December 4, 2015 at 8:40 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Chrys Kefalas supports federal LGBT rights bill
Chrys Kefalas, gay news, Washington Blade

Chrys Kefalas (Photo courtesy of Chrys Kefalas for U.S. Senate)

A gay Republican who is running for retiring U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.)’s seat on Thursday said he supports a bill that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to federal civil rights law.

“The legislation is needed,” Chrys Kefalas told the Washington Blade during a telephone interview, referring to the Equality Act. “Let’s move it…its time to get it done.”

Kefalas, who was former Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich’s legal counsel, spoke with the Blade two days after he formally announced his campaign.

Mikulski is among the Equality Act’s original co-sponsors. U.S. Reps. Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards — two Democrats who are also seeking the longtime incumbent’s seat in the U.S. Senate — also co-sponsored the measure.

“We’re glad to see Chrys Kefalas endorse the Equality Act and affirm that everyone should be able to live free from fear of discrimination,” JoDee Winterhof of the Human Rights Campaign told the Blade in a statement. “By supporting the Equality Act, Chrys Kefalas is also reflecting the opinion of a majority of Republicans who have said in poll after poll that they support federal non-discrimination protections for LGBT people.”

Candidate backs bill to suspend Syrian refugee resettlement

Kefalas, 36, is running against state Del. Kathy Szeliga (R-Baltimore and Harford Counties), Anthony Seda and Richard Douglas for the GOP nomination to succeed Mikulski. The son of Greek immigrants would become the first openly gay Republican elected to either house of Congress if he were to win the general election in 2016.

Kefalas, who is vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers, told the Blade that his experience as a small business owner is among his qualifications.

“The middle class and small businesses need a seat at the table,” he said.

Kefalas said jobs, taxes and business regulations are among the issues about which Maryland voters are talking. He added the more than 300 homicides that have taken place in Baltimore so far this year and the ongoing distrust between police and local residents in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death in April is also “an issue of great concern for Marylanders.”

“My experience, my leadership are all well suited for issues that Marylanders are talking about,” said Kefalas.

Kefalas recently announced his engagement to Tommy McFly, a radio host for WIAD in D.C.

He told the Blade that he recognizes his fiancé at campaign events if he “is around.” Kefalas added his U.S. Senate bid is “possible because of him.”

“I am who I am,” said Kefalas. “My life is out in the open. I certainly don’t message on the fact of who I love.”

Kefalas spoke with the Blade two weeks after the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill that would suspend the resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the wake of last month’s Paris terrorist attacks.

He said he would have voted for the controversial measure.

“We have to take a measured approach,” Kefalas told the Blade. “I have a great appreciation of history, what we did and did not do for Jewish refugees during World War II. But given security concerns I would have supported a suspension.”

“National security has to be foremost,” added Kefalas. “We have to lean on our ‘allies’ like Saudi Arabia and Egypt.”

Kefalas described the Islamic State’s execution of men who accused of committing sodomy as “horrific” and “barbaric.” He noted to the Blade that consensual same-sex sexual relations in Iran are also punishable by death.

“We’ve negotiated an agreement with a regime that is equally as offensive,” said Kefalas, referring to the agreement the U.S. brokered with Iran earlier this year over its nuclear program. “We need a change. We need a U.S. senator from Maryland that can ask the tough questions and embraces human rights for everyone.”

Chrys Kefalas, gay news, Washington Blade

Chrys Kefalas (Photo courtesy of Chrys Kefalas for U.S. Senate)

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

  • The one thing I agree on is it doesn’t matter if he’s gay or not. What matters is he’s a racist bigot, a far right tool, and a hypocrite. It’s a double standard that he whines about the Iran deal but he has no problem supporting Egypt and Saudi Arabia which are just as brutal dictatorships as Iran and Saudi Arabia is partiality responsible for the rise of ISIS. I wonder what far right groups he’s getting donations from and which extremist presidential candidate he’s voting for is. Is he sucking Donald Trump’s cock?

  • No, he doesn’t support the Equality Act. His very first vote as a senator would be to install a Republican bigot as the Senate leader and kill any prospect of the Equality Act every coming to the floor for a vote. This is the same b.s. that Richard Tisei tried to pull in his Massachusetts House run. Just as with Tisei, a vote for this homosexual Republican is a vote to kill any LGBT legislation. We’re not stupid. We didn’t fall for this intelligence-insulting doublespeak in Tisei’s case, and we aren’t falling for it in this homosexual Republican’s case either.

    • Excellent point. IF the Republican Party could just focus on economic issues, small government ideals, etc. they’d be a legit voice at the table. The party as a whole has become so infected by angry theocratic extremists that even relatively reasonable Republican candidates cannot be supported. The party has to stop pandering to the Christian Taliban to regain relevance.

    • Lets not forget its not just the “homosexual Trojan horses.” Under the system of majority control in both houses of Congress, its any Republican in either chamber while the chamber is under Republican control. If folks want to indulge in ‘good Republican’ fantasies while Congress is firmly in Democratic hands, then fine. But otherwise? Its worse than a fantasy, its a zombie movie.

