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Harold Ford Jr: Ignore the intensely cruel vote behind the curtain

by Jeremy Hooper

While representing TN in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2004, Harold Ford Jr. was one of only 36 Democrats to vote for the insidious Federal Marriage Amendment. Two years later he cast another yes vote, this time joining only 33 other Dems (and 202 Republicans) in supporting federal hostility. In terms of legislative approval, these votes were not merely anti-gay -- a vote for the F.M.A. was and is Anita Bryant-ian in nature.

So while we sincerely hope that Mr. Ford has learned that supporting one of modern history's most egregious mistakes was a severe error in judgment, you'll have to forgive us if we find these comments hollow, at best:

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Okay, but here's the thing: A true supporter of "fairness and equality" would not have cast two "yes" votes for that nasty piece of legislation. Principled lawmakers not only voted against the measure at the time -- they also spoke out it against, loudly and unapologetically. This includes every single New York House Democrat, who all voted against the cruel suggestion. So again, while Ford may have grown and may be in a better place now, the reality is that he was NOT a supporter of fairness and equality in '04 and '06. He just wasn't. At all.

And the idea that there is no difference between civil unions and marriage equality? As if they are interchangeable, with semantics being the only differentiation? Uhm. Huh?!?

It's really no wonder Mr. Ford uses the word "fiction" here. After all, the words we heard in this segment should certainly not be shelved in the historical biography section!


*NOTE: His citing of Schumer is beyond disingenuous. Yes, Chuck Schumer evolved his marriage position so that it unequivocally supports full equality (as did Sen. Gillibrand). However, New York's senior senator voted against the amendment when it came up in the Senate, and worked with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (along with Boxer and Stabenow) to strategize the FMA's ultimate demise.

*UPDATE: Empire State Pride Agenda's Alan Van Capelle weighs in:

Statement by Empire State Pride Agenda Executive Director Alan Van Capelle on Harold Ford, Jr.

I know Harold Ford, Jr. just arrived to New York, but as a native and lifelong resident I know what New York values are and I know a snake oil salesman when I see one. You simply can’t claim to be pro-equality if you’ve twice voted to enshrine discrimination into the U.S. Constitution.

While it may be tempting for Mr. Ford to compare himself to people like Senator Chuck Schumer, the fact remains that Senator Schumer—who did evolve on his position on marriage equality—has been a longtime supporter of several pieces of legislation that are very important to LGBT people and never supported the awful Federal Marriage Amendment. Harold Ford, Jr. is no Chuck Schumer and he is no Kirsten Gillibrand.

The fact is Senator Gillibrand has voted in support of LGBT equality every time she’s had the chance to during her entire career as an elected official. Kirsten Gillibrand has supported LGBT people and Harold Ford, Jr. has not.

Quite frankly, I cannot point to another member of the U.S. Senate who, in their first year in office, has been more outspoken and passionate than Kirsten Gillibrand about her support for legislation that would finally provide full equality to LGBT Americans. Personally speaking, she will have my vote and I would think that the work she has done over the past year has earned her the support of the vast majority of LGBT New Yorkers.

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Your thoughts

I can't help but think its based on whatever the popular opinion is at the time. In Tennessee he knew that whatever chance he had to win was to show he on the same page as they were in terms of the family and marriage, etc. In NY where public opinion is very different, he's able to be supportive of it. Now the only question is what does he really think?

Posted by: Ron | Jan 11, 2010 3:03:19 PM

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