The Washington Times - June 6, 2011, 03:29PM

A conservative gay-rights group wants the sponsors of the first Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire to reconsider it decision leave out former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson.

“Gary Johnson is a former two-term Governor and a committed limited government advocate,” said Jimmy LaSalvia, executive director of GOProud — the only national organization representing gay conservatives and their allies. “He has certainly earned the right to participate in this debate.”


Mr. Johnson, who announced his presidential bid in April, learned late last week that he’d not been invited to take part in the June 13 debate at St. Anselm College in Manchester — hosted by CNN, TV station WMUR and the New Hampshire Union Leader.

“What will be missing is the voice of those who hold an undiluted view of individual liberty — those who believe that individual rights extend to women who face choices about abortion, Americans who happen to be gay, and those who don’t place other asterisks on freedom,” Mr. Johnson said after he received the news.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, businessman Herman Cain, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania will take part. Rep. Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota, who has yet to declare whether she is in the race, also will take part.

The list of those who are not expected to participate, but who were invited, include Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and businessman Donald Trump.

Mr. Johnson took part in the first Republican debate in South Carolina, separating himself from the rest of the field by sharing his libertarian take on the issues, including his pro-choice stance, desire to end the war in Afghanistan as soon as possible and to allow states to legalize drugs. He also supports civil unions for same-sex couples.

At one point he interrupted the debate, arguing he was being ignored by the questioners. “It’s like nine questions for these guys and none for me,” he said.

Several pro-family groups boycotted the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this year, after organizers allowed GOProud to be a co-sponsor of the event. Newly elected American Conservative Union (ACU) Chairman Al Cardenas has suggested the group may not be invited next year.

In the GOProud news release Monday, Mr. Johnson said, “I am grateful to have the assistance of GOProud in getting my unique message of unabridged individual liberty and equality under the law heard by the people of New Hampshire and the nation, in the June 13th presidential debate.”

Mr. LaSalvia pointed out that like conservative icon Barry Goldwater, Mr. Johnson “supported repeal of the failed ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy” and that Mr. Johnson also “joins with strong conservatives like former Vice President Dick Cheney in opposing a federal constitutional amendment on marriage that would federalize marriage and family laws.”

The group, though, said it disagrees with some of Mr. Johnson’s positions on foreign policy.