Ryan: a practically perfect zeroBottom Highlights, Politically Aware Thursday, August 16th, 2012
Commentary: Politically Aware
I’m not sure which word best describes the choice of Rep. Paul Ryan as the Republican vice presidential nominee; obvious, daring and destructive all come to mind and have been used by various media outlets. Most reporting focused on his budget and its impact on independent voters. Less has been said about what the Ryan choice means to our community and our allies. On our issues, the best word may be dangerous.
Ryan is a nail in the coffin of the 1994 Mitt Romney, who claimed to be more progressive on LGBT-rights than “Saint” Sen. Ted Kennedy. Twice he voted for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. His only pro-LGBT stance in recent memory was in 2007, when he voted for an Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that didn’t protect transgender workers. Shortly before voting for the ENDA, though, he voted to “recommit” the resolution, typically a tactic used to stall a bill to legislative death.
That vote got him a 10 percent on the Human Rights Campaign scorecard. Since then, he’s a perfect 0 percent. In 2009, Ryan voted against the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. To do so, he had to vote against the annual defense authorization bill, suggesting he’d rather not fund our troops than add sexual orientation and gender identity to hate crimes laws. He also voted “No” on the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and against gay adoption.
How will the Ryan choice affect women’s reproductive rights? On this topic, “Ryan” and “choice” don’t belong in the same sentence. Ryan won his first race in 1998 by running to the right of a more moderate Republican, so it’s no surprise that Ryan would have a 100 percent rating from the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC). (And a corresponding 0 percent from NARAL, The National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws.)
What’s shocking is how much further Ryan would go. This Congress, he has cosponsored a “personhood” amendment in the U.S. House, stating “the life of each human being begins with fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent.” A similar measure was rejected by the voters of Mississippi, not known for their wide-eyed liberalism.
Ryan did a little better with the labor community, scoring 2 out of 12 on an AFL-CIO score card this year, and a whopping 28 percent last year. Back in 2010, when Ryan achieved a perfect 0, he also voted against the DREAM Act.
The DREAM Act vote was also scored by the ACLU in 2010, when Ryan scored a 14 percent for voting against the DISCLOSE Act, which would have forced some advocacy groups to make their donors public. The concurrence on DISCLOSE, however, appears to have been more of a “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” phenomenon, with the ACLU seeking clearer language that applied to everyone, while Ryan wanted to protect secret conservative benefactors. In this year’s 112th Congress, Ryan has kept his ACLU score perfect at zero, voting to defund Planned Parenthood and for a resolution to ensure that no defense appropriations could be spent in a manner inconsistent with the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
According to R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, “Congressman Ryan’s 2007 vote in favor of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act and his consistent willingness to engage with Log Cabin on a range of issues speaks to his record as a fair-minded policymaker.” I’m glad Ryan at least engages with Log Cabin, but anything the ENDA vote says about his fair-mindedness is drowned out by the chorus of evidence to the contrary. Ryan doesn’t support the LGBT community, he doesn’t support our allies and he will draw Mitt “Etch-A-Sketch” Romney to the right. You have the freedom to vote for him if you like, but you’d better really enjoy it. In a Romney-Ryan administration, that pleasure may have to compensate for losing your freedoms to marry, serve and choose.
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