The Human Rights Campaign has launched several salvos at Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach for statements he made about drug use and polygamy during the Republican Party's platform debate on Tuesday.
Kobach is a strong opponent of marriage equality and other measures supported by HRC who has clashed bitterly with the Washington, D.C.-based group in the past — equating its aims with support of pedophilia back in 2004, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center — but it's not as clear that Tuesday's criticism stands up to question.
On Tuesday, Pat Kerby, a Republican delegate from Nevada, offered an amendment to the Republican Party's platform draft that would have ended the party's support for the Defense of Marriage Act and put in its place a strong defense of individual liberties.
Kerby's amendment read:
"For thousands of years, virtually every civilization has been entrusted with the rearing of children and the transmission of cultural values. That being said, and while we oppose any attempt by the judiciary to legislate from the bench, Republicans recognize that the role of government is to protect the rights of the individual. In a free society, we must accept the rights of others to live in ways we cannot condone. As long as there is no infringements on the rights of others, it is not the role of government to judge."
Cynthia Kennedy, also of Nevada, supported the amendment, quoting from materials distributed by the Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry and quoting former Vice President Dick Cheney's comment that "[f]reedom means freedom for everyone."
Then, Kobach spoke in opposition, saying, "I oppose this amendment, I think the wording is too broad, especially the last sentence, 'As long as there is no infringements on the rights of others, it is not the role of government to judge.'
Going on to explain why he believed the language was too broad, Kobach said, "Our government routinely judges situations where you might regard people completely affecting themselves, like for example the use of controlled substances, like, for example, polygamy that is voluntarily entered in to. We condemn those activities even though they are not hurting other people, at least directly. So this is worded way too broadly for inclusion in the platform."
James Bopp, the chairman of the subcommittee addressing "Restoring Constitutional Government," then spoke at length about marriage amendments passed by the states, concluding that "strongly supporting traditional marriage is actually quite popular and would enhance the support of our candidate." The amendment then failed on a voice vote.
It was Kobach, however, whose comments led to outrage from HRC, which has long re-endorsed Obama's re-election. By 4 p.m. Tuesday, HRC had issued a news release with the headline, "Top Romney Surrogate Compares LGBT People to Drug Users and Polygamists," and produced a graphic declaring that Kobach "compares LGBT people to drug users, polygamists."
Asked whether Kobach actually was comparing homosexuality, drug use and polygamy, HRC's vice president for communications, Fred Sainz, told BuzzFeed on Tuesday, "I feel very comfortable, and it's actually he that should be explaining his words."
This morning, however, HRC president Chad Griffin sent out a fundraising pitch that began with a more careful critique of Kobach, writing, "Just yesterday, one of Mitt Romney's highest profile supporters, and a member of the GOP platform committee, said same-sex marriage is something the government should condemn – along with drug use and polygamy."
The subject line, although not saying Kobach was making a comparison, still pushed for a good open rate: "Drug users and polygamists."
Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. In 2014, Geidner won the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.
Contact Chris Geidner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.