Scott Brown casts first anti-gay vote

Amid contradictions, Brown joins Republicans in demanding a referendum vote for D.C. marriage.

Newly elected Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown joined Republican peers in attempting to halt the performance of legalized same-sex marriages in the District of Columbia until the issue could face a referendum vote. The Senate considered the proposed amendment that included the stipulation for the referendum as a possible addition to President Barack Obama's health care bill.

According to a March 25 vote tallied around 1:30 that morning, however, supporters of the saw their amendment fail. Of the required 60 votes, proponents garnered only 36. The 59 Senators in opposition to the measure included two Republicans -- Maine's Olympia Snow and Susan Collins. Three Republicans did not participate in the vote.

Sen. Bob Bennett, a Utah Republican, offered the proposed referendum as one of 41 amendments offered to reconcile last week's landmark health care legislation.

"It is always offensive when Congress tries to meddle with the decisions of the democratically-elected government of the District of Columbia, but this is unfortunately nothing new," Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), said in a statement issued March 25. "What is deeply cynical about the Bennett Amendment, however, is the attempt by Senate Republicans to use marriage equality in the District as a political wedge to kill the historic effort to improve the health care system for all Americans. Fortunately, a strong majority of Senators rejected this political ploy."

The legal implementation of same-sex marriages in Washington, D.C. is barely a month old. Mayor Adrian Fenty signed marriage equality into law in the nationâs capital -- after the D.C. City Council had approved the plan -- on Dec. 18, 2009. Marriages began on March 9 of this year.

In direct contrast to his recent actions, Brown had told Barbara Walters in a January interview that he believes state government should be solely responsible for determining issues of marriage equality. "And on the marriage issue that you brought up, it's settled here in Massachusetts," he said, "but I believe that states should have the ability to determine their own destiny and the government should not be interfering with individual statesâ rights on issues that they deal with on a daily basis."

Brown's apparent contradiction has been noted by local LGBT advocacy organizations. "It's interesting that [Brownâs vote on the Bennett Amendment] is in contrast to what he said on Barbara Walters about not letting the federal government interfere in state matters, even though D.C. is in the jurisdiction of the federal government. I find an interesting dichotomy there," DeeDee Edmondson, political director of MassEquality, said.

Brown's actions conflict with U.S. Representative Stephen F. Lynchâs disinterest in challenging the city's decision to legalize same-sex marriage. Despite pressure from House Republicans, the chairman of the House Committee with oversight over the District of Columbia -- and South Boston native -- chose not to get involved. "Stephen Lynch is a wonderful example of a legislator who has evolved," Arline Isaacson, co-chair of the Massachusetts Gay & Lesbian Political Caucus, told the "Boston Globe." "It makes a huge difference to have a legislator who comes from such a conservative background be on our side."

While Brown's vote calling for a referendum on D.C. marriage was "very consistent with his voting record on marriage," Edmondson said, it may not indicate his future voting pattern. "The Bennett Amendment is just one of an assortment of Republican amendments that were trying to disrupt the health care bill. They knew it wasn't going to pass at all. They knew that the strategy wasn't going to work. And they were voting as a block," she said. "It's consistent, but it's also consistent with the Republican strategy that was being used on the floor that day. Even though I'm disappointed, I don't see it as a huge harbinger of his votes to come in the future." Edmondson said that she remains "cautiously optimistic" regarding Brown's stance on other LGBT issues, including "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the military's ban on gays and lesbians serving openly, which will likely be voted on by the Armed Services Committee soon.

Scott Brown celebrated victory over Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley in a special election held Tuesday, Jan. 19 when he took the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the 2009 death of Sen. Ted Kennedy. Brown defeated Coakley by a 52 to 47 percent margin, despite harrowing efforts from LGBT advocacy groups.

"We have to be ever-vigilant to the possibility that there are threats against [marriage equality] in this state and even in those other states that just recently passed marriage equality," Scott Gortikov, executive director of MassEquality, told "Bay Windows" after the election. "The one small lesson of this election was don't be complacent and don't be too certain of your victory, the tides of change can sweep you away surprisingly and quickly."

Brown was the subject of a recent full-page ad in the "Boston Globe," written and sponsored by openly lesbian MSNBC political commentator (and western Massachusetts resident) Rachel Maddow. After a letter from Brown to his out-of-state supporters insinuating that the liberal Maddow was running for Senate was made public, Maddow clearly stated her disinterest in the position. "I'm running this ad not because I'm running against Scott Brown -- I'm not, he made that up -- but because he's the Senator for all of us," she wrote in the ad. "Maybe this will make him think twice the next time he wants to smear one of his constituents to raise money out-of-state."

At the time of publication, neither Sen. Brown's Boston office nor his Washington, D.C. office had answered calls and e-mails for comment.