Earlier yesterday I noticed a story by ABC News on Paul Ryan and the 5 things Mitt Romney doesn't want you to know about Ryan popping up on several news sites and being featured prominently. Twice it was one of the top featured stories on Yahoo! News and was displayed prominently on ABC News' site most of the day.
5. This is both a pro and a con to Ryan, depending on who you ask, but he's notably further to the left on the issue of lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender rights than the base of the party. He broke with a lot of his party to support the Employee Non-Discrimination Act in 2007. He explained his reasoning for the vote in this way: "They [his gay friends] didn't roll out of bed one morning and choose to be gay. That's who they are."Sounds plausible, right? Ohhhh, he doesn't hate the gays! He voted for a bill that would ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, a position Gallup polled in 2009 as being supported by 89% of the American people. Paul Ryan is so, so brave!
OK, let's look at the facts...
The 2007 version of ENDA that was voted on by the House (and voted for by Paul Ryan) was the non-inclusive version of ENDA. For those of you that don't follow LGBT politics, 2007 was a very contentious year on LGBT legislation. Two versions of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act were introduced in Congress. They are colloquially known as the inclusive and non-inclusive versions of ENDA. The inclusive version of ENDA would have banned employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, i.e. it would include the transgender community. The non-inclusive version would have only banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and did not include protections for our transgender brothers and sisters.
Democratic leaders in 2007 pushed the non-inclusive version because they claimed that it would pass without any problems, but that the inclusive version wouldn't because the gender identity provisions would be toxic. This caused a very large rift in the LGBT community with many organizations and important LGBT leaders refusing (rightfully in my opinion) to support the non-inclusive version on the basis that subsequently passing a gender identity only version would be exceedingly difficult and far less likely to pass unless it were attached to the bill that bans sexual orientation discrimination. While I don't want to delve too deeply into the strategy of the Democratic leadership that pushed the non-inclusive version, let's just leave it at saying this: it was likely an intentional move to divide the LGBT community to give Democrats an excuse to not push ENDA, letting it die for yet another session of Congress and giving Democrats at least one more election cycle of fundraising off the issue, rather than possibly seeing a drop in fundrasing from LGBTs if they actually solved the problem.
The non-inclusive version, opposed by most of the major LGBT equality organizations with the notable exception of the HRC, was the version that advance out of committee and to the House floor. Once there, the Republicans tried to kill it with a motion to recommit, i.e. send it back to committee where it would almost certainly stay. On that vote on the motion to recommit, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the one ABC News is touting as being more pro-LGBT than the Republican base, voted to kill the already weakened, watered down version of the bill. Only after the motion to recommit failed did Ryan, on the final vote to approved the bill, vote for it. So he was against it before he was for it. And this is ABC's sole citation of Ryan being "notably further to the left on the issue of lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender rights than the base of the party."
You may be thinking perhaps that that was the only example they chose to cite and that there are other votes in the House that show that Paul Ryan is further to the left of the Republican base on LGBT equality. You would be wrong to think that.
The Human Rights Campaign compiles a scorecard on members of Congress after each session to show their voting record LGBT issues. HRC only has the scorecards from the 111th, 110th, 109th, 108th and 107th Congresses posted on their site anymore, so I can't go back further than that, but they should suffice in showing the pattern of Paul Ryan's record on LGBT issues over the last decade. Ready? His scores, in order for the 111th through 107th Congresses are, in order: Zero, 10, Zero, Zero, Zero. That's on a 100 point scale. The only non-zero grade is 10, representing the vote for the crappy version of ENDA. If he had voted against the motion to recommit it would've been 20, still way below a passing grade. At a grade of 10, there were 37 Republicans in the House that scored higher on HRC's scorecard for the 110th session than Paul Ryan, fully 18.3% of the Republicans in the House. Several more equaled his mark of 10, only voting for ENDA on the final vote. While that arguably puts him in the top quintile of Republicans in the House, that's the only session in the last five where that can be said.
Sure ABC got fed a nice quote that Paul Ryan doesn't think his gay "friends" (really? He has gay friends? Or are they like the blacks that trump gets along with so well) chose to be gay, but when push came to shove, Paul Ryan believed that even though it isn't a choice, that hate crime protections shouldn't extend to sexual orientation or gender identity (voted to recommt the Hate Crimes act and against final passage), that employment discrimination should be allowed on the basis of sexual orientation if he can't prevent a vote on it, that DC shouldn't be able to fund needle exchange programs to fight the spread of HIV, that civil rights protections for teachers, staff and volunteers for Head Start programs should be removed, that DADT shouldn't be repealed, that same sex couples should have to pay higher taxes on their employer provided domestic partner Health Care benefits, that U.S. law should not treat same sex partners equally with regard to immigration laws and that low income people with HIV should not be permitted to utilize state Medicaid programs for drugs to keep the virus from progressing to full blown AIDS. That's Paul Ryan's record in the session he showed his most progressive bent on LGBT equality. That's him at his best!
In the fantasy world of Washington politics, that may qualify him as "notably further to the left on the issue of lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender rights than the base of the party," but in this place called reality, his record is indistinguishable for all intents and purposes from that same base and ABC News quite frankly should be ashamed for making the assertion and falsely leading people to believe Ryan is any less hateful in the outcomes of his positions than the wackos that drive the Republican Party. Just because he isn't advocating the kidnapping of the children of gay parents or any of the other crazy, outlandish positions of the right wing fringe of the GOP doesn't mean he's pro-LGBT. It may just mean he's not as oblique in stating what he really thinks of LGBT equality as some in the GOP.