2012 GOP Presidential Candidates: Views on LGBT Equality

Our guest bloggers are Josh Garcia and LGBT Progress Staff.

Over the past year, we have seen the top GOP presidential candidates face off in numerous debates across the country, all in an effort to secure the Republican nomination for president. With only four contenders remaining, jobs and the economy continue to dominate the political conversation this primary season. In addition, all of these candidates have also made public statements about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) issues at some point on the campaign trail.

Throughout their campaigns, we have documented the candidates’ policy positions on many issues facing the LGBT community, including marriage equality, relationship recognition rights such as civil unions, employment protections, repealing the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) repeal.

The following interactive compares the final four contenders actively seeking the Republican nomination. Each candidate’s position is based on publicly-made statements about LGBT issues. Click on a candidate to view their statements and to see how they stack up when it comes to LGBT equality.


All positions current as of January 27, 2012.

CandidateMarriage EqualityRelationship recognitionDADT RepealENDADOMA Repeal

Newt GingrichFormer Speaker of the House

Ron PaulRepresentative from Texas

Mitt RomneyFormer Governor of Massachusetts

Rick SantorumFormer Junior Senator from Pennsylvania

Newt Gingrich

Marriage equality

“I think for those to whom the only issue that really matters is the definition of marriage, I won’t get their support. I accept that that’s a reality. On the other hand, for those to whom it’s not the central issue in their life … I think I’ll get their support.”

Source: Atlanta Journal Constitution, December 21, 2011.

Relationship recognition

At the New Hampshire Debate, in response to a question regarding relationships between homosexuals, Gingrich stated “We want to make it possible to have those things that are most intimately human between friends…It is a huge jump from being understanding and considerate and concerned, which we should be, to saying we therefore are going to institute the sacrament of marriage as though it has no basis.”

Source: The New Civil Rights Movement, 2012.

“I stand on some kind of legal rights. I’m not sure where I stand on civil unions. It’s like marriage without marriage. I’ll give you a specific example of what I believe. People ought to have the ability to have people visit them in the hospital, which is the most obvious and awkward situation.”

Source: The American View, 2005.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

“When asked if he would reinstate ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ the recently ended policy that banned gay and bisexual troops from serving openly, Gingrich said, ‘Yes. I voted for it originally.’”

Source: On Top Magazine, November 10, 2011.

“Well, I think it’s very powerful that both the Army and the Marines overwhelmingly opposed changing it, that their recommendation was against changing it. And if as president — I’ve met with them and they said, you know, it isn’t working, it is dangerous, it’s disrupting unit morale, and we should go back, I would listen to the commanders whose lives are at risk about the young men and women that they are, in fact, trying to protect.”

Source: Towleroad, June 14, 2011.

Defense of Marriage Act

“As President, I will vigorously enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, which was enacted under my leadership as Speaker of the House, and ensure compliance with its provisions, especially in the military. I will also aggressively defend the constitutionality of DOMA in federal and state courts.”

Source: Human Rights Campaign, December 13, 2011.

In response to marriage equality in New York: “I think the president should be, frankly, enforcing (DOMA), and I think we are drifting toward a terrible muddle which I think is going to be very, very difficult and painful to work our way out of.”

Source: Towleroad, June 28, 2011.


“[T]here is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us.”

Source: The O’Reilly Factor, November 14, 2010.

Ron Paul

Marriage Equality

“That’s my ideal — just butt out. I think a lot of the importance of marriage and I think a lot of the dictionary too. I know what the dictionary says marriage should be and is. But I didn’t vote for the marriage amendment. To me, it’s defining a word. If you want to define it one way and me another, that sounds like a first amendment issue. Why should I try to convince you of my definition? Or why do I want someone else to impose their ideas on me and make me accept their definition? So I want the government out. If you’re going to have government under the constitution, the states have a lot more authority than the federal government has to define it. I’d rather see it be outside of government and then we would not be arguing about this.”

Source: On Top Magazine, November 22, 2011.

Relationship recognition

“My personal belief is that marriage is a religious ceremony and it should be dealt with religiously, the state really shouldn’t be involved. To amend the constitution is totally unnecessary to define something that is already in the dictionary.”

Source: Fox News, October 22 2007.

“If I were in Congress in 1996, I would have voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, which used Congress’s constitutional authority to define what official state documents other states have to recognize under the Full Faith and Credit Clause, to ensure that no state would be forced to recognize a ‘same sex’ marriage license issued in another state.”

Source: Statement by Ron Paul to Congress, October 1, 2004.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

“I have received several calls and visits from constituents who, in spite of the heavy investment in their training, have been forced out of the military simply because they were discovered to be homosexual. To me, this seems like an awful waste. Personal behavior that is disruptive should be subject to military discipline regardless of whether the individual is heterosexual or homosexual. But to discharge an otherwise well-trained, professional, and highly skilled member of the military for these reasons is unfortunate and makes no financial sense.”

Source: The Washington Post, May 28, 2010.

“Since we cannot have only perfect people going in the military I want to separate the two because I don’t want to know the heterosexual flaws, nor the homosexual flaws and that’s why I got in some trouble with some of the civil libertarians because I don’t have any problem with ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’”

Source: The Washington Post, August 25, 2007.

Employment Non-Discrimination Act

Q: …Would you protect business owners like me from being forced to violate our moral conscience by vetoing the so-called “Employment Non-Discrimination Act” that would add the phrase “sexual orientation” into federal law? PAUL: Yes.

