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Senator-Elect Scott Brown talks gay issues

Timothy Kincaid

January 31st, 2010

walters brownMassachusetts’ 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.

BROWN: Yes.

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.

On marriage:

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.

Comments

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Frequent Flier
January 31st, 2010 | LINK

It seems to me that Mr. Brown’s position on the DADT issue is similar to Pres. Obama’s. By similar I mean despite what Obama says, the president is letting the generals dictate to him (their boss) a ‘repeal’ that will apparently take years.

Rossi
January 31st, 2010 | LINK

I’d be skeptical. And that’s because the party discipline machine will stomp out any dissent from the ranks. And as a potential “star” on the national scale, you just wait until the far reaches of the right get ahold of these comments. They’ll be walked back promptly.

Fortunately, people have his record to compare his words to, and he is indeed a bit of a liberal R. However, as Ezra Klein deftly points out, Senators who are “liberal” you won’t ever know when it comes to party line politics. And the GOP, for better or worse, does a much better job of controlling that message than their D counterparts.

What I’d look for, rather, is a rift forming among the party line itself. Where the GOP in power refuses to pass the “purity test” the teabaggers demanded this past week but didn’t get. To me, this is the best hope that “big tent” politicians like Brown could actually flourish.

At least until he’s voted out of Mass in 2012.

Lucrece
January 31st, 2010 | LINK

Oh, please. It’s clear some desire for a renewed GOP is coloring your judgement, Tim.

The “state’s rights” stance was the same McCain parroted during his presidential campaign. What happened when Prop 8 and Arizona’s amendment came out? He sponsored them. He also sponsored FMA and DOMA afterwards.

His answers are a clear ploy to try to continue to paint himself as a centrist. But when his campaign against Martha Coackley made calls saying she promoted the “same-sex marriage agenda”, it’s clear the guy is not on our side.

He’s another craven Republican trying to paint himself as a moderate; he is not.

Burr
January 31st, 2010 | LINK

You’re not going to get straight answers from a guy with only 2 years in office. Of course his short term also means he probably won’t be stirring much trouble either.

John
January 31st, 2010 | LINK

His votes will be dictated by what he thinks will get him elected. His personal views are probably of very little importance. Besides, I can’t imagine that he really cares one way or the other about fairness to gay people. He will do what he can to avoid votes on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the DOMA. He can probably do that by just staying quiet and letting the Democrat game play out. Democrats will probably find a way not to vote on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell this year without Brown’s help.

I sent a note to Senator Boxer, a liberal California senator who supports repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. I told her that if she doesn’t work hard and publicly to force a vote on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell this year, I am not voting for her.

I am really sick and tired of liberal representatives and senators not forcing votes on these important issues and giving their anti-gay colleagues cover. I consider that approach aiding and abetting the anti-gay Democrats, and I think that pro-gay Demmocrats who play along with that game aren’t really pro-gay. So, why should I vote for them. In Boxer’s case, I think that she is going to need every vote she can get this time around.

Timothy Kincaid
January 31st, 2010 | LINK

Lucrece,

Kindly provide support for your claims.

1. When did McCain sponsor FMA?

2. When did Brown’s campaign make the calls you are claiming that it did?

Lucrece
January 31st, 2010 | LINK

1-http://hotlineoncall.nationaljournal.com/archives/2006/03/mccainmarriage.php

Which is the same sh!t. DOMA already serves the purpose of blocking recognition federally.

Not pushing the amendment at the resounding majority of the states where amendments are put on the ballot, they pass. Gay marriage is not something that’s happening nationwide.

2- My mistake, they didn’t make it themselves. They just didn’t rebuke the calls NOM made.

http://www.towleroad.com/2010/01/nom-calls-attack-coakleys-prolgbt-positions-in-massachusetts.html

Chitown Kev
January 31st, 2010 | LINK

Well, Brown definitely cannot get reelected by lurching further right than he already is. In order to get reelected, at least in 2012, he will probably have to lurch to the left a little bit.

I agree Timothy, I think that Brown’s willingness to vote on our side probably depends on the specific issue up for vote.

