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Romney’s veep options, from bad to worse

Five potential candidates have records hostile to LGBT rights

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Amid the media frenzy over who Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will select as his running mate, one thing is clear: the leading candidates’ positions on LGBT issues range from bad to downright hostile.

The Washington Blade examined the records of five prospective vice presidential candidates to see where they stand on LGBT issues: former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Each of the potential choices has views on LGBT rights similar to Romney’s, who says he opposes marriage rights for gay couples, but also opposes discrimination — without backing any particular measure to protect LGBT people from discrimination.

SEE ALSO “IN THEIR OWN WORDS”

One pick that is receiving considerable media attention is Pawlenty, who was a Republican presidential contender early on before he dropped out of the race after his poor showing in the Iowa Ames straw poll. There is media speculation that he tops the list for running mates being vetted by the Romney campaign, although Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation” he dismissed the rumors, saying he’s “encouraged people who asked this question in the campaign to look at other prospects.”

Pawlenty took a hardline on marriage over the course of his presidential campaign, signing — albeit belatedly — an anti-gay pledge from the National Organization for Marriage to back a Federal Marriage Amendment, defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court and establish a presidential commission on “religious liberty” to investigate the alleged harassment of opponents of same-sex marriage.

“I don’t think all domestic relationships are the same as traditional marriage,” Pawlenty said on CNN in July. “Marriage between a man and a woman is something that should remain elevated socially, culturally, and practically, legally, morally in our society.”

Another possibility for Romney who is receiving considerable attention is Portman, who’s served for two decades as a public official as a member of Congress, the U.S. Trade Representative and director of the Office of Management & Budget. On Tuesday, Portman appeared to be cozying up to Romney, telling the Washington Reuters Summit the candidate would be “willing to risk being a one-term president in order to make the tough decisions that are going to be required.”

The Ohio senator made headlines when he suggested that he opposes the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, after telling ThinkProgress that he has concerns about litigation that could follow if the legislation were passed.

“What I’m concerned about in Paycheck Fairness and other legislation like that is the fact that it will spawn a lot of litigation the way the legislation is written,” Portman said. “So you don’t want it to be a boon to lawyers, you want it to actually help people. But no one should discriminate.”

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, said the perception that Portman is opposed to ENDA is inconsistent with what he’s heard based on meetings with the senator’s staff and said Portman — along with “a significant number” of Republican senators — may vote “yes” on the bill.

“Based on Freedom to Work’s conversations with the office of Sen. Portman, we believe he might vote ‘yes’ on ENDA if Sen. Harry Reid brings it to the floor of the Senate for a vote,” Almeida said. “The only way to know for sure is for Reid to fulfill a promise he made three years ago by finally bringing ENDA to the Senate floor.”

Portman’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request to clarify the senator’s position on ENDA. Any such vote in favor of ENDA would represent a change of heart for Portman based on his anti-gay votes while serving as a member of the U.S. House from 1993 to 2005. Portman voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act and the Federal Marriage Amendment. In 1999, Portman voted in favor of barring D.C. same-sex couples from adopting children.

Chris Seelbach, a gay Cincinnati City Council member, said he doubts Portman would support LGBT issues if he were elected as vice president based on those votes.

“Based on Sen. Portman’s consistent votes against LGBT families, it seems very clear that he would be no friend to the gay community if elected vice president,” Seelbach said.

Romney is expected to name his running mate prior to the Republican National Convention, which will take place this year during the week of Aug. 27 in Tampa, Fla. Andrea Saul, a Romney campaign spokesperson, declined to comment on any possible selection saying, “We don’t discuss the VP process, sorry.”

The No. 2 person on the Republican presidential ticket could have bearing on how gay Americans who lean conservative may vote in November. Christian Berle, deputy executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, said the selection will impact whether the organization endorses Romney this fall.

“As Log Cabin Republicans considers many factors in making a potential endorsement, we’ll of course take into account whom will be in such a critical position,” Berle said. “If Gov. Romney and Republicans want to be successful in November, they must improve their position among moderates, women and younger voters with a message entirely focused around jobs and the economy.”

