A local Republican Assembly candidate says a conservative group rescinded its endorsement of him because he received support from a gay rights group.
Wisconsin Family Action’s Political Action Committee announced in July it would endorse Baraboo attorney Ashton Kirsch in the 81st Assembly District race. But in a news release Monday, the group pulled its support.
“Unfortunately, it has become apparent to us in recent weeks that Mr. Kirsch’s position on our most important issue, marriage, is different from what we understood it to be as we went through the endorsement process,” Wisconsin Family Action PAC Director Julaine Appling said in a news release. “We have worked directly with Mr. Kirsch in attempting to clarify his values and beliefs related to the foundational institution of marriage. At the end of the discussions, we realized his position was enough different from ours that we could not endorse him.”
On Aug. 14, Kirsch was endorsed by the Log Cabin Republicans of Wisconsin, a conservative group that supports the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Kirsch said Wisconsin Family Action “was not alright” with him receiving that endorsement.
“I didn’t actively seek that,” Kirsch said of the endorsement he received from Log Cabin Republicans. “I didn’t go out and meet with them. I received a phone call and told them my views.”
Wisconsin Family Action later asked Kirsch to sign his name to a series of statements regarding same-sex marriage that “didn’t reflect my views completely,” Kirsch said Wednesday night during the Republican Party of Sauk County’s Pints and Politics meeting at the Farm Kitchen in Baraboo. He said he refused to sign the document.
When asked to clarify his views on gay marriage, Kirsch said he believes the state has the right to regulate marriage under the 10th Amendment, and that the issue should not be decided in the courts.
He said the rights of churches to decide who can get married should be protected.
“The question is whether we expand protected class status,” Kirsch said, adding that on that matter he disagrees with Log Cabin Republicans. “They want to expand protected class to same-sex marriage. I don’t think we should be expanding protected class status to sexual orientation.”
In 2006, Wisconsin voters approved an amendment to the state’s constitution that banned gay marriage. But in 2009, a Democratic-controlled Legislature approved a bill – signed by then-Gov. Jim Doyle – that granted certain rights to same-sex domestic partnerships.
Wisconsin Family Action filed a lawsuit over the bill, but the challenge was struck down by the Wisconsin Supreme Court this July. More than 2,400 Wisconsin partnerships have been registered since 2009.
Wisconsin Family Action was not willing to clarify the reasoning behind its decision Thursday. A representative of the group said Appling was not available for comment and that the press release was “the sum total” of the organization’s comment.
Log Cabin Republicans of Wisconsin President Devin Gatton said although Kirsch’s views are not perfectly in line with those of his group, he has been an ally to the gay community. He said the GOP needs to be more accepting of other lifestyles and views in order to remain competitive in elections.
“The position of Wisconsin Family Action was, ‘You take our position or you get nothing,’” he said. “They’re acting like petulant children.”