Senator-Elect Scott Brown talks gay issues
January 31st, 2010
Massachusetts’ newly elected Senator, Scott Brown, spoke with Barbara Walters on ABC This Week and part of the conversation included his stance on issues of importance to the gay community.
On Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the Military’s ban on service by openly gay men and women.
WALTERS: You have been a member of the National Guard for 30 years. You’ve talked about how important that service is.
WALTERS: You’re a Lieutenant-Colonel. On Wednesday the president announced that he wants to work with Congress to repeal don’t ask, don’t tell. What’s your view?
BROWN: I think it’s important, because as you know we’re fighting two wars right now. And the most — the first priority is to — is to — is to finish the job, and win those wars. I’d like to hear from the Generals in the field — in the field — the people that actually work with these soldiers to make sure that, you know, the social change is not going to disrupt our ability to finish the job and complete the wars.
WALTERS: But Senator, your own view.
BROWN: That’s my view.
WALTERS: So you can’t say whether you’re for or against it?
BROWN: No. I’m going to wait to speak to the generals on the ground.
I find this exchange both encouraging and troubling.
Obviously Scott Brown has an opinion and is just hedging his bets. And I am not happy that he is discussing the issue as a “social change” and see it in terms of “disrupting”. But it is also nice that the Republican whom the party is lauding as the face of a cultural change is not speaking against the repeal.
Also encouraging is that much of the information that we hear suggests that our problem is with the Pentagon, not with generals in the field. If Brown is sincere – and for now we should give him the benefit of the doubt – there is a good chance that if he does speak to field operations, he’ll hear that good troups are more valuable to the war effort than anti-gay policies. It all depends on whether the officers to whom he speaks have had to lose soldiers that they valued and did not want to let go.
But if Brown is simply looking for an excuse to take an anti-gay position, I’m certain that he can readily find “generals on the ground” who will agree with him. When reporting what you heard from “generals on the ground” (anonymously, of course), they can say anything that your imagination can contrive.
WALTERS: And gay marriage is legal in the state of Massachusetts. But the Republican party platform language calls for the overthrow of Roe v. Wade, and they want a federal ban on gay marriage. Are you out of step with your party, or do you think that the party has to broaden, and change its platform?
BROWN: Well I’ve always been a big tent person, you know? We need more people to come into our tent to express their views in a respectful and thoughtful manner.
And on the marriage issue that you brought up, it’s settled here in Massachusetts, but I believe that states should have the ability to determine their own destiny and the government should not be interfering with individual states’ rights on issues that they deal with on a daily basis.
Again, this seems to be language that can leave open a lot of options.
It would seem clear that Brown will not support a Federal Marriage Amendment. But if the Supreme Court overturns Proposition 8, will that be justification for him to vote for a federal amendment to reverse that decision?
And what does this mean for DOMA? Can one truly be “states’ rights” and not support having the federal government honor the marriages of states that provide marriage equality?
We know from his efforts in the Massachusetts legislature that he is not an advocate for marriage equality. But he’s had five years to see that the sky hasn’t fallen and that churches aren’t being shuttered and that his neighbors, liberal and conservative, have come to accept and support the change.
I think there is much to hope for from Scott Brown. We should not expect an ally or even a secure vote on any issues, but if we do not approach him as an enemy I think that it is possible that we will find that Scott Brown could be a crucial bi-partisan vote on some issues of concern to our community.