Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, reportedly Mitt Romney’s pick to join the Republican ticket, voted twice — in 2004 and 2006 — to amend the U.S. Constitution to prevent same-sex couples from marrying, taking action on an issue his running mate has largely avoided.
On voting for the amendment in 2004, Ryan issued a news release, saying, “I believe that marriage should remain between a man and a woman, and I have heard from many of the people I represent who are concerned about activist judges abusing their power and rewriting our society’s definition of marriage. I had hoped that this amendment wouldn’t be necessary, but increasingly it appears that laws such as the Defense of Marriage Act will not be sufficient to protect marriage from certain courts that distort state and federal constitutional law.”
President Obama announced in May that he personally believes that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, whereas Romney signed the National Organization for Marriage’s pledge to press for a marriage amendment and a spokesman said recently that “Governor Romney has been consistent in his support for traditional marriage.”
Ryan also said in 2004: “Marriage is not simply a legal arrangement between individuals. The institution of marriage is an integral part of our civil society and its significance goes well beyond eligibility for benefits and similar considerations. Its future should not be left to a few overreaching judges or local officials to decide. That’s why I support this effort to amend our Constitution to protect marriage.”
As recently as this May, Ryan voted for an amendment to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act “to prohibit the use of funds to be used in contravention of the Defense of Marriage Act.”
In a February appearance on Meet the Press — before Obama’s announcement — Ryan played down the importance of the issue to this year’s elections, telling host David Gregory, “I don’t know why we’re spending all this time talking about this.”
Ryan only scored more than 0 percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s congressional scorecard once in the 107th through 111th congresses, and that was with a 10 percent score, denoting his vote for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in 2007. Ryan joined with 34 Republicans in voting for the bill, which would have prohibited workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. Unlike the bill voted on in 2007, the current version of the legislation also would prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. Prior to the 2007 vote for ENDA, however, Ryan voted in favor of a motion to recommit the bill — which would have killed the bill.
Ryan voted against repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2010 and against the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Protection Act in 2009, two key legislative accomplishments that Obama has pointed to as a sign of his success on advancing an agenda of LGBT equality.
Here’s the section from Ryan’s February appearance on Meet the Press talking about marriage:
MR. GREGORY: Congressman Ryan, do you think this is an issue that’s legitimate for the presidential campaign? Do we have to come to a point where the country reconciles different views about this and we have a consistent way of looking at same-sex marriage?
REP. RYAN: Actually, I came on to talk about the debt crisis we have and the budget and I think that’s really the driving issue of this, this election.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
REP. RYAN: But I supported the Wisconsin amendment to define marriage between a man and a woman. Look, Bill Clinton signed into law the Defense of Marriage Act. If I recall from the last presidential campaign, President Obama, Vice President Biden said that they support marriage as being between a man and a woman. So you know, I don’t know why we’re spending all this time talking about this. We’ve got a debt crisis coming and the administration just gave us a budget that just simply charts another path to debt and decline. It’s an unserious budget that just fails at tackling these challenges and I think that’s what we ought to be talking about right now.
MR. GREGORY: Well, but as you know, there’s a presidential campaign and you’re a Republican leader in the Congress and the reality is that these social issues are occupying a lot of bandwidth with the Republican primary voters. So you may want to talk about other issues, the truth is some of the standard-bearers of your party are also talking about these issues and that’s why I wanted to get your views on them.