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MA Gubernatorial Candidates Discuss LGBT Issues

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Eight Massachusetts gubernatorial candidates discussed LBGT issues during a forum in Boston Tuesday night.

The forum was organized by the advocacy group MassEquality and Boston-based public radio and television station WGBH. Five Democrats — Attorney General Martha Coakley, Treasurer Steve Grossman, biotech executive Joe Avellone, former Medicare and Medicaid administrator Don Berwick and national security expert Juliette Kayyem — participated. So did independent candidates; healthcare executive Evan Falchuk, capital firm co-founder Jeff McCormick and evangelical pastorScott Lively. Grossman says his values can be summed up with the phrase “equal justice under law.”

“Every other state [16] that has passed transgender rights bills has included public accommodations in their bill, in their law,” Grossman said. “We are the only one who has not done that.”

Coakley mentioned her record as being the first and only attorney general to challenge the Defense of Marriage Act. She made it a point to say she won that fight. Coakley says she supports the bill mentioned by Grossman that would prohibit discrimination and require public accommodations for transgender people in public places.

“This particular legislation, when explained to people what it does, absolutely people will understand it,” Coakley said. “That is our job moving forward, to explain it and pass that bill. We can get rid of that ignorance here in Massachusetts.”

All the other candidates present support the bill, but anti-gay pastor Lively has an opposite view.

“Discrimination that’s based on race, ethnicity or nationally is completely irrational because those things are morally neutral,” Lively said. “But sexual conduct is not morally neutral. It has serious public health, sociological and moral implications. It is perfectly rational and reasonable to exercise discrimination on those grounds.”

Lively also says as governor he would ban what he calls LGBT propaganda to children, something he says he supported in Russia. He says it irresponsible to let children be the guinea pigs of a social experiment claiming there is no evidence that homosexuality is something someone is born with and is unchangeable. Lively’s statements were met with boos and laugher. Kayyem, a former civil rights attorney, says the LGBT community is an asset for Massachusetts.

“Data about, for example child suicide, and other issues is really inclusive,” Kayyem said. “State government has to get better about that so that we can provide you with the information about what’s happening in communities about mental health services and healthcare.”

Avellone says he would create a LGBT agenda and use the governor’s seat to push other states toward social justice.

“Our own administration needs to have zero tolerance for any kind of discrimination around health, benefits and jobs in the state government and beyond it,” Avellone said.

Calling it the civil rights struggle of our time, Berwick says he will continue to fight for gay rights after implementing federal regulations guaranteeing hospital visitation rights for same-sex couples.

“I will support the rights of families of any construction,” Berwick said. “I know as a pediatrician, healthy children can be raised in any family no matter what the structure.”

Falchuk, founder of the United Independent Party, says he will ensure all young people feel secure in reaching out to services when in need.

“You want a governor that will look at a kid and say ‘You know what? You’re okay. It’s okay that you were born being the way that you are. It’s perfect the way that you are,” said Falchuk.

McCormick says he wants to use technology to make sure the LGBT community is heard and is connected.

“There are a lot of isolated people out there,” McCormick said. “Everybody needs community.”

Republican candidate Charlie Baker did not attend the forum citing a scheduling conflict.

Audio is courtesy of WGBH News. Click to watch the entire forum.

Jim is WAMC’s Assistant News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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