It’s for this reason that Berle praised Ryan, who was among the 159 Republicans who voted for a gay-only version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act when it came to the House floor in 2007. Ryan later said he took criticism for his vote, but acknowledged he has gay friends, saying, “They didn’t roll out of bed one morning and choose to be gay. That’s who they are.”

Berle said Ryan’s vote for the non-inclusive ENDA in 2007 demonstrates that he recognizes “like all Americans that the workplace needs to be about meritocracy and productivity.”

But besides this vote, Ryan’s record on LGBT issues has hardly been stellar. Ryan voted in the subsequent Congress against hate crimes protection legislation and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal. The lawmaker also expressed opposition to same-sex marriage, saying on NBC’s “Meet the Press” last year, “I support the Wisconsin Amendment to define marriage between a man and a woman.”

Katie Belanger, executive director of Fair Wisconsin, dismissed the notion that a Vice President Ryan would be a champion for LGBT equality upon taking the oath of office.

“Rep. Ryan has maintained a consistently anti-fairness voting record on issues of importance to our community, during the last five congressional sessions, including voting in 2002 against a policy that members of Congress voluntarily adopted to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in their own congressional offices,” she said.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (photo by Gage Skidmore via wikimedia)

Many pundits have speculated that Rubio is on the list of names Romney is considering for his running mate. Romney said earlier this month the senator was being “thoroughly vetted” for a position as No. 2 on his ticket.

New to federal office, Rubio hasn’t been called on to vote on LGBT issues yet, although he’s been closely aligned with the conservative Tea Party movement. Among his “no” votes were against an LGBT-inclusive reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

Rubio has expressed differing views from Romney on the Federal Marriage Amendment, saying “ultimately marriage is regulated by states,” but has expressed opposition to same-sex marriage based on his religious beliefs.

“I believe marriage is a unique and specific institution that is the result of thousands of years of wisdom, which concluded that the ideal — not the only way but certainly the ideal — situation to raise children to become productive and healthy humans is in a home with a father and mother married to each other,” Rubio said.

Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, said the LGBT community wouldn’t be able to trust Rubio if he were vice president during a Romney administration.

“I don’t think he believes the foolishness he says, he’s pandering as fast as he can, and in that sense, he and Romney are made for each other,” Smith said. “They’re both weather vanes.”

Another potential running mate is Jindal, who was considered a potential candidate for president prior to his widely panned response to President Obama’s State of the Union address in 2009. Last month, Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist praised Jindal in an op-ed for Politico, later reportedly saying “Jindal is a leading option” for vice president.

But Jindal is known for having anti-gay views and maintaining close ties with anti-gay figures. Jindal campaigned for governor on rescinding an order put in place by Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco protecting gay state workers from discrimination — a pledge he fulfilled upon taking office.

Once elected, Jindal established a Louisiana Commission on Marriage & Family, appointing to the body anti-gay activists such as the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins and the Alliance Defense Fund’s Michael Johnson.

SarahJane Brady, managing director of the Forum For Equality Louisiana, said Jindal has “continuously repressed and ignored the needs” of LGBT people in Louisiana.

“Bobby Jindal has proven himself repeatedly to be an enemy of fairness and equality,” Brady said. “Should Gov. Romney choose Bobby Jindal to be his running mate, that would send a message of open hostility to the LGBT community.”

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. peter rosenstein

    June 29, 2012 at 11:08 am

    Great article Chris- good information to have.

  2. Timothy

    June 29, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    It should be noted that Pawlenty voted for the 1993 Minnesota Human Rights Act which expanded existing law to include sexual orientation and gender identity. He also HATES it when that is brought up to him.

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National

Does a potential overturn of Roe imperil LGBTQ rights?

Some fear that Obergefell marriage decision could fall

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Protests outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1. (Photo by Cathy Renna)

The oral arguments before the justices of the United States Supreme Court had barely ended in the case brought by the state of Mississippi defending its law banning abortion after 15 weeks, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, when alarms were set off in legal circles as some argued that Obergefell v. Hodges — the same-sex marriage decision — would be in danger should the high court rule to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Florida State University law professor Mary Ziegler, appearing on NPR’s ‘Heard on All Things Considered,’ told host Mary Louise Kelly that there was a basis for concern over whether the court would actually overrule its precedents in other cases based on the questions and statements raised during the hearing by the conservative members of the court.

