By: Chuck Colbert/TRT Reporter–
Her campaign strategists know that in as a close a race as this one — multiple polls show her with a one-to-two point advantage — Elizabeth Warren needs every single vote to send Republican US Senator Scott Brown packing. In other words, gay votes may really matter on Election Day.
Perhaps that’s why the Warren campaign rolled out star power the likes of U.S. Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, specifically to fire up gay voters.
“You are looking at a senator who won by 312 votes,” Franken told an enthusiastic gathering of 100 people in Cambridge on Friday afternoon, Oct. 19, at Warren’s campaign office.
“My charge to you is work your butts off,” he said.
Brown absent for SNDA
The Minnesota senator spoke first hand of his disappointment in Brown’s refusal to back a bill Franken introduced in the Senate, the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA), federal legislation which aims to protect LGBT youth from harassment.
“Basically, [the bill] gives kids the right not to be bullied and the right to do something, if they are,” he said, citing statistics that 99 percent of LGBT youth in this country report being bullied, with 30 percent saying they have missed a day of school in the last month because they are afraid.
Youth suicides from kids who were bullied in Minnesota have made national headlines.
“I asked Scott Brown to co-sponsor [SNDA],” said Franken, adding, initially, Brown told him “I’ll get back to you.”
Ultimately, “He wouldn’t do it,” Franken said.
But Warren, a former elementary school teacher, supports anti-bullying protections, explaining on Blue Mass Group blog posting why.
“We need to help teachers and administrators create and foster an environment that welcomes students and their families, whether kids are being raised in a single parent household, by their grandparents, or by their lesbian moms or gay dads. All children – straight, questioning, perceived, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender – can thrive in school only when they are truly safe and secure,” she wrote.
Cambridge key leaders
At Friday’s rally, Cambridge city councilors E. Denise Simmons, who also serves as vice mayor, and Marjorie C. Decker, along with attorney Ellen Zucker revved up a loyal base that has good reason to pink slip Brown and every reason to back Warren.
“As I look out over the room, I see a lot of folks who have been fighting for LGBT equality for a very long time,” said Zucker, who served as president of the board of directors for MassEquality during the several-year Beacon Hill battle to block a proposed anti-gay ballot measure aimed at rolling back same-sex marriage rights ushered in the by the Supreme Judicial Court’s Goodridge decision.
“Mr. Brown, we remember you from your days in Massachusetts when 25 times you voted against marriage equality,” she said, referring to the many times lawmakers during numerous Constitutional Conventions took votes on same-sex marriage.
Zucker also recalled Brown’s standing with, at the time Governor Mitt Romney, in casting a lone GOP vote to defund the Governor’s Commission on GLTB Youth.
Initially established by an executive order of Republican Governor Bill Weld in 1992, the Governor’s Commission became an independent agency of the Commonwealth Massachusetts in 2006 through legislative action.
The Commission recommends and advocates to all branches of state government effective policies, programs, and resources for GLBT youth
Anti-LGBT comments from Brown
Brown served as a state senator (2004 to 2010) before winning a 2010 special election to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Prior to his state Senate tenure, Brown served in the state House of Representatives from 1998 to 2004).
During his tenure as a state representative, Brown also made critical comments in 2001 — reported in the Boston Globe — about then state Senator Cheryl Jacques, saying it was “not normal” for a woman and her partner to have children, going so far as to disparage their “alleged family responsibilities.”
“This is a man who does not respect our lives and our families,” said Zucker. “I don’t want my son to hear that kind of talk.”
HRC’s Scorecard on Brown
The Warren campaign’s get-out-the-gay-vote push came just days after the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) released its Congressional Scorecard for the 112th Congress, which rates lawmakers for their support of LGBT issues.
Senator Brown received a rating of 55 percent, which is above the average of 35 percent for senators overall, but well below the 22 senators, including seven from states with marriage equality, who scored 100 percent — like Massachusetts senior Senator John Kerry.
By way of sharp contrast, Brown stands way outside the state congressional delegation, with all members earning 100 percent scores except U.S. Representative Steven Lynch of the 9th Congressional District who scored 90 percent.
HRC’s scorecard tally also highlights another key difference between Democratic challenger Warren and incumbent Republican Brown. The former supports a bill — the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) — that would add protections for LGBT persons in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Brown does not.
