Christian Conservatives Fight GOP for Helping Massachusetts Gay House Candidate

Richard Tisei

The cracks are showing in the battle line that opinion makers tell us the GOP is presenting this election season. Some Christian conservatives are criticizing the party’s support for an openly gay politician from Massachusetts.

"It is a shame that we have to fight our own party to keep our constitutional, representative republic from being completely removed from life support by political death panels of both parties," conservative blogger ScottFactor wrote recently.

MassResistance, a virulently anti-gay group based in Waltham, Mass., is furious that the National Republican Congressional Committee is donating large sums to Richard Tisei’s campaign. The openly gay Tisei, 50, is running against Rep. John Tierney in the general election to represent Massachusetts’ Sixth Congressional District.

"In Massachusetts, Richard Tisei is known as an openly ’gay’ liberal Republican politician who ran for lieutenant governor in 2010," MassResistance’s Brian Camenker complains on his group’s website. "Prior to that, as a state senator, among other things he worked to successfully block the people’s right to vote on the Marriage Amendment." (In fact, observers agree that the bill never had a chance of moving out of the state’s heavily Democratic and generally liberal legislature.)

What really rankles Camenker, however, is that, in his words, "Tisei is the only Republican congressional candidate in Massachusetts to receive such support from the national Republican Congressional campaign!" He goes on to claim that Tisei, a former state senator, is on the left of fiscal and social issues as a supporter of LGBT rights and abortion. He also opposed lowering taxes while a state legislator.

Tisei burst on the state’s hotbed of politics when he ran for the open 22nd Middlesex district seat to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1984. When he won against Democrat Donald Flanagan, he became the youngest Republican ever elected to the Massachusetts House.

In 2010, when he was named Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, he publicly announced that he was gay. Tisei and the top of the ticket, Charlie Baker, lost the race in the general election, in the face of an overwhelmingly Democratic electorate that preferred Deval Patrick. That position, of course, was the springboard to national politics for another Republican, Mitt Romney.

MassResistance is trying to spread the word on Tisei’s "passionate support" for marriage equality. "He brags that he fought to make it ’legal’ in Massachusetts," the group’s website proclaims. "He believes it’s a civil right that must be granted across America." The site also points out he appeared in a video made by MassEquality to promote gay marriage.

On Tisei, Barney Is, As Usual, Frank

It seems that Tisei just can’t win. Along with fire from the Right, he has come under nearly as withering criticism from some on the Left.

"Tisei takes an evolutionary rather than revolutionary approach to gay rights and the congressional agenda," the Washington Post wrote.

Mass. Rep. Barney Frank has taken issue quite publicly and forcibly with Tisie as well. The retiring openly gay House member has argued that Tisei’s election would, in fact, set back gay rights efforts.

’’The fact that Richard Tisei is openly gay is a good thing,’’ Frank told the Associated Press reported.
’’The problem is that it is of no use to us.’’

Frank, who is supporting fellow Democrat Tierney in the Sixth Congressional District race, says that Tisei’s first order of business would be to keep Republican Rep. John Boehner as House Speaker. Boehner has a history of opposing gay rights. He opposed a 1996 repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which prevents health and other benefits to gay couples; the end of the military’s "Don’t Ask Don’t Tell" policy; and passage of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act.

’’If he is helping them keep the majority that is irrelevant because the bill will not come up,’’ Frank said.

Tisei insists he will be a strong supporter of LGBT rights, and that LGBT Americans need to be active in both major political parties to make their presence felt and their issues heard.

’’As a gay person, we will never have true equality until we have people on both sides of the aisle who are willing to stand up for the concept that everybody should be treated fairly under the law.’’ Tisei said. ’’I am sort of a trailblazer in a way. I am at the beginning of a movement. There are a lot of people who are excited that the first openly gay Republican could be elected to Congress.’’

In a response to the Washington Post’s criticism, he noted, "If I’m in the [Republican] caucus, people are going to see me, they’re going to get to know me. Just the fact that I’m there, is going to make a lot of people question, or think about the issue differently. Rather than poking somebody in the eye, the best way to deal with it is to let them evolve. I’ve seen all kinds of people, Democrats and Republicans, change their opinions of it over time."

From out media partners at EDGE

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