: They aren’t now because they respond to the commander in chief.
Question: They aren’t telling the truth, they aren’t telling their true feelings?
GINGRICH: I think fairly often when you are in the chain of command, there is a way to ask the question just right. But the truth is I think it would be a career-ending conversation.