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When preaching small government, stay out of marriage

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | DECEMBER 01, 2011 7:20 AM

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If the Republican presidential contenders wish to remain truthful to their rhetoric of decentralization of power in Washington, they should take a break from wooing social conservatives and stand for states' rights in regard to gay marriage.

Because many likely Iowa caucus-goers describe themselves as very conservative on social issues such as gay marriage and abortion, many candidates feel they need to reach out to the far-right if they plan to get the presidential nod. However, a staunch, conservative position on social issues will likely hurt them in the long run, because it undermines their more-appealing small-government policies.

A more advisable approach would be to stress the importance of family and the importance of Christian values and then to relate it to small government. This stance is arguably closer to conservative ideals and is also more appealing to moderate voters — the key to the election.

On Nov. 19, an umbrella group called the National Organization for Marriage and the Family Leader hosted a values forum in Des Moines that gave some insight to the candidates' stances on faith, marriage, abortion, and a host of other social issues. The Iowa Family Leader subsidiary, headed by social conservative guru Bob Vander Plaats, played a large role in Mike Huckabee's Iowa caucus win in 2008.

At the event, nearly all the attending candidates vehemently renounced gay marriage and expressed support for the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which is a violation of the Constitution.

The 10th Amendment states, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

Even with such a clear definition, all but two of the significant Republican candidates firmly stand by this contradiction. The Iowa Supreme Court fairly ruled in favor of the legalization of gay marriage in Iowa in 2009, which by these same candidates' accounts would be reasonable in regards to health-care reform or other federal mandates.

Despite asserting that same-sex couples cannot parent effectively, there is no existing U.S. statistical data to support that contention. The studies that they cite are from Europe and do not necessarily show causality.

Molly Tafoya, the communications director of One Iowa, a gay-rights group, said, "We have faith that Iowans will see this event for what it is — a distraction and desperate attempt to reclaim media attention."

The three Republican candidates who seem to understand the states' rights concept are U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, and, surprisingly, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. At the Family Leader Forum, Paul said to the large crowd, "The family dealt with marriages … We have deferred to the federal government. We have too much government. We should go in the other direction."

The issue, for Paul, is not just an opportunity to garner political brownie points with conservative voters. In 2004, he said to then-Speaker of the House Denny Hastert, "Mr. Speaker, while I oppose federal efforts to redefine marriage as something other than a union between one man and one woman, I do not believe a Constitutional amendment is either a necessary or proper way to defend marriage."

He has the decency to oppose same-sex marriage personally for religious purposes and support it politically for legal reasons.

Johnson and Romney, while not in attendance at the forum, opposed the Marriage Vow Pact that was developed by the Iowa Family Forum in July. Johnson called the pledge "offensive and un-Republican," while Romney's campaign has said, "Mitt Romney strongly supports traditional marriage. But he felt this pledge contained references and provisions that were undignified and inappropriate for a presidential campaign."

Tafoya said in regards to the Republican candidates, "We are disappointed in the candidates who attended the event. Iowans deserve political leaders who value all families and who are running on a platform of job creation and bipartisan cooperation, not on a platform of anti-equality legislation that harms families and children and does nothing for the economy."

Indeed, the economy and jobs must remain the top priority for these candidates. Rummaging into the political bombshell of same-sex marriage in this election is unwise. For the time being, they should table the conversation and promote their ideas to reboot America's economy.


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