Asked by Kelly if she saw a legal door opening Ziegler affirmed that she did. Kelly then asked her, “Them taking up cases to do with that. What about same-sex marriage?”

Ziegler answered, “Yeah, same-sex marriage is definitely a candidate. Justices Alito and Thomas have in passing mentioned in dicta that they think it might be worth revisiting Obergefell v. Hodges – the same-sex marriage decision.

“And I think it’s fair to say that in the sort of panoply of culture war issues, that rights for same-sex couples and sexual orientation are still among the most contested, even though certainly same-sex marriage is more subtle than it was and than abortion was.

“I think that certainly the sort of balance between LGBTIQ rights and religious liberty writ large is a very much alive issue, and I think some states may try to test the boundaries with Obergefell, particularly knowing that they have a few justices potentially willing to go there with them.”

As almost if to underscore the point raised by Ziegler during the hearing, Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia M. Sotomayor pointed out that the high court has taken and “discerned” certain rights in cases from the Constitution.

Along with abortion, the court has “recognized them in terms of the religion parents will teach their children. We’ve recognized it in their ability to educate at home if they choose,” Sotomayor said. “We have recognized that sense of privacy in people’s choices about whether to use contraception or not. We’ve recognized it in their right to choose who they’re going to marry.”

In following up the cases cited by Justice Sotomayor, Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett asked Mississippi Solicitor General Scott Stewart, who was defending the state’s abortion law, whether a decision in his favor would affect the legal precedents in those cases cited by Justice Sotomayor.

In his answer to Justice Barrett, the state’s Solicitor General said cases involving contraception, same-sex marriage and sodomy wouldn’t be called into question because they involve “clear rules that have engendered strong reliance interests and that have not produced negative consequences or all the many other negative stare decisis considerations we pointed out.”

However, Lambda Legal Chief Strategy Officer and Legal Director, Sharon McGowan had a different take and interpreted remarks by Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh to mean that the decisions in Lawrence v. Texas, which decriminalized private sexual intimacy between same-sex couples, and Obergefell v. Hodges, which struck down remaining bans on the freedom of same-sex couples to marry, would actually justify overturning Roe v. Wade.

In a publicly released media statement McGowan noted: “During today’s argument, Justice Kavanaugh suggested that two key Supreme Court decisions protecting LGBTQ civil rights—Lawrence v. Texas and Obergefell v. Hodges—support overruling Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

‘To that we say, NOT IN OUR NAME. LGBTQ people need abortions. Just as important, those landmark LGBTQ decisions EXPANDED individual liberty, not the opposite. They reflected the growing societal understanding of our common humanity and equality under law.

“Just as the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education rejected the lie of ‘separate but equal,’ the Supreme Court’s decisions in Lawrence and Obergefell appropriately overruled precedent where it was clear that, as was true with regard to race, our ancestors failed properly to acknowledge that gender and sexual orientation must not be barriers to our ability to live, love, and thrive free of governmental oppression. … 

“These landmark LGBTQ cases, which Lambda Legal litigated and won, and on which we rely today to protect our community’s civil rights, were built directly on the foundation of Casey and Roe. Our interests in equal dignity, autonomy, and liberty are shared, intertwined, and fundamental.” 

On Sunday, the Blade spoke with Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national LGBTQ+ legal organization that represented three same-sex couples from Tennessee, whose case was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court along with Obergefell and two other cases.

Minter is urging caution in how people interpret the court arguments and remarks made by the justices.

“We should be cautious about taking the bait from anti-LGBTQ groups who falsely argue that if the Supreme Court reverses or undermines Roe v. Wade, they are likely to reverse or undermine Obergefell or Lawrence. In fact, that is highly unlikely, as the argument in Dobbs itself showed,” he said.

“The only reason Justice Kavanaugh mentioned Obergefell and Lawrence, along with Brown v. Board of Education, was to cite them as examples of cases in which the Supreme Court clearly did the right thing. All of those decisions rely at least as strongly on equal protection as on fundamental rights, and even this extremely conservative Supreme Court has not questioned the foundational role of equal protection in our nation’s constitutional law,” Minter stressed.

