The Advocate’s Lucas Grindley argues that Rick Perry’s comparison of homosexuality to alcoholism in a 2008 book could damage his candidacy for president, particularly if the 2010 senate campaign of Colorado Republican Ken Buck (R) is any indication. Buck was waging a credible challenge to Sen. Michale Bennet (D-CO), but made a very similar alcohol-homosexuality connection during a nationally televised debate on Meet the Press and those remarks may have distracted from his focus on the economy:
Washington, D.C., politics site The Hotline named the gaffe to its list of “Moments That Made the Midterms” because Buck’s entry into social issues seemed to diminish the Tea Party candidate’s standing with centrists.
Just as Perry tried in his book to claim he’s “no expert on the ‘nature versus nurture’ debate,” Buck later tried to distance himself from his own words, saying he is “not a biologist.” The actual experts on the subject, such as the American Psychiatric Association, stopped listing homosexuality as a mental illness long ago. And researchers have suspected that sexuality is at least rooted in biology.
After the 2010 debate, The Hotline reports, Buck said, “I wasn’t talking about being gay as a disease. I don’t think that at all and I hope that no one would be that insensitive to try to draw that … I certainly didn’t mean it that way.”
Still, Perry is not alone. Republican presidential candidates from Michele Bachmann to Mitt Romney continue to make offensive and homophobic remarks in debates and on the campaign trail, despite the public’s growing acceptance of gay people. It’s unlikely that these positions will resonate with a constituency beyond the party’s social conservative base, since, as Paul Thornton notes in today’s Los Angeles Times, “the radical ideas espoused by Bachmann, Perry, Santorum and others are [already] held up not for genuine consideration but for scorn.” “Perry’s and Bachmann’s views aren’t weighed against President Obama’s ‘evolving’ stance on same-sex marriage; rather, they are simply ridiculed. It says as much about our society as it does the candidates.” And if that’s the case, then Buck’s candidacy was the first in what may be a long line of Republican contenders who will pay a political price for their homophobia until they learn to accept and respect the LGBT community.