Mike Huckabee Needs a Taste of "Milk"
Within days of Barack Obama's victory, new polling showed that Mike Huckabee is the early leader among the Republican faithful for the GOP's nomination in 2012. No doubt, Huckabee's strong showing is due in part to his high-profile defense of California's Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in the state. At the very time that many voters are reconsidering their views of marriage equality in the wake of Prop 8 and the new film, Milk, the former Arkansas governor and Baptist minister is leading the effort to deny both their civil rights and their very humanity.
Two weeks after Californians voted for a ballot measure titled "Eliminates the right of same-sex couples to marry," Huckabee told right-wing radio host Bill Bennett they had done nothing of the sort:
"I refuse to use the term, 'ban same-sex marriage.' That's not what those efforts did. They affirmed what is. They did not prohibit something. They simply affirmed that which already has and forever has existed."
Huckabee's assertion, repeated Tuesday to Jon Stewart of the Daily Show, would come as news to the 18,000 married same-sex couples in California. His static definition of marriage would also seem to fly in the face of many now-discarded Biblical prohibitions as well as the former laws of 16 states which banned interracial marriage until 1967.
Of course, Mike Huckabee's crusade against gay Americans began long before the 2008 election. In 1992, then Senate candidate Huckabee advocated the quarantine of AIDS patients. Labeling homosexuality "an aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle" which could "pose a dangerous public health risk," Huckabee called for draconian - and discriminatory - action that even Ronald Reagan had long since rejected.
It was in his fiery 1998 book, Kids Who Kill: Confronting Our Culture of Violence, in which Mike Huckabee laid virtually of all of America's ills at the feet of everyone - and everything - he hates. And once again, gay Americans topped his list of evil doers:
"Despite all our prosperity, pomp, and power, the vaunted American experiment in liberty seems to be disintegrating before our very eyes."
"Abortion, environmentalism, AIDS, pornography, drug abuse, and homosexual activism have fragmented and polarized our communities."
"It is now difficult to keep track of the vast array of publicly endorsed and institutionally supported aberrations - from homosexuality and pedophilia to sadomasochism and necrophilia."
While Huckabee spokesman Joe Carter insisted last year, "No way is he saying that homosexuality is like having sex with dead people," the candidate himself wasn't shy about comparing same-sex marriage to bestiality. Joining the ranks of GOP Senators Rick Santorum and John Cornyn in decrying the mythical slippery slope from polygamy to man-on-dog or man-on-box turtle marriage, Huckabee told BeliefNet last January:
"I think the radical view is to say that we're going to change the definition of marriage so that it can mean two men, two women, a man and three women, a man and a child, a man and animal."
During the Republican primaries, then GOP frontrunner Huckabee echoed his 1998 battle cry to "take this nation back for Christ" and urged congregants at a New Hampshire church to enlist as "soldiers for Christ" in "God's Army." Days later in Michigan, the Governor called for a faith-based Constitution, insisting "what we need to do is amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards." Naturally, under President Huckabee that would have started with the Federal Marriage Amendment.
While Mike Huckabee ultimately failed in his quest for the Republican nomination, his latest book and Fox News show are just the latest platforms for catapulting to him the front of the GOP pack for the 2012 race. And as he again displayed on the Daily Show this week, gay-bashing will be an essential strategy in maintaining the backing of evangelical conservatives who so far seem to prefer him to Sarah Palin.
Central to Huckabee's two-pronged assault is his insistence that gay Americans "choose" their sexual orientation, a choice which as a result denies them legitimacy in seeking civil rights. As he told Jon Stewart Tuesday, "there's a big difference between being black and a person practicing a lifestyle. (For his part, Stewart fittingly responded, "Gay people don't choose to be gay. At what age did you choose to not be gay?")
Since Election Day, Huckabee has repeatedly taken these arguments to the airwaves. When The View host Joy Behar on November 18 protested that segregation like marriage was an institution defined and maintained by the state, Huckabee proclaimed:
"But here is the difference. Bull Connor was hosing people down in the streets of Alabama. John Lewis got his skull cracked on the Selma bridge."
Two weeks later during a book signing, Huckabee was confronted over his "cracked skulls" theory of civil rights by some one noting the beating of a 50-year old gay man in Salt Lake City. While acknowledging "I think they do" suffer violence, Huckabee insisted Christians do as well - and at the hands of gay Americans:
"So do the Christians. It was in Michigan that people barged into a church and were rather violent...In California, when some peaceful protesters, including a 79-year-old lady by the name of Phyllis, was out holding a cross, it was violently taken from her and stomped."
Huckabee's stalwart defense of Proposition 8 and same-sex marriage bans nationwide comes just as the landscape is starting to shift - albeit slowly - across the country. In the aftermath of the outcry surrounding Prop 8's passage, new polling data showed that 8% of Californians would now vote differently, a margin sufficient to roll back the marriage equality ban. In mid-November, 104 retired generals and admirals called on President-Elect Obama to end the military's discriminatory policy of "don't ask, don't tell." That figure is up from the 28 who signed a similar document last year.
And then there's the new film, Milk. Like Randy Shilt's biography The Mayor of Castro Street and the 1984 documentary The Times of Harvey Milk, the new film portrays the rise and assassination of the first openly gay elected official in California. The movie, which has received rave reviews, depicts Milk as a civil rights crusader not merely for gay Americans, but for all Americans. And to be sure, the film documents no shortage of gay men being rounded up - and getting their "skulls cracked" - by the police.
Which is just one reason Mike Huckabee should see the picture. His stereotypes and bigotry would be confronted on the big screen by the real unfolding history of the civil rights movement for gay Americans.
No doubt, Mike Huckabee needs a taste of Milk.