During an interview with Bloomberg magazine, David Cortman, of the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based anti-LGBTQ legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, which has been listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an extremist hate group, said “two things in particular distinguish abortion from those other privacy rights: the right to life and the states’ interest in protecting a child.”

Cortman, whose group urged the justices to allow states to ban same-sex marriages, said those other rights may be just as wrong as the right to an abortion. “But the fundamental interest in life that’s at issue in abortion means those other rights are probably not in any real danger of being overturned.”

But Cortman is of the opinion that there is little impetus among the court’s conservatives to take up challenges to those cases.

However, the fact that the six to three makeup of the high court with a conservative majority has progressives clamoring for the public to pay closer attention and be more proactively engaged.

Kierra Johnson, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, in an emailed statement to the Blade underscored those concerns:

“Reports and analysis coming out of Wednesday’s Supreme Court hearing on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization are extremely disturbing and represent a threat to our individual constitutional rights to privacy and autonomy. There is no ‘middle ground’ on what the Constitution guarantees and what was decided decades ago with the Roe v Wade decision. 

“This is about liberty, equality, and the rule of law, not the political or partisan views of those sitting on the bench. The unprecedented decision to remove a constitutional right recognized by the Supreme Court 50 years ago would set back civil rights by decades. ….

“Abortion access is essential, and a fundamental right under the U.S. Constitution. Bans on abortion are deeply racist and profoundly sexist – the harshest impacts fall on Black and Brown women and pregnant people and on our families and communities.

“If you think this decision will not affect you, think again: a wrong decision by the Supreme Court means you, too, will lose your bodily autonomy, your ability to own your own personal and community power. This is not just about abortion; it is about controlling bodies based on someone else determining your worthiness. This is a racial justice issue. This is a women’s issue. It is an LGBTQ issue. It is a civil rights issue. These are our fundamental rights that are at stake.”

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Minnesota

Minnesota middle school principal ousted for displaying Pride flag

Critics ramped up attacks on the career educator- some compared her to the Devil after publicly associating with LGBTQ+ people and students

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Screenshot via Marshall Public Schools, YouTube Channel

MARSHALL, Mn. — A former middle school principal in Minnesota who lost her job after displaying a Pride flag alleges in a federal lawsuit that the school system retaliated against her for supporting LGBTQ+ students.

Mary Kay Thomas filed the complaint against Marshall Public Schools in the U.S. District Court of Minnesota Tuesday after anti-LGBTQ+ middle school staff, parents, students and local clergy began efforts to remove the Pride flag that she put up in her middle school’s cafeteria in 2020 as a part of an inclusiveness effort.

According to the lawsuit, Thomas has been a teacher and principal for more than three decades with a long track record of success. She held the principal position at Marshall Middle School for 15 years, receiving contract renewals, pay raises and praise for her performance.

“But when Thomas decided to display an LGBTQ Pride Flag in the school cafeteria in early 2020, everything changed,” reads the complaint. 

Thomas refused to take down the Pride flag as critics ramped up attacks on the career educator. The lawsuit alleges that some even compared her to the Devil after publicly associating with LGBTQ+ people and students. 

“Sadly, the Marshall School District has sided with these critics,” her lawyers wrote. 

What followed was an “escalating series of adverse actions” taken by the Marshall School District, said the lawsuit. She claims that the school targeted her by threatening her employment, conducting a “bad-faith” investigation, putting her on indefinite involuntary leave, suspending her without pay and putting a notice of deficiency in her personnel file. 

The complaint says that the deficiencies were “false, distorted, and/or related to Thomas’s association with members of the LGBTQ community.”

Thomas also claims that the District attempted to get her to quit by removing her as principal and assigning her to a “demeaning ‘special projects’ position.”

At one point, Marshall Public Schools Superintendent Jeremy Williams, who is named as a defendant in the case, told Thomas he could “make this all go away” if she stepped down, according to the complaint. 

The school removed the Pride flag in August 2021 after settling a lawsuit brought by residents who opposed it. 

