George Pataki On Gay Rights Has Returned To His Republican Roots By Essentially Dismissing Them

On Thursday morning, having dropped hints earlier this week, George Pataki announced his presidential bid in a video on his campaign page. The former New York governor heavily highlighted his firsthand experience with 9/11 in his announcement video, establishing his campaign with a certain brand of patriotism. But where Pataki is emphatic on building the American economy and confronting foreign enemies, he's deliberately less so on social issues. In fact, Pataki thinks gay rights is a "distraction" and criticizes his fellow GOP opponents for focusing too much on it. If elected, however, Pataki will have no choice but address it, especially given the Supreme Court's potential support for marriage equality.

In a 30-second ad buy obtained by CNN, Pataki appears to be addressing other Republican candidates advising them to redirect their focus, lest they clear the path for Hillary Clinton to take the White House.

Defeating Islamic terrorists, shrinking government, growing the economy — these are the issues that matter most. These are the issues that matter most. Instead we're debating social issues like abortion and gay rights. They are a distraction, and will only help elect Hillary.

Unlike some of his Republican opponents, Pataki is not a hard-lined conservative on social issues that seem to define candidates like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. Pataki is pro-choice, pro-vaccination, and has been pro-gay-rights in the past.

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In 2002, when he was governor of New York, Pataki signed into law a bill that protects the LGBT community from discrimination in housing, employment, credit, and public accommodations. Pataki's signature made New York the 13th state to include the LGBT community in its civil rights law.

However, when it comes to same-sex marriage, Pataki believes that the decision should be left up to the individual states, which seems to suggest that he would be opposed to the Supreme Court's decision to make gay marriage a Constitutional right in all 50 states. But the three-term governor hasn't specifically addressed the issue, and if history is any indication, he might deliberately avoid it for as long as possible. The most accurate reading on Pataki's stance on gay rights and gay marriage might be that he doesn't have one.

Throughout the years, Pataki has made his priorities clear: protecting America through foreign policy and focusing on its economy. Any other issue he considers significantly less important. In February, he told The Kelly File's Megyn Kelly:

What you have to do is focus on what matters to the American people. ... How many people are out there sitting [and thinking], "Oh, I'm really concerned about contraception." No, they're concerned about the beheading of 21 Christians in Libya.
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When it came to issues like abortion, Pataki admits, "In 12 years, I don't think I talked about that issue twice."

And gay marriage?

It didn't come up as an issue, but I think leave it to the states. I don't think it's a role in Washington. Let's focus on ... protecting the American people, taking the government back from the interests groups and lobbyists.

While Pataki's emphasis on foreign policy, fighting ISIS abroad, and keeping America safe might appeal to some, he seems to be forgetting a large portion of the American population — the LGBT community — and essentially telling them that their issues don't matter. At a time when same-sex couples' futures are hanging on the Supreme Court's upcoming decision, which, if in favor of gay marriage, is expected to face backlash from individual states, the last thing these Americans need is a president who shirks the issue.Images: Getty Images (2)