Showing posts with label Gay Friendly Republican. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gay Friendly Republican. Show all posts

September 12, 2014

Gay Man Helped Overturn Ban on Gay Marriage backs a GOP’r

The gay Oregon man who helped overturn the state's decade-old ban on same-sex marriage is featured in a campaign ad for a Republican Senate candidate -- and he now finds himself on the receiving end of some criticism from LGBT activists.
Ben West and his husband, Paul Rummell, became high-profile figures in Oregon’s gay rights community this year when they challenged the state's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage and won.

Now West is backing Monica Wehby, the Republican nominee and same-sex marriage supporter who's challenging Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Democratic incumbent with a long record of fighting for LGBT rights.
It wasn't too big of a surprise that Wehby is unveiling her support for same-sex marriage.
 Court strikes down same-sex marriage ban Church changes its marriage definition Virginia's ban is overturned
"This is Oregon. This is not Texas," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell said, referring to the state's liberal tendencies. “I don't see a political risk."

It was, however, a big step for West and his husband to lend their names to Wehby's campaign.
While many of West's friends and acquaintances have been respectful and even happy with his decision, he said, some have been "shocked." His Facebook page shows a sampling of the disagreements. Some simply can’t fathom electing a Republican, while others say they have a hard time buying Wehby's position.

"Where was she earlier this year when we were 'fighting the fight'?" one person wrote, referring to the legal challenge against the state's law. "But now that it's over and she doesn't want to be on the 'wrong side of history', she is supportive, or says that she is."
Still, others are dismayed that West would not support Merkley, a senator that one person described as “a point of pride for Oregon."

"I am deeply saddened by the public stance that you have taken against one of the gay community's champions in DC," another person wrote. "I hope you will recant your position."
Judge strikes down Florida's same-sex marriage ban
Jeana Frazzini, executive director at Basic Rights Oregon, a group that worked actively in the challenge against the state’s same-sex marriage ban, said she can't speak for West and Rummell, adding the "LGBT community is politically diverse and we can't expect 100% agreement on every issue or candidate."

She went on to laud Merkley and question Wehby's record on same-sex marriage. Democrats point to previous comments when Wehby didn't take one position or the other on same-sex marriage, saying mostly that it's an issue that should be left to the states.
The ad causing the stir

In the 30-second television spot released Tuesday by Wehby's campaign, West looks directly into the camera and talks about how marrying his partner "was the happiest day" of his life. But he cautions there's still "a lot of work left to do" in the national push for same-sex marriage.
"Whether it's standing up for equality or for the unemployed or for the next generation, we need leaders who have the courage to do what's right," he continues. "That's why I support Monica Wehby. I know she'll fight for every Oregon family, including mine."
At the end of the ad, which was first reported by Politico, West and Wehby stand next to each with their arms around each other, smiling.

In a written statement, Wehby said she's "proud and humbled" to have the endorsement of West, a Republican, and his husband, a Democrat. "Their courage to stand up for their family, and against inequality, is inspiring and embodies the spirit I will serve with as Oregon's next senator," she said.
Supreme Court: No same-sex marriage in Virginia, yet
West and Rummell reached out to Wehby's campaign shortly after she became the GOP nominee and got to know her over a coffee date and a long visit to her house. While Rummell had some serious doubts at the beginning, West said they eventually decided to "go out on a limb" and endorse her because they believed she was an overall better candidate than the incumbent senator.
Citing their role in Oregon's gay rights world, West described the decision as "very difficult."
"It's not easy to get the blowback when yesterday you were the darling of the community," he said. "But we're acting with conviction in our hearts, and I'm not going to apologize for that."
A blueprint for the future?

While it wasn't a big risk in Oregon, the spot was certainly an uncommon move on the national level. Only four current GOP members of the U.S. Senate support same-sex marriage.
But Wehby, a pediatric neurosurgeon, trails Merkley by double digits. While her race has become more competitive than expected, political observers still rate it as a likely Democratic seat. Experts say she needed to make a splash to keep the pressure on.
“It seemed like a powerful, daring and bold move, but it also seems very wise given the landscape of Oregon," said O'Connell.

Judges hear four states defend same-sex marriage bans
As polls continue to show increasing support for same-sex marriage, O'Connell argued Republicans will be paying close attention to the outcome in Oregon. "Depending on how this turns out for Wehby, this could be a blueprint for how Republicans could move forward," he said.
Advocates for traditional marriage, however, have vowed to stop any momentum Wehby may gain from the ad.

"I think she's committed suicide politically," said Frank Schubert, the political director for National Organization for Marriage. He blasted her for supporting West and Rummell, calling their lawsuit a major insult to the voters who backed the amendment in 2004.
Schubert said his group is beginning to put together its plan to go after Wehby, adding that they're prepared to spend money in the state.
“Our organization will certainly urge Oregonians to refuse to vote for her,” he said saying they'll make sure people know she's not only in favor of same sex-marriage, but "she is in favor of the courts invalidating their votes."

