Former Mitt Romney campaign adviser Stuart Stevens took to MSNBC Tuesday to defend the Republican Party from claims that it is bigoted because of its opposition to LGBT rights. He told Andrea Mitchell that “it’s clearly not a party issue,” simply because Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) came out for same-sex marriage before Hillary Clinton:
STEVENS: First, I think we have to say, 200 hours ago, Hillary Clinton hadn’t announced that she was for gay marriage. The 2008 Democratic platform that Barack Obama ran on was not for gay marriage. So I think it’s good to take a step back and look at where the country is on this and where people are thinking about it and looking into their hearts and coming to a decision. I think to try to divide this between political lines is really the wrong way to go. And it’s clearly not a party issue when you have Hillary Clinton following Rob Portman. I don’t think people are looking at it as an R and D issue. [...]
I think that one has to be careful about pushing it to these extremes, because as I said, in 2008, the platform of the Democratic Party was not for gay marriage, so to say that this is a litmus test on civil rights — when four years ago the Democratic Party was against it — I think is just not productive in the discussion.
Stevens’ conflation of the party’s positions — or those of their members — downplays just how disparate the two have been. Clinton spent the last four years in a position that required her to remain politically neutral, and the very first political statement she made after ending her time as Secretary of State was to endorse same-sex marriage. Besides that, her platform in 2008 included support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, LGBT hate crimes protections, repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and full equal benefits for same-sex couples through civil unions or domestic partnerships, all of which Republicans have opposed. As a stalwart advocate for LGBT equality, she is in no way comparable to the prototypical Republican candidate.
Moreover, a side-by-side comparison of party platforms reveals a harsh juxtaposition. The 2008 Democratic Party Platform, which Stevens cites as his example, was hardly “against” same-sex marriage. Its only mention of the word “marriage” was in opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act — in addition to calling for “equal responsibility, benefits, and protections” for same-sex couples. Compare this to the 2012 Republican Party Platform, which was arguably its most anti-gay platform ever. With language drafted by Tony Perkins, president of the anti-gay hate-group-classified Family Research Council, it called same-sex marriage “an assault on the foundations of our society,” encouraging a “national standard” of heterosexual-only marriage because it’s “best for children.” And of course, Stevens had to reach back to 2008 because the 2012 Democratic Platform did include a call for full marriage equality.
The Republican Party is trying to sugarcoat its opposition to LGBT equality while downplaying accusations of bigotry, but if this is the best defense a top Republican strategist can offer for opposing same-sex marriage, it’s not working.