Now that Kendrick Meek has been elected as the Democratic candidate for the Senate in November, the big question in our community is “where does he stand on gay rights?” The fact that Meek would become the first-ever African American Senator for the state of Florida doesn’t account for much with the gay community, some of whom feel that it invites comparisons to Barack Obama who has had trouble pushing the gay agenda.
But gay donkeys needn’t be so stubborn with Meek as his record indicates a history of supporting gay rights. In 2006, Kendrick Meek stood up to Marilyn Musgrave’s (R-CO) attempt to enshrine homophobia in the United States Constitution. Musgrave’s anti-gay marriage amendment to the Constitution was backed at the time by John Boehner (R-OH) – now Minority Leader in the House, and Bush’s vote-getter Katherine Harris (R-FL), a Sunshine State Republican who has been implicated in more political scandals than Richard Nixon and Rod Blagojevich combined.
Another thing that gay Democrats would do well to recognize is that in 2007, under a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, versions of the Mathew Shepard Act and ENDA (the non-discrimination employment act) were passed only to be shot down or stalled in the Senate. Meek voted “yes” on both of those too. Under the Obama Administration, Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO) introduced a bill that would expand the definition of a hate crime to include gender identity and Kendrick Meek voted for that as well.
In 2010, Kendrick Meek voted “yes” on two bills to repeal the Clinton-era DADT (Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell) policy in our military. Repealing DADT passed in the House of Representatives and awaits passage in the Senate. Although Alcee Hastings (D-FL) was unable to vote on the bill due to another work-related circumstance, he expressed support for the repeal bill along with “yes” votes from the other Florida Democrats like Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL), Ron Klein (D-FL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Kathy Castor (D-FL), Alan Grayson (D-FL), Suzanne Cosmas (D-FL), Corinne Brown (D-FL) and Alan Boyd Jr. (D-FL).
Not a single Florida Democrat has backed down on repealing DADT – with FL Senator Bill Nelson expressing confidence that it would repealed in the Senate as well. Even a few Republicans are now on board with repealing the policy, including Illeana Ross-Lehtinen (R-FL), Ron Paul (R-TX) and a handful of Republicans from Hawaii, Illinois and Louisiana – but the minority party still voted “no” en masse.
Democratic super-stars from Florida remind us that Florida is not really a “red state” as they color it on the election map every year. This November, Amendments 5 &6 will be on the ballot to keep political cronies from re-drawing district lines to keep themselves in power. Florida Democrats hope that when these two Amendments pass, that gay voters will keep in mind their decade-long support of gay rights in the House of Representatives and continue to vote accordingly.