In Massachusetts, Even the GOP Is Too ’Gay Friendly’ for the Right
The mainstream success of a moderate Republican gubernatorial candidate and his openly gay running mate has incensed some on the fringe right. Massachusetts-based right-wing group MassResistance has taken aim at the Republican nominees for the upcoming gubernatorial race in that state, with text at the group’s site referring to Charlie Baker and his running mate Richard Tisei as "RINOs," or Republicans in Name Only, and branding them as "extreme" and "anti-family."
The anti-gay group MassResistance opposes marriage equality and has attacked GLBT advocates for, among other things, seeking safer schools legislation for fear that it might "promote homosexuality" by banning anti-gay bullying in schools. An individual associated with the group also wiretapped a meeting of GLBT youth in 2000 even though state law forbids the making of recordings without the knowledge and permission of those being recorded. The resulting "fistgate" tape was then broadcast on local radio, and MassResistance has continued to make a cause celebre of the illegally made recording since then.
Text posted April 21 at the MassResistance website sums up Bakers career as a litany of pro-gay accomplishments, including the fact that Baker "publicly supports homosexual ’marriage’ and abortion." The site also noted that, "While [Baker was] CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care the company had a policy of supporting ’gender identity or expression.’ In 2008 Harvard Pilgrim scored a perfect 100% from the national homosexual group Human Rights Campaign for its employment policies. (This means it even paid for employees’ "sex-change" procedures!)"
The site is even more critical of Tisei, with the text calling him "probably the most left-wing Republican officeholder in Massachusetts history. He is openly homosexual and is a co-sponsor of the radical ’Transgender Rights and Hate Crimes’ bill (H1728) currently in the Legislature. He strongly supports same-sex ’marriage’ and voted NOT to let the people vote on it."
Tisei’s further nefarious doings: "He appears in a hideous pro-homosexual ’marriage’ propaganda video produced by the homosexual lobby (complete with phony statistics). He has a 100% rating by NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts and a 100% rating by Planned Parenthood. He co-sponsored the expanded buffer zone bill. He also co-sponsored the ’emergency contraception bill’ that was vetoed by Gov. Mitt Romney."
The site laments that Massachusetts voters did not cast their ballots for Christy Mihos, a more "pro-family" candidate than Baker and Tisei, in MassResistance’s view, in the primary election. "In his speech before the convention Mihos said he would appoint only pro-family judges to the state Supreme Court, and that he would veto the ’Transgender Rights and Hate Crimes’ bill," text at the MassResistance site reads. "And on his website Mihos said that he supports the Opt-In Parents’ Rights bills."
Baker: Pro-Gay, Anti-Trans?
The text also critiqued Sen. Scott Brown’s endorsement of Baker and Tisei. Brown overcame a potential image problem stemming from a nude photo shoot he did in a national magazine in the 1980s to claim the Senate seat left vacant upon the death of famously liberal Sen. Ted Kennedy. That victory lionized Brown for the nation’s conservatives; his anti-gay credentials as a state lawmaker who sought to derail marriage equality before it could take effect in Massachusetts in 2004 also brought Brown admirers. However, in the last six years, Brown indicates, he has come to accept that marriage equality in Massachusetts is no longer an issue. He has also said that he would oppose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution seeking to ban marriage equality on a national level.
Massachusetts GLBT equality advocacy groups, however, recently gave voice to their displeasure with Baker when he attacked the anti-trans discrimination bill, using the far-right parlance of calling it "the bathroom bill," shorthand for claims that if transgendered individuals are given access to public facilities that reflect their own sense of gender (rather than their physiology), rapists and child molesters will enter women’s restrooms and shower areas under cover of the law to attack women and girls.
Though conservative voters have shown more interest lately in substantive issues such as the economy, anti-gay groups have pushed the so-called "bathroom argument" as a new socially conservative touchstone, warning of the perils and perversions of men using the women’s restroom--even if those men identify as women.
Although many people mistakenly believe that transgendered individuals are simply gays or lesbians who dress and live as members of the opposite sex, the issue is more complex--and distinct from sexual orientation: transgendered people frequently insist from extremely early ages that they are actually members of the opposite gender, despite their physical anatomy. Though the phenomenon is rare, transgendered people are so deeply convinced of their true sexual identity that some say that they have only experienced a sense of comfort and belonging in their own bodies after having undergone sex reassignment surgery.
Others are content to dress and live as members of the gender to which they belong, without undergoing the surgery and hormone treatments they would need to transition; the use of restroom facilities that match their gender identity is part of what trans people see as the rights that are denied them. The political debate, such as it is, focuses on people who are anatomically male, but identify as female. (Those who attack trans-inclusive anti-discrimination bills do not seem to identify anatomical females using men’s rooms as a social menace.)
"It appears Charlie Baker was for transgender civil rights before he was against them," MassEquality’s DeeDee Edmondson said in a statement issued after Baker publicly sought to distance himself from the trans anti-discrimination bill, going to far as to issue a leaflet that referred to the legislation derisively as "the bathroom bill." "Given Harvard Pilgrim Health Care’s history of protecting employees from discrimination based on gender identity, which happened under Charlie Baker’s watch, we were surprised to hear of his opposition to the Transgender Civil Rights Bill," added Edmondson.
The current governor of Massachusetts, Patrick Deval, supports the bill.
GLBT site Queerty also covered the story. An April 18 Queerty item contrasted the candidate’s support for gay and lesbian equality with his apparent opposition to trans protections, summing up with, "Transgender voters: Still marginalized by politicos."
Tisei, an openly gay candidate for Lt. Governor, has also become a lighting rod for the anti-gay right. Tisei came out publicly late last year in an interview with local newspaper of record The Boston Globe. But the victory he and Baker shared at the primary would not have surprised analysts; in a Nov. 23, 2009, article on Tisei--who became a state lawmaker at age 22--Tufts University political scientist Jeffrey M. Berry predicted that Tisei’s status as an openly gay candidate would not hurt Baker’s chances, even though the running mates were looking for the GOP nomination. "The state is tolerant, and it is way past that," Berry told the Boston Globe. "We’ve accepted gay married as a part of life here."