GOP Leader: Gay Republican Welcome in House as Long as He Avoids ‘Personal Crusade’
TAMPA, FLA. -- Rep. Pete Sessions, Tex., heads the National Republican Congressional Committee a in role in which his top goal is electing Republicans. To that end, Sessions has worked with Log Cabin Republicans – and was honored by the group with its Barry Goldwater Award in 2010 – in spite of his own strongly anti-gay voting record: during the past three sessions of Congress his rating on HRC’s scorecard has ranged from zero all the way to six percent and now sits at three percent. Sessions has voted repeatedly for federal constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriage, and against ENDA and repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
At a press event in Tampa this morning, Sessions was asked about Richard Tisei, an openly gay Republican congressional nominee in Massachusetts. The questioner specifically asked how Tisei, who is pro-choice and pro-marriage equality, would fit in with the Republican caucus.
“I have a litmus test and that’s to be able to get elected,” said Sessions, who said he is in regular communication with Tisei and will be a strategic and tactical partner in his race. Sessions did not talk about LGBT issues directly, but said it was his sense that Tisei is “not on any personal crusade” but “wants to become a professional member of Congress.” Tisei’s opponent, Rep. John Tierney, has been hurt by financial scandals involving his wife and other family members.
Indeed, there’s no “personal crusade” on behalf of LGBT equality evident on Tisei’s campaign Web site, whose issues page does not mention LGBT issues – it focuses on right-wing talking points on the economy, Medicare, education, and Israel.
Sessions’ attitude reflects a growing split between the Republican Party’s conservative evangelical base – which flexed its muscle in this year’s platform committee – and the growing support among Americans, including Republicans, for LGBT equality. Politico reported in March that Republican congressional leaders have tried to dial back the caucus on marriage, while anti-gay activists continue to battle marriage equality around the country.
“I will proud to have him be a member of our conference,” said Sessions. But if he does win, Tisei probably shouldn’t expect too much support from his colleagues for any “personal crusades” for equality.