Former GOP vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., now supports the rights of gay Americans to adopt children, though he still believes marriage “is between a man and a woman.”
In a town hall meeting with constituents in Wisconsin on Monday, the House Budget Committee chairman said he has changed his mind on the adoption issue, even though his opinions on other aspects of gay rights have remained unchanged. To date, two Republican senators — Rob Portman of Ohio, who had been in the mix for Mitt Romney’s No. 2 spot, and Mark S. Kirk of Illinois — have come out in support of gay marriage.
“Adoption, I’d vote differently these days. That was I think a vote I took in my first term, 1999 or 2000. I do believe that if there are children who are orphans who do not have a loving person or couple, I think if a person wants to love and raise a child they ought to be able to do that. Period,” Ryan said in a video posted by the liberal website Think Progress. “I would vote that way. I do believe marriage is between a man and a woman, we just respectfully disagree on that issue.”
Ryan’s move to support gay adoption is a particularly interesting one, given his continued national ambitions and Portman’s reversal on gay marriage. Portman announced in March that his college-aged son, Will, is gay and that he could no longer oppose marriage equality.
In the past, Ryan has opposed almost every equality measure, getting a "0" on the Human Rights Campaign’s most recent Congressional scorecard. He opposed the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” supported the Defense of Marriage Act and voted against the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Protection Act, which expanded federal hate crime laws to protect the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
In his remarks Monday, Ryan said he has “always supported” civil unions. Though there is no evidence to support that, it’s a clear sign that the politics of the issue have changed and that even the most conservative Republicans need to appear more hospitable to gays and lesbians in order to expand their voting bloc.
“I’ve always supported things like civil unions where you ought to be granted certain legal privileges to be able to have benefits whether it’s estate planning benefits or visitation and things like that,” Ryan said.
But a story published by The Advocate, a gay and lesbian news magazine, when Romney named Ryan to his ticket, noted that Ryan supported a Wisconsin-based ban on gay marriage and civil unions in 2006.
“Reviews of Ryan’s record indicate that he has voted overwhelmingly against LGBT rights. He voted twice for the federal constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage, and supported the ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions approved by Wisconsin voters in 2006. Ryan voted against “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal and hate crimes legislation, but he voted for the Employment Non-discrimination Act in 2007, when it included protections for sexual orientation but not gender identity,” the report said.
Daniel Newhauser contributed to this report.