Besides, if a Kennedy runs for this seat in 2012 (and I think that might happen) Brown may be SOL anyway.

Timothy Kincaid
February 1st, 2010 | LINK

Lucrece,

Thank you for the links.

However, your first link is a misreporting of the facts.

It is, I agree, easy to have one’s judgment clouded by partisanship. But I hope that I did not let my hope for lessened hostility too strongly flavor my analysis.

Billy Glover
February 1st, 2010 | LINK

This discussion is important, and at first glance Brown seems ok, and as someone said, he can ‘go” in 2012 if he’s no good. But I like that he is not a rightwinger as far as he has talked so far. And that he posed nude is good unless he has now gone far right to “make up’ for it.

andrew
February 1st, 2010 | LINK

This is an actions-not-words / wait-and-see deal for me. As we’ve seen with Northeastern GOP candidates, their stances on social issues are somewhat “nuanced” on issues like this. This is certainly a signal that Brown is serious about trying to keep his seat in 2012. He’s trying to give the majority Dems nothing blatantly offensive once he’s faced with a more serious opponent than Coakley, or the current rage against out-of-touch pols dissipates.

There have been episodes in the past with Brown on gay issues, but I’m ready to wait and see. Gay allies in the Republican party, whether they come naturally or because they see political opportunity, are important… and positions evolve. Think Bill Weld. What we’re looking at here is not a potential “yes” vote on gay issues, but hopefully someone who will not work to fillibuster or who might even abstain, and that could be enough.

Lucrece
February 1st, 2010 | LINK

The first link misreports the facts how?

Both say he rejected the FMA but promised he would vote for it if the SCOTUS struck down state bans.

What I said is that this is a disingenuous position on his part. So, he’s willing to federally impose a definition if SCOTUS overturns the limited definition in the majority of the states?

As it stands, FMA would take too much effort and political capital to just prevent– what, six states from marrying gays with no federal recognition?

Of course it’s easy for him to make that decision, when the other states ban gay marriage.

DOMA+state bans currently in existence basically means a very minute benefit from passing the FMA, as most of the country has marriage bans.

Aconite
February 1st, 2010 | LINK

It would seem clear that Brown will not support a Federal Marriage Amendment.

Eh, I don’t know about that. Far-righters are notorious for saying they do not support X when it means A, but changing their minds when X means B.

For example, I’m not convinced his statement should be read as a stand against FMA. He could means it more along the lines of: “I don’t think the Feds should be telling the states who can get married, if that means SSM bans are overturned in SCOTUS and we all have to acknowledge them queers.”

cd
February 3rd, 2010 | LINK

I wouldn’t peg any such hopes on Scott Brown, who now ‘represents’ my state.

He’s like the top level of the Republican Party is, here. I’m sure he personally and quietly has no problem with repealing DADT and legal gay marriage. But gay rights are just one of the many things that 99% of the time isn’t worth any sacrifice on their part- there’s no worthwhile benefit in it for them. And the reactionary lower class part of the Republican ‘base’- which the leaders have absolute contempt for in private but need the votes of- hates gay people and gay marriage. The top tier here is all business Republicans: they look at everything through the morally lazy lens of cost/benefit/risk analysis.

So I’m sure Brown will vote Republican party line on gay rights issues where his vote isn’t decisive. And I don’t see any opportunity of his vote being decisive. The handful of conservative Democrats in the Senate, principally Ben Nelson, obstruct repeals. There are 40-45 Democratic votes in the Senate against another FMA, and about 200 in the House, and since 2/3 is needed that’s not going to happen either.

As a country we seem to elect the Party out of power into control of the agenda (though not necessarily majorities) in Washington every midterm election. So I’d say we’re looking at four years of mostly Republican control of the agenda from the midterms this November to roughly those of 2014. I think that amounts to almost everything involving gay rights, good or bad, getting stalemated or obstructed.

The exception might be repeal of DADT, on which popular opinion is about 70/30 and the conservative half of the electorate is sufficiently split to permit small positive motion, in increments (despite loud whining).

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