Paul Ryan, the self-styled budget hawk and conservative darling that Mitt Romney has selected as his vice presidential running mate, has in a number of media appearances shown impatience when asked about LGBT rights issues.
His disinclination to broach the topic should not be mistaken for anything other than nearly absolute fealty to social conservative dogma.
"Actually, I came on to talk about the debt crisis we have and the budget," Ryan complained when asked his views on marriage equality by David Gregory on “Meet the Press” this past February. "I support the Wisconsin amendment to define marriage between a man and a woman… I don't know why we are spending all this time talking about this. We've got a debt crisis coming and the administration just gave us a budget that simply just charts another path to debt and decline.”
It’s not simply that Ryan is reluctant to take the plunge on marriage rights for same-sex couples. Throughout his years in Congress, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the Washington-based LGBT lobby, has identified only one instance in which the 42-year-old Wisconsin Republican has ever taken a pro-LGBT position.
In 2007, Ryan was one of 35 Republicans to vote for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which at that time only proposed to protect against job bias based on sexual orientation, not gender identity or expression.
Ryan’s advocacy that day was not unambiguous. When Republicans unsuccessfully tried a parliamentary maneuver to shelve the bill prior to its passage –– with what is known as a motion to recommit –– he joined 26 other GOP ENDA supporters in the unsuccessful effort to kill the bill they would vote for just moments later. That day, he voted against ENDA before he voted for it.
HRC does not issue congressional scorecards until the end of a two-year session, so no rating is available for 2011-2012. In the prior five scorecards, Ryan received four zeroes and one rating of 10 out of 100, for his half-hearted support of ENDA in 2007.
In both 2004 and 2006, Ryan voted for a federal marriage amendment that would have defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman everywhere in the United States. On both occasions, he joined the preponderance of his fellow Republicans and several dozen Democrats in unsuccessful efforts to achieve the two-thirds majority necessary if an amendment is to go on to the states for their approval.
In both the 2009-2010 and the 2007-2008 sessions, he voted against hate crimes protections, which became law in 2009. He also did not support repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy in 2010 –– a measure that received votes in both May and December.
In the 2001-2002 session of Congress, Ryan voted to exempt faith-based initiatives from state and local government civil rights laws –– an effort aimed squarely at LGBT nondiscrimination protections, since other civil rights categories are covered by federal law as well as locally.
A familiar Republican push against LGBT rights has taken aim at the autonomy of the District of Columbia, which has the burden of significant congressional oversight. In 1999, his first year in the House, he supported a ban on gay adoption in DC. In the following session, he opposed implementation of DC’s domestic partnership registry.
On several occasions, Ryan voted to forbid federal funding of syringe exchange programs, which have consistently been shown to reduce the rate of HIV transmission.
He also declined to sign an office nondiscrimination policy protecting LGBT employees circulated by HRC.
Ryan's customary hostility to LGBT rights measures did not diminish the enthusiasm the Log Cabin Republicans voiced for the pick.
In a written statement, R. Clarke Cooper, the group's national executive director, said, “Congressman Paul Ryan is a strong choice for vice president, and his addition to the GOP ticket will help Republican candidates up and down the ballot. As chairman of the House Budget Committee and author of the Republican 'path to prosperity' that provided the blueprint for serious spending cuts in this Congress, nobody is more qualified to articulate a conservative economic vision to restore the American economy and stimulate job creation."
A Roman Catholic from Janesville, a community of roughly 60,000 southeast of Madison near the Illinois border, Ryan has also been a consistent opponent of a woman’s right to choose, earning 100 percent ratings from National Right to Life and zeroes from NARAL.
Democrats and progressives have typically aimed their fire at Ryan over the damage they warn his budget plan would do to Social Security and Medicare. American Bridge 21st Century, a political action committee aiming to hold Republicans accountable, presents a comprehensive review of Ryan in an online report, "Meet Paul Ryan."