Source: 2007 Values Voter Presidential Debate, September 17, 2007.

Defense of Marriage Act

“I supported the Defense of Marriage Act, which used Congress’ constitutional authority to define what other states have to recognize under the Full Faith and Credit Clause, to ensure that no state would be forced to recognize a same sex marriage license issued in another state,” he added. “I have also cosponsored the Marriage Protection Act, which would remove challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act from the jurisdiction of the federal courts.”

Source: Speech to the Iowa Family Leader, March 7, 2011.

Mitt Romney

Marriage equality

“We’re united in our belief in the importance and significance of a marriage between one man and one woman.”

Source: Boston Globe, June 4, 2011.

Relationship recognition

“As governor, Mitt Romney fought against gay marriage in Massachusetts. He supports a federal amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman.”

Source: Romney campaign mailer, November 26, 2011.

“I agree with 3,000 years of recorded history. I disagree with the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. Marriage is an institution between a man and a woman. I will support an amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution to make that expressly clear. Of course, basic civil rights and certain appropriate benefits should be available to people in nontraditional relationships. But marriage is a special institution between a man and a woman, and our constitution and laws should reflect that.”

Source: Stump speech, April 28, 2007.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

QUESTION: “How do you feel about gays serving openly in the military.” ROMNEY: “That’s already occurred and I’m not planning on reversing that at this stage.”

Source: ThinkProgress, December 16, 2011.

“In a 1994 letter to the Log Cabin Republicans, who advocate gay rights, Romney said he was in favor of ‘gays and lesbians being able to serve openly and honestly’ in the military. He now says it would be a mistake to interfere with the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell policy.”

Source: GovWatch on 2008 campaign: “Top Ten Flip-Flops”, February 5, 2008.

Employment Non-Discrimination Act

“I think it makes sense for states to put in provision of this. I would not support at the federal level, and I changed in that regard because I think that policy makes more sense to be implemented at the state level. If you’re looking for someone who’s never changed any positions on any policies, then I’m not your guy. I learn from experience.”

Source: Meet the Press: 2007 “Meet the Candidates” series, December 16, 2007.

Defense of Marriage Act

Regarding the Obama administration’s decision that DOMA is unconstitutional, “[Obama] has an obligation as chief executive to enforce and defend the laws of the nation. He should not abdicate that responsibility based on his own interpretations and personal views.”

Source: National Organization for Marriage, February 2011.


“When Ted Kennedy speaks on gay rights, he’s seen as an extremist. When Mitt Romney speaks on gay rights, he’s seen as a centrist and a moderate.”

Source: Newpaper interview during 1994 Massachusetts Senate campaign, 1994.

Rick Santorum

Marriage equality

“I believe we are made the way God made man and woman, and man and woman come together to have a union to produce children, which keeps civilization going and provide the best environment for children to be raised.”

Source: Los Angeles Times, January 6, 2012.

Relationship recognition

“Let me first define what we are not talking about. I believe if two adults of the same sex want to have a relationship that is their business. But when they ask society to give that relationship special recognition and privileges, then we should be able to have a rational debate about whether that is good public policy.”

Source: Des Moines Register, March 4, 2011.

“I am not, as some in this race have said, OK with New York doing what they’re doing. What New York did was wrong. I will oppose it and I will go to New York, if necessary, to help overturn it…I’m for great latitude for the states to do a lot, but not anything. And this idea that the 10th Amendment means there is no boundary to what the states can do is a misunderstanding of the 10th Amendment and I will stand on that ground,” he added.

Source: On Top Magazine, July 26, 2011.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

“Yeah. I, I would say any type of sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military. And the fact that they are making a point to include it as a provision within the military that we are going to recognize a group of people and give them a special privilege to, ah, to, to, and removing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, I think tries to inject social policy into the military.”

Source: Republican Debate, September 22, 2011.

Defense of Marriage Act

“The Defense of Marriage Act. The President of the United States won’t even defend the law in court. An abomination! And worse than that, just recently, he has instructed his military chaplains to marry people in direct contravention — marry gays and lesbians — in direct contravention to the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage in federal law as between a man and a woman. So not only did the President not defend the law, he has now instructed people in the military to break the law.”

Source: Speech at the Values Voter Summit, October 7, 2011.

“When the definition of marriage has been put before the people, they have time and time again — from Maine to California — stood up in defense of the traditional family. President Obama’s refusal to defend a law that was overwhelmingly supported on both sides of the aisle and signed into law by a president of his own party is an affront to the will of the people.”

Source: Talking Points Memo, February 23, 2011.


“And I stood up from the very beginning back in 2003 when the Supreme Court was going to create a constitutional right to sodomy and said this is wrong we can’t do this. We can’t have a constitutional right to consensual sexual activity no matter what it is. Prior to that case, the court protected sex within the bond of marriage, because that’s the sacred bond that government has a role of affirming and taking care of. But it didn’t. There was no such thing our founders contemplated to say that any type of sexual consensual activity was constitutionally protected. And so I stood up when no one else did and got hammered for it. I stood up and I continue to stand up.”

Source: Radio interview, October 25, 2011.

“In fact, I was with a gay friend of mine just yesterday. So yea, I do. And they respect that I have differences of opinion on that, I talk about these things in front of them, and we have conversations about it. They differ from me, but they know I love them because they’re my friends.”

Source: Think Progress, June 11, 2011.

“I have no problem from a public policy point of view with homosexuality.”

Source: The New Civil Rights Movement, April 21, 2010.