      When I moved to Iowa in 2003 I kept hearing about how good of a Republican Jim Leach – who represented the district covering Iowa City – was. ‘Oh, he’s a good guy.’ ‘Oh, he’s one of the good Republicans.’ Yadda, yadda, yadda….

      Yeh – he was a ‘good guy’ after voting at the beginning of every session over the previous decade to put Newt Gingrich/Dennis Hastert and Dick Armey/Tom DeLay in charge of the agenda of the chamber, ensuring that he’d never be faced with having to cast a vote on anything pro-LGBT.

      Hell, even now, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has a trans son and claims to support the legitimate (read: trans-inclusive) ENDA. But not only has she voted to put Boehner/Ryan in charge of the agenda, she refuses to entertain the notion of a discharge petition to force the bill to the floor for a vote.

    • BTW Eherlich woulldnt support a basic non discriminatioon protections bill for gays which also would have banned local covenants banning jewish people from buying homes in eg Chartwell in severna park, where I live
      This guy is a wolf in sheeps clothing. We need him like we need a h ole in the head

      An assocciate of Ehrlich got 4 mos in jail for having robo calls to dems in the 2012 electioons saying no need to go vote, the democratic leadership re voting was enormous

      WE didnt get state non discrimination laws passed until D gov Glendening agreed to sign the bill.

      REcently a GOPProud dem leader all but said he was giving up on the repubs and becomng dem. the repu paprty has been captured by the most hate filled people in the nation, eg Carson, who was kicked out of Johns hopkins university and said that (in effect) if the jews had armed themselves the holocaust wouldnt have happened _yes- a totaly untrained mob off people vs the horrifically power ful nazis

      that assmouth obviously racist Trump who wants to deport 11 million brown people who came here for a better life and to escape the drug lords of mexico and even worse honduras, where kids are turned into child soldiers and the girls are used as sex slaves for those monsters

      If we all vote, we can turn the tide on the republican tea party extremists

  • The Equality Act may have some good features. But the problem is that it also has some bad features, and some that are of debatable necessity and value. The following examples illustrate the good, the bad, and the debatable.

    THE GOOD: Housing is a necessity, and housing discrimination is unquestionably harmful. Certainly a law against housing discrimination against LGBTs is understandable and justifiable. Same for any other public accommodation that provides essential goods or services.

    THE BAD: Infringing on the the liberties and rights of others should be done only if there is a compelling need to do so. There is no compelling need to force a baker, a caterer, a photographer, or a florist to service a same sex wedding. Especially when there are plenty of bakers, caterers, photographers, and florists who will gladly provide you the service. People have a right to refuse to help with functions that they disagree with. And while housing is essential, cakes pictures and flowers are not. Be happy for your freedom to do as you see fit. And respect the freedom of other people to do as they see fit as well.

    THE DEBATABLE: Job discrimination. Yes, you can be fired for your sexual orientation. You can also be fired for your Zodiac sign, the football team you root for, your face-book page, and countless other reasons that have nothing to do with job performance. But without evidence of economic disparity, there is no compelling reason to remove sexual orientation from the long list of reasons you can be fired for. Most surveys I’ve seen indicate that homosexuals do as well, if not better than heterosexuals in terms of income. So, maybe a job discrimination bill could pass. But the burden
    is on the supporters to show that there is actual harm that needs to be corrected, and that the bill is the least restrictive way of correcting the harm.

    So my advice to the LGBT community is to try and pass the good and the debatable as two separate bills, so that the good does not get bogged down by the debatable. And forget trying to pass the bad.

    • On the “compelling need” question: why then can a restaurant or baker not refuse service to a minority just because they don’t want to serve minorities? I hear more folks argue that if you’re open for business, you should serve everyone. I suspect a better line to draw would be regarding offensive or contrary messaging (like the baker makes the cake, but you put the gay or lesbian figures on top).

      I’m definitely not a lawyer – I think it’ll be interesting to see how this is litigated. And it’s another reason why it matters who gets elected president since they nominate SC justices.

      • If a baker will service birthday parties, retirement parties, etc for homosexuals, but refuses to service same sex weddings for anyone – straight or gay – then it is clear that it is the function itself, and not the individuals that form the basis of his refusal.
        In terms of the minorities in your question, this would be the same as if the restaurant or baker had no problem servicing blacks, but refused to service a anti-gay rally being staged by a black group. That’s not discrimination against blacks as long as the restaurant or baker would also refuse to service a similar rally being staged by a white group. .

        • Why would a straight person want a same-sex wedding? “I now pronounce you Chuck and Larry” was just an Adam Sandler movie.

        • I don’t really think your first example would hold up since straight folks aren’t asking for same sex weddings, but your second example gets at that “message” idea that seems to make more sense to me. Until I’m on the Supreme Court though, my opinion doesn’t matter much does it? ;)

          • It is becoming somewhat common (and very practical) for single moms to join forces in one household for the benefit of their children. Maybe single dads too – but much more rare. There would be many legal advantages for people in these types of households to formalize their living arrangement as legal marriage – irrespective of whether sex is a component of the relationship or not. I don’t think same sex marriage applicants are asked whether they are straight or gay, so there is probably no easy way to determine how common this would be. But I don’t think we can presume that it does not happen.

