Former Wisconsin Rep. Mark Neumann (R) has announced that he will run for the state’s open senate seat in 2012 and will likely challenge former Governor Tommy Thompson for the party’s nomination. In declaring his candidacy during a radio appearance this morning, Neumann predicted that he will face openly-gay Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) in a general election — who is also expected to announce her candidacy in the coming weeks — and promised to bring her record “to the forefront.”
But as Denis Dison notes, Neumann will first have to answer for several homophobic remarks he made in the 1990s, when as a freshman congressman, he told the New York Times that “If I was elected God for a day, homosexuality wouldn’t be permitted, but nobody’s electing me God.” A year later, speaking before the Christian Coalition, he remarked, “If somebody walks in to me and says, ‘I’m a gay person, I want a job in your office,’ I would say that’s inappropriate, and they wouldn’t be hired because that would mean they are promoting their agenda. The gay and lesbian lifestyle (is) unacceptable, lest there be any question about that.”
Neumann clarified his statements in 2010 by explaining that he regrets saying that he would want to be God:
Eventually, though, he did apologize for a portion of his quote in The Times. “The part about me being God for a day is the problem with that,” said Neumann, who is Lutheran. “I’m not God, don’t intend to be and hope I never have that much power….I regret talking about the fact that I would be God,” Neumann responded. [...]
“Let me give you an answer to your question,” Neumann said. “You’re asking me, ‘Do I stand by those (remarks)?’ The answer to your question is, I believe that marriage is between one man and one woman, the same as I’ve believed all my life. I’m going to stay focused in this race on jobs and economic development to the best of my God-given ability.” [...]
Neumann served two terms Congress and waged and unsuccessful challenge to then-Sen. Russ Feingold (D) in 2008. In 2010, he ran for Governor and lost the Republican nomination to Scott Walker. Notably, Tommy Thompson will likely have to deal with his own LGBT clunkers. Thompson isn’t known as a firebrand on conservative social issues, but during his failed bid for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination, Thompson said that businesses should be allowed to discriminate against gay people. He immediately walked back his position, citing a broken hearing aide and a need to use the restroom.
Wisconsin does not prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression, but in 1982, “became the first state to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation” in employment. The law was signed by Republican Governor Lee Dreyfus. In 1996, however, did remove language from the GOP platform “that opposed civil rights protections for those discriminated against because of their ‘sexual preference.’”