WASHINGTON — House Speaker John Boehner announced his support for out gay House candidates in a morning news conference Thursday, a move that prompted some support from LGBT groups but also some raised eyebrows from House Democrats.
Asked if he supports efforts by the Republican Party to support gay candidates running for House seats, Boehner replied, "I do."
A gay House Democrat and one of the leading LGBT allies in the House, though, questioned the value of Boehner's support. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, an out gay, first-term Democrat in New York, told BuzzFeed, "Talk is cheap — it does little good to support gay candidates if you're willing to fire gay Americans," a reference to Boehner's stated opposition to bringing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to a vote in the House.
"If he really does believe in equality, Speaker Boehner should stop blocking the bipartisan Employment Non-Discrimination Act and bring it to the House floor for a vote, so we can say once and for all that Americans should only be judged by the work that they do, not who they are or who they love," he said.
Maloney and out bisexual Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, another first-term Democrat, were joined by three other Democrats and five Republicans in sending a letter to Boehner earlier this week asking that he allow a vote on the legislation to ban most employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment.
Rep. Jerry Nadler, meanwhile, took note of Boehner's language.
"It's ironic that Speaker Boehner used the phrase 'I do' in response to the reporter's question, while continuing to oppose marriage equality," Nadler told BuzzFeed. "He also opposes ending workplace discrimination against LGBT Americans. So, what does it really mean that he supports openly gay candidates if he doesn't support their equal treatment under the law? Looks like GOP politics as usual to me."
Boehner's comments came in response to a Politico article posted Wednesday night detailing an effort by Rep. Randy Forbes to keep the Republicans' House campaign committee from supporting either of two out gay candidates, Richard Tisei in Massachusetts and Carl DeMaio in California.
In the article, the chairman of the campaign committee, Greg Walden of Oregon, said that the committee's decisions on who to support "will not be based on race, gender or sexual orientation but will be based on the strength of their candidacy and their ability to defeat Democrats." Boehner echoed that comment with his two-word affirmation on Thursday.
For Log Cabin Republicans, the LGBT Republicans' organizations, Boehner's support for out gay candidates is a good sign.
"You either want Republicans to win, or you don't — it's as simple as that. Apparently, Congressman Forbes does not. Thankfully, the real GOP leaders in the House know how to pick winners, and their money is on Richard Tisei and Carl DeMaio," LCR executive director Gregory Angelo said. "Speaker Boehner gets it: He wants to win. The only loser in all of this is Rep. Forbes, who has been smoked out as an out-of-touch, intra-party saboteur."
And the bipartisan Human Rights Campaign — a group that strongly supported President Obama's re-election — didn't argue with that. "Being gay has nothing to do with one's ability to serve in Congress and it's a positive sign to see the Speaker take this view that a majority of Americans agree with," spokesman Michael Cole-Schwartz said.
Update at 4:10 p.m.: Drew Hammill, spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, told BuzzFeed, "LGBT Americans are more interested in passing ENDA and expanding freedom and equality in our country than Speaker Boehner's insincere efforts to marry himself to extreme gay Republican candidates."
Chris Geidner is a Supreme Court correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Chris Geidner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.