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.”