By Ashley Killough, CNN

November 4, 2013

A Retired Congressman Conservative Republican Has New Job: Gay Rights

 Thomas M. Reynolds has turned from ENDA critic into an advocate because “law should be changed.”
 Thomas M. Reynolds, a conservative Republican from Clarence who worked his way up to leadership positions in both the Assembly and the House of Representatives, has added an unexpected new line to his résumé:
Gay rights advocate.
Reynolds, who retired from Congress nearly five years ago, has signed on as a lobbyist for the American Unity Fund, a big-money effort to win Republican support for gay rights issues that has also hired former Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn.
Most immediately, Reynolds and Coleman are working to win passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, which would ban workplace discrimination against people who are gay, lesbian or transgender.
It’s a bill that’s loathed by the conservative Christian element within the Republican Party, and one that Reynolds voted against in 2007, calling it “a lawyer’s bonanza.”
But that was then, before Reynolds came to believe that a more basic issue of fairness is at stake.
“This is a discrimination issue, and one that we’ve seen Fortune 500 companies actually address,” he said in an interview last week. “This is really about getting the federal government to catch up with it.”
The Senate could catch up as soon as this week. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has scheduled a series of votes on the bill that is expected to culminate in passage by Thursday.
Reynolds – who has been lobbying senators he knows, as has Coleman – will then turn his attention to the Republican-controlled House. That, he acknowledged, will be a much heavier lift.
“The first thing is to see if it can pass the Senate and then begin kind of an education, which I think is long-term, in the House,” Reynolds said.
Only five Republicans – including New York Reps. Richard L. Hanna of Barneveld and Christopher P. Gibson of Kinderhook – have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill, although a spokesman for Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, said last week that he supports it as well.
Reynolds is hoping he can bring many of his former colleagues, as well as newer members of the House, along on the same journey that led him from being a critic of ENDA to being one of its champions.
“I think my position on discrimination as it comes to gays and lesbians has evolved, and I believe the law should be changed, or I wouldn’t represent them on this issue,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds made clear that he had never personally discriminated against gay people. In fact, he said, during his last years in Congress, he employed an openly gay chief of staff, Kirk Fordham. And while serving as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee in 2006, he talked then-Rep. Mark A. Foley into running for re-election – months before it was publicly revealed that the gay Florida Republican had sent inappropriate emails to a teenage House page.
Yet when he had to vote on an earlier version of ENDA in 2007, Reynolds toed the conservative line, worrying that the bill could produce a flurry of frivolous lawsuits.
Since then, though, Reynolds has studied the issue and has found no evidence of a rash of such lawsuits in any of the 21 states – including New York – that ban workplace discrimination against gays.
That being the case, he said, it’s time for a change.
“This is about discrimination in the workplace, and I’m committed to continue working to educate members of Congress and their staffs to take a close look at what this is about,” Reynolds said.
That’s a commitment that those working with Reynolds have already seen.
“Congressman Reynolds has just been a champion in terms of reaching out” on the workplace discrimination issue, said Fred Sainz, vice president of communications at the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay rights organization. “He’s not only a former member of Congress, but he’s also the former chair of the NRCC, and that is credibility incarnate. He can have those member-to-member communications,” Sainz said.
Jeff Cook-McCormac, senior adviser to the American Victory Fund, agreed.
“Members of the House know of Tom; they know he’s a responsible Republican committed to good policy,” McCormac said. “He also understands the politics that a lot of them have to take into consideration.”
That doesn’t mean Reynolds will quickly win a lot of converts to the cause. He acknowledged that his lobbying effort will be “a long-term project,” given the reluctance of many Republicans to address the issue.
Rep. Chris Collins, for example, said he remains undecided on the workplace-discrimination bill – but he quickly added that he is deeply worried that the bill would produce the kinds of frivolous lawsuits that have bedeviled friends of his in the business world.
“The minute they’ve terminated an employee for poor performance, they get sued,” said Collins, a Clarence Republican who represents what once was Reynolds’ district. “The typical one today is the discrimination one. When you fire a woman, the lawsuit shows up. You fired her because she was poor-performing, and the lawyers do a money grab.”
Meanwhile, the Christian right worries that even though the bill has a religious exemption, it wouldn’t prevent religious institutions or deeply Christian business owners from being forced to hire people they would rather not.
“We don’t think that any religious exemption can be written that can adequately meet the conscience concerns some employers have,” said Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council, a leading conservative Christian group.
Supporters of the workplace-discrimination bill counter by saying the exemption clearly protects houses of worship, parochial schools and missions that, for religious reasons, would not want to hire gays.
Beyond that, though, the bill is just a matter of fairness – and one that Republicans should gravitate to, said Coleman, the former Minnesota senator.
“We’re the party of Lincoln,” Coleman noted. “Our roots are in anti-discrimination.”
So is the GOP’s future, Coleman added.
“I think this will help us expand the reach of our party,” Coleman said of the effort to pass ENDA.
Coleman remains opposed to gay marriage, and he said he sees no reason why people can’t hold that view for reasons of religion or tradition while favoring a law banning workplace discrimination against gays.
As for Reynolds, he’s now talking the way President Obama did shortly before announcing that, in a change of heart, he now supports gay marriage.
Asked for his current view on the issue, Reynolds said: “I would say that it’s evolving. I still hold the traditional position of marriage being between a man and woman, but I’ve also certainly reflected on it, and will continue.”
All of which is good, Reynolds added.
“I’m 63 years old now,” he said. “I see a lot of things differently as I’ve gone through different passages of life. I’m just pleased that I continue to evolve in life.”

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