The Blade reached out to Williams for comment but did not receive a response. However, according to the Marshall Independent, Williams did release a statement on the matter. 

“Marshall Public Schools is committed to the education of every child and has strong policies and practices in place against discrimination, against both students and staff members. The school district is committed to creating a respectful, inclusive, and safe learning and working environment for students, staff and our families,” Williams said. “While the school cannot comment about the specific allegations made in the complaint, the school district strongly denies any allegation of discriminatory conduct. The school will vigorously defend itself against these allegations.”

In addition, Thomas alleges that she resisted unwanted sexual advancements from school board member Bill Swope. She claims she told Williams about the sexual harassment.

As of Thursday, the school has not filed a response, and no hearing has been scheduled yet. 

Thomas is seeking a jury trial, damages and reinstatement as principal of Marshall Middle School.

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National

Matthew Shepard honored at National Cathedral

Daylong services held to mark his 45th birthday

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Matthew Shepard, gay news, Washington Blade
Matthew Shepard Thanksgiving and Celebration at the National Cathedral in 2018. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The parents of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, who was murdered in a 1998 hate crime that drew international attention to anti-LGBTQ violence, were among those attending a day of religious services commemorating Shepard’s 45th birthday on Wednesday at the Washington National Cathedral.

The services, which the Cathedral organized in partnership with the Matthew Shepard Foundation, included tributes to Shepard at the Cathedral’s St. Joseph’s Chapel, where his remains were interred in a ceremony in 2018.  

“Matthew Shepard’s death is an enduring tragedy affecting all people and should serve as an ongoing call to the nation to reject anti-LGBTQ bigotry and instead embrace each of our neighbors for who they are,” the Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, Dean of Washington National Cathedral, said at the time of Shepard’s interment.

“In the years since Matthew’s death, the Shepard family has shown extraordinary courage and grace in keeping his spirit and memory alive, and the Cathedral is honored and humbled to serve as his final resting place,” Hollerith said.

The first of the Cathedral’s Dec. 1 services for Shepard began at 7 a.m. with prayers, scripture readings, and music led by the Cathedral’s Rev. Canon Rosemarie Logan Duncan. The service was live streamed on YouTube.

An online, all-day service was also held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. that Cathedral officials said was intended to “connect people around the world to honor Shepard and the LGBTQ community and pray for a more just world.”

The Shepard services concluded with a 5:30 p.m. in-person remembrance of Shepard in the Cathedral’s Nave, its main worship space. Among those attending were Shepard’s parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, who have said they created the Matthew Shepard Foundation to continue their son’s support for equality for all.

A statement released by the Cathedral says a bronze plaque honoring Matthew Shepard was installed in St. Joseph’s Chapel to mark his final resting place at the time Shepard was interred there in 2018. 
Following the Cathedral’s Dec. 1 services for Shepard, the Adams Morgan gay bar Pitchers hosted a reception for Dennis and Judy Shepard, according to Pitchers’ owner David Perruzza.

One of the two men charged with Shepard’s murder, Russell Henderson, pleaded guilty to the charge after prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty for him. The second of the two men charged, Aaron McKinney, was convicted of the murder following a lengthy jury trial.

Prosecutors said McKinney repeatedly and fatally struck Shepard in the head with the barrel of a handgun after he and Henderson tied Shepard to a wooden fence in a remote field outside Laramie, Wy., on Oct. 6, 1998. Police and prosecutors presented evidence at McKinney’s trial that McKinney and Henderson met Shepard at a bar in Laramie on that day and lured him into their car, where they drove him to the field where authorities said McKinney fatally assaulted him.

Shepard died six days later at a hospital in Ft. Collins, Colo., where he was taken after being found unconscious while still tied to the fence.

In a dramatic courtroom scene following the jury’s guilty verdict for McKinney, Dennis Shepard urged the judge to spare McKinney’s life by not handing down a death sentence. He said that out of compassion and in honor of his son’s life, McKinney should be allowed to live. The judge sentenced McKinney to two consecutive terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole, the same sentence given to Henderson.

(VIDEO COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON NATIONAL CATHEDRAL VIA YOUTUBE)
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