Employment Non-Discrimination Act
During a brief speech at HRC’s annual Boston gala and fundraising event last month, Warren spoke to the need for ENDA.
“We need to fight to make sure there’s a level playing field for everyone,” she said. “I don’t believe that anyone in this country — anyone — should ever have to worry about [his or her] job simply because of who they are. What matters is ability, talent, and commitment.”
“That’s why we need to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and make sure it is fully inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people,” said Warren.
Meanwhile, back in Cambridge, Boston attorney and longtime gay-rights activist John Affuso said he came to the get-out-the-vote event because “I want a senator we can rely on 100 percent of the time as opposed to a senator who only votes when it is convenient.”
Affuso, an Army veteran, was referring to Brown’s vote to repeal the military ban on openly gay military service. Brown in fact voted to repeal the ban, more commonly known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” but his support came after opinion polling (78 percent in one CNN measure) showed overwhelming public support for lifting the ban.
To his credit, Brown also voted with the LGBT community on the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act in striking key provisions prohibiting discrimination against, and expanding services to, victims of domestic violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
And yet, Affuso said, Brown “has proven himself to be no friend of the LGBT community.”
“I am not aware of any pro-LGBT vote he took as a state legislator,” Affuso explained.
“Keep in mind this could be the key vote for which party controls the Senate,” he said. “I want the Senate to stay in Democratic hands.”
Cathy Hoffman, longtime executive director of the City of Cambridge’s Peace Commission until her retirement in May of 2008, attended the LGBT-focused get-out-the-vote effort.
“I’m here because there is a profound difference between Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren,” she said. “Elizabeth Warren has a vision that includes all of humanity that is sadly lacking at this time with gaps in inequality unprecedented in human history.”
“Yes,” Hoffman added, “I am a member of the LGBT community but also of a large community” representative of “progressive human rights and dignity.”
Longtime LGBT community activist and attorney Elyse Cherry was not in attendance, but offered her assessment of the LGBT case for Warren over the telephone and through email correspondence.
“Full equality for all Americans is ‘True North’ on Elizabeth Warren’s moral compass – and the LGBTQ community can count on her support,” said Cherry, playing on the late Senator Kennedy’s memoir titled True Compass.
“Our support for Elizabeth will help insure a Democratic Senate that will stand up for our freedom to marry, that will repeal DOMA [the Defense of Marriage Act], and that will confirm Supreme Court justices who share our joint commitment to equal justice and equal treatment under law,” Cherry explained. “This is a close race in which Elizabeth needs every single one of our votes – and the votes of our friends, our neighbors and our family members. Let’s be sure she has the support she needs to win!”
To be sure, the Brown-Warren race is one of the most, if not the most, closely watched U.S. Senate race this year.
The race is also the most expensive in state history, as well as the most costly right now nationwide.
Warren’s campaign raised $12 million in the third quarter, while Brown raked in nearly $8 million, according to the respective campaigns. Total cash intake as of Sept. 30 has pushed the overall figure north of $70 million.
Warren did not attend the get-out-the-vote event in Cambridge, but this reporter caught up with her the following afternoon on the North Shore at a rally for veterans.
In response to his question about what to expect from her if elected, Warren said, “What you can expect from me is that I will be out there fighting for all of our families. I’ll be fighting for all of our children.”
Warren’s commitment to equality
She paused and then continued, “The whole notion right now that we live in a world where we in Massachusetts make our decisions about lawfully married couples and then the federal government decides to recognize some of those couples and not other couples: I think that is poisonous to the system and fundamentally wrong.”
Former U.S. Senator Max Cleland of Georgia, a decorated Vietnam War veteran who lost both legs and part of his right arm, introduced Warren on Saturday afternoon, Oct. 20.
“This is a very special woman. I want you to know,” the Silver and Bronze Star recipient and Veterans Administration director said from his wheel chair. “The reason I know is that I’ve looked at her binder.”
Cleland’s recognizable dig at Mitt Romney’s silly second presidential debate comment brought the crow of several hundred to its feet, applauding, cheering, laughing, and producing a sea of blue and white Elizabeth Warren for Senate signs in the sanctuary of the First Baptist Church in Beverly on a day that saw bright sunshine and 74 degree temperatures. A small military-style live brass band played “Happy Days Are Here Again,” a standard Democratic Party theme song.