1994 Bay Windows interview: "I’ll be better than Ted for gay rights."
BW: Do you support the federal lesbian and gay civil rights bill that would ban anti-gay discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and credit?
MR: This is Barney Frank’s legislation?
BW: This is not just employment, but also housing, public accommodations and credit.
MR: I am not fully aware of that bill, so I would need to study that more fully. I am aware of the legislation that Barney Frank proposed [the Employment Non-Discrimination Act] and do support that and would vote in favor of that.
I also, philosophically, support efforts to ban discrimination in housing. The particulars of the bill you’re speaking about I have not studied, so I shouldn’t state a position. Philosophically, I support efforts to remove discrimination from the workplace, from housing, from education and so forth.
BW: Are you in favor of lifting the military ban against gay men and lesbians and do you agree with President Clinton’s "don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue" policy?
MR: I think the position which President Clinton reached with the concurrence of [Gen.] Colin Powell was a fair compromise and a good step and I support that. I would be surprised if it stops there. I believe that there will be change over time as the military establishment and the rank-and-file become more comfortable with the realities of sexual orientation in the military. I will support progress being made in that area as time progresses and the military and society becomes more accepting.
BW: It’s another state issue, but what about condom distribution in schools?
MR: Here again, you’ll hear me saying the same thing on a number of issues, there are choices I think should be made at the state and local level that I don’t like the federal government getting into. I like important moral decisions being made closest to where people live, at the state and local level. So if the community feels that condom distribution is a helpful thing, then that community should be able to do that. And if another community feels that’s something they don’t support, then they should have the right to do that, as well.
BW: Why should the gay community support your campaign when Ted Kennedy has been a strong supporter of civil rights issues and the gay community?
MR: Well, I think you’re partially right in characterizing Ted Kennedy as supportive of the gay community, and I respect the work and the efforts he’s made on behalf of the gay community and for civil rights more generally, and I would continue that fight.
There’s something to be said for having a Republican who supports civil rights in this broader context, including sexual orientation. When Ted Kennedy speaks on gay rights, he’s seen as an extremist. When Mitt Romney speaks on gay rights, he’s seen as a centrist and a moderate. It’s a little like if Eugene McCarthy was arguing in favor of recognizing China, people would have called him a nut. But when Richard Nixon does it, it becomes reasonable. When Ted says it, it’s extreme; when I say it, it’s mainstream.
I think the gay community needs more support from the Republican party and I would be a voice in the Republican party to foster anti-discrimination efforts.