Prizm News / October 31, 2018 / By Bob Vitale
‘I support everybody’ comments belie the Republicans’ records of voting against and suing over anti-discrimination measures.
By Bob Vitale
Through gritted teeth Tuesday night, openly gay U.S. House candidate Rick Neal called out his Republican opponent for touting himself as a champion of fairness while opposing every measure backed by the Human Rights Campaign during his eight years in Congress.
During a debate at Ohio University in Athens—their last face-to-face meeting before Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 6—Neal reached his boiling point when incumbent Rep. Steve Stivers bragged about “a record of trying to support everybody” even though he had to reach back to a 2004 vote in the Ohio General Assembly to point out a pro-LGBTQ stand.
Stivers also mentioned his support for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the federal policy that prohibited LGBTQ Americans from serving openly in the U.S. military. Congress voted to end the policy for gay and lesbian service members, though, a month before Stivers took office.
“I’m sorry, this makes me a little mad,” Neal said before calling Stivers’ comments a misrepresentation of his record in office and pointing out that Stivers has not scored a single point on HRC’s annual congressional scorecard since taking office.
“I cannot tell you how disappointed and angry I am that that’s the case, Steve,” Neal said. “A zero. You have to work to get a zero. … You know who has a zero in Ohio? Jim Jordan has a zero, for crying out loud.”
Stivers responded: “I can tell you that it is a fact that I voted against the Defense of Marriage Act (in the Ohio Senate). That is a fact. It is a fact that I supported the ban on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ I’ll put my record up. I’ve been fair, I’ll be fair.”
(Watch the Neal-Stivers debate below. The exchange on LGBTQ issues begins at 47.52.)
Stivers said he didn’t know about the Equality Act, which has been introduced in Congress in some form since 1994. “But I will look at it,” he said.
Refusal to sign on as a cosponsor of the Equality Act is one position for which Stivers has earned no points over the last eight years from HRC, the nationwide LGBTQ civil-rights group. HRC has endorsed Neal in this year’s election.
Among the Republican’s other stands on LGBTQ issues over this career in Congress:
- He voted in July 2017 for a failed amendment that would have denied transgender members of the U.S. military access to transition-related care. (The 2017-18 scorecard is here.)
- He voted in May 2017 to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which banned discrimination in healthcare based on people’s gender identity or sexual orientation and guaranteed access to care for people with pre-existing conditions such as HIV.
- He voted in May and June 2015 against an amendment that would have barred anti-LGBTQ discrimination by certain federal contractors. (The 2015-16 scorecard is here.)
- He voted in February 2013 for a version of the Violence Against Women Act that would have eliminated funding for services to victims of domestic violence by same-sex partners. (The 2013-14 scorecard is here.)
- Two years before the U.S. Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional, he refused to co-sponsor legislation in 2013 that would have repealed the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
- On the day after then-President Obama announced his support for marriage equality in May 2012, Stivers voted for a measure to stop the U.S. Justice Department from spending any money to argue against the Defense of Marriage Act. (The 2011-12 scorecard is here.)
Stivers isn’t the only Republican trying to convince voters in the final stages of this year’s campaign that his anti-LGBTQ record isn’t as harsh as it looks.
In a Dayton Daily News article Tuesday on LGBTQ issues, Republican candidate for governor Mike DeWine said: “I do not believe people should be discriminated against for any reason.”
As Ohio’s attorney general, DeWine fought against marriage equality all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled against him in 2015 and declared marriage a constitutional right for same-sex couples.
DeWine also sued the Obama administration in 2016 when it directed public schools around the country to respect the gender identity of transgender children.
In the Dayton newspaper story, DeWine pledged to continue a 2011 executive order from Gov. John Kasich on nondiscrimination in state government. That directive, though, covers only sexual orientation and permits discrimination against transgender people.
DeWine also called marriage equality “the law of the land,” skirting a pledge he made in March to a Cincinnati anti-abortion group to work to change the law of the land. He answered “YES” to the question: “Do you support the union of one man and one woman as the only definition of marriage that should be legally recognized at all levels of government?”
The Republican whose long anti-LGBTQ record was the subject of a September article in Prizm also told the Dayton Daily News that he believes “the law in Ohio should not prohibit adoption by gay couples.”
“We should act with kids’ best interest in mind,” he said.
But while he is against the state prohibiting same-sex couples from adopting children, DeWine didn’t address whether others should be allowed to do the prohibiting.
In the same March questionnaire by Cincinnati Right to Life, DeWine and his running mate, Jon Husted, said they oppose any laws or regulations “that infringe upon an individual’s or organization’s rights of conscience.” Such a stand would allow adoption agencies or officials to block adoptions if they oppose the idea of LGBTQ parents on religious grounds.
HRC also has endorsed Democrat Richard Cordray for governor.