        • Mr. Seager:

          Do you understand what “public accommodation” is? A public entity (restaurants, florists, bakeries) can not discriminate, period. That is the backbone of the Civil Rights Act which banned discrimination in all public accommodations. Your example of the restaurant not serving a black or white anti-gay rally is discrimination and against the law. If you have a business that is open to the public, as long as the person or persons can pay, you must serve them. Period. Black letter law.

          • The Civil Rights Act outlawed discrimination against people on the basis of their race, color, religion, or national origin in public accommodations. It did not ban discrimination against functions – such as anti gay rallies. So yes, if you are a caterer, and someone wants you to cater an anti-gay rally you can indeed refuse. Ditto for bakers, photographers or florists.

    • “Especially when there are plenty of bakers, caterers, photographers, and florists who will gladly provide you the service”

      You can prove that there are no places in the United States that do not have access to multiples of all such public accommodations, including at least one that is LGBT-friendly?

      Womb-controllers in Texas will have you believe that even after the state’s most recent unconstitutional anti-abortion law was enacted all women in the state had access to reproductive healthcare.

      It all depends on what your definition of “spin” is.

      • I’m sure there are places that don’t have any bakers, any florists, any caterers, or any photographers. But these are not essential services. And I’ve never heard of anyone wanting to make such places illegal, or demanding a right to force bakers etc. to move there.

        • Then I take it that you still feel that it’s OK to keep blacks or Hispanics or Orientals [offensive term used intentionally] from eating at the same restaurants as us white people?

          • “Then I take it that you still feel that it’s OK to keep blacks or
            Hispanics or Orientals [offensive term used intentionally] from eating
            at the same restaurants as us white people?”

            There is no logical way to arrive at that conclusion from anything I have said.

          • discrimination is discrimination. whose next Jews, my half japanese grand dauther etc

            Seager – dont know if your a fool or a bigot (from the german Bi-gott -hatred in the name of god)

          • “discrimination is discrimination”

            There’s legal discrimination such as choosing where to locate your business, what to sell, and what events to service. Then there’s illegal discrimination such as a hotel refusing to provide shelter to blacks.

            “whose next Jews, my half japanese grand dauther etc”

            If the politically correct crowd has its way, then people who know how to think are the next target. So you’re probably not in any danger.

            “Seager – dont know if your a fool or a bigot (from the german Bi-gott -hatred in the name of god)”

            Since I have said nothing foolish, and have expressed no “hatred in the name of god” it looks like you are stuck in a false dichotomy.

    • its time to also besideds fining these xxtian bigots pull their police and fire protection etc etc etc

      If they want to discrimintee locally, they can put a cross on thier door, legally incorporate as church and probably go broke in much of the usa

      the sooner the better

      • “its time to also besideds fining these xxtian bigots pull their police and fire protection etc etc etc”

        Like when the Nazis removed police and fire protection from the Jews on Kristallnacht.

  • The idea that this person would voluntarily wish to strengthen the capacity of Ted Cruz and his ilk to ruin his own life, the life of his partner, and the lives of a minimum of 13 million other Americans is horrifying. He surely knows that Cruz, who will remain a senator, capable of launching serious mischief and then with a grievance besides, actively condones a Christianist psychopath who advocates the death penalty for LGBT Americans and that Cruz has called for the revocation of those few rights that we have and for the nomination of Supreme Court and other justices who are opposed to the notion of equal justice under law, not just for us but for any group Cruz doesn’t like.

    I’m glad that he supports an Equality Act.I would imagine that he realizes that with anything like a Republican ability to filibuster, this is not likely to go anywhere in the next Congress. This is a senate whose Republican majority has just voted to deprive the heroes of September 11, some of whom live in Maryland, Virginia, the District, and West Virginia, of health care as they are dying.

    Mr. Kafalas, realistically, can do a lot more to promote equality at the workplace as a vice-president of NAM than he could as a Republican senator. (And as a vice-president of NAM, what HAS he done to promote equality at the workplace?) Although I think and hope that either Chris Van Hollen or Donna Edwards would, deservedly, wipe the floor with him or with any other Republican candidate, I hope that Mr. Kafalas reconsiders a very ill-advised decision and potential career move.

  • Why would anyone who wanted to pass this bill ever vote for Republican? A GOP majority will elect a GOP leadership for the Senate, the one thing that will keep the bill from ever coming to the floor for a vote.

    If Chrys Kefalas truly wants to help, he needs to run as a Democrat.

    • “If Chrys Kefalas truly wants to help, he needs to run as a Democrat.”

      We already have solid allies running as Democrats. If he truly wants to help, he could fund raise for the eventual Democratic nominee and/or also for the Democratic nominee for president. Note that Senator Rubio announced his support for restoring the ability of federal contractors like ExxonMobil to discriminate against LGBT Americans.

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