Thursday, January 25, 2007

Harold Ford's Gay Marriage Problem

As expected, Anti-Gay Harold Ford Jr. to Chair DLC
The National Stonewall Democrats press release expressing "concerns" with Harold Ford Jr. has made a lot of national news, as one of the few negative takes on the DLC's new chair. because of his support for the Republican anti-gay Federal Marriage Amendment and the similar TN state amendment. Now, I can understand Democrats in conservative southern states not being able to support "gay marriage," but it was not necessary for HFJ to support the FMA. He could have take the same position as John McCain who opposes same-sex marriage, but opposes amending the U.S. Constitution, preferring to leave it up to the states. HFJ took the additional and politically unnecessary step of crossing party lines to support the GOP amendment, condemned by Howard Dean, the DNC, and even the DLC! In July 2004, the DLC called politicans (like HFJ!) who supported the FMA "CYNICAL AND DESPERATE."

HFJ'S office told many of us who contacted him before the 2004 vote that he would oppose it because of the Defense of Marriage Act, but they sent out a different email message to supporters of the amendment, which some of us got by mistake, which said: "While I question whether an amendment to our sacred Constitution is needed at this time, I will carry out the wishes of citizens like yourself who favor a constitutional amendment."

While I'm still angry at HFJ for campaigning against marriage equality for gays and lesbians, I'm not sure it is accurate to call him "anti-gay". In response to my write-in campaign against him in 2004, HFJ issued this statement to the press, quoted in the Memphis Flyer:

"My position on same sex marriage has been clear from the beginning. I am opposed to it. The Defense of Marriage Act--which I suppot--is likely not to withstand a court challenge. To ensure that the institution of marriage remains one reserved for the union of a man and a woman, yesterday I supported the effort to enact a constitutional amendment. However, my support for rights for gay Americans remains strong and intact. I am able to distinguish between marrriage and work place, labor benefits and civil rights protections for gay and lesbian Americans. I am unapologetic in my support of anti-discrimination efforts against gays and lesbians and will remain so. But when it comes to marriage, I differ with friends and allies in the gay and lesbian community."

It may be that HFJ would like to be supportive of gay and lesbian civil rights, short of marriage, and therefore is about as progressive on LGBT issues as most Democratic candidates, and more than most in the south. It is only on the issue of marriage equality that he betrayed us, and used as a political tool to counter GOP accusations that he was too liberal and supported "gay marriage" which they planned to do, and did anyway! I think gays and progressives should push HFJ and the DLC to stand by HFJ's statement of support for gay civil rights, and the DLC's past opposition to the Federal Marriage Amendment. Maybe something good can come out of this, though I personally still have some "anger issues" and find it difficult to rationalize HFJ's political actions against gays in TN the past couple of years.

Still it seems that Harold Ford Has a Gay Marriage Problem

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Blogger Pilgrim Tu said...

"It is only on the issue of marriage equality that he betrayed us..."

I know that sentence must be read in context, but I believe it is too forgiving. HFJ has a pretty good track record on environmental issues (The League of Conservation Voters gives him a 70% lifetime score). And we need him in Congress at the moment if for no other reason than that every Democrat counts.

Nevertheless, it should not be forgotten that his record on civil liberties is embarrassing. The ACLU gives him a measly 55% lifetime score. He is hardly a solid friend to progressives.

It is true that his civil liberties record may not represent a "betrayal" in the same sense that you have written. He didn't say one thing and do another. But if we are to "push HFJ and the DLC," it should be noted that the measure of one's support for gay and lesbian rights is an indicator of one's attitude toward civil liberties in general.

Sunday, January 28, 2007 7:03:00 PM  

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