Linda McMahon, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate from Connecticut, pledged that if elected she would vote to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, although her statement seemed blunted by a mistaken expression of support for “America's law for same-sex marriage.”
The Associated Press reports on the acrimonious first debate Sunday between the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment and her Democratic opponent, Rep. Chris Murphy. The candidates are vying to succeed retiring U.S. senator Joseph Lieberman, an independent, in a closely contested race that has received national attention.
The Connecticut Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2008, and McMahon told reporters after the debate that she would vote to repeal DOMA because of the change in her state. Section 3 of DOMA prevents the federal government from recognizing marriages between same-sex couples in states where such unions are legal. A handful of challenges against that section of the 1996 law, including one upheld by a federal judge in Connecticut, are pending review by the U.S. Supreme Court this term.
"I have changed my position on DOMA because with now gay marriage approved in the state of Connecticut, I don't think it's fair," said McMahon, according to the AP, which reported that gay advocates had questioned her position in the past. She has received the endorsement of GOProud, a group representing gay conservatives and their allies, which praised her support for “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal and said that she “believes that the issue of marriage should be left to the states, and supports Connecticut’s marriage law.”
Her comments came after an awkward moment in the debate, when in response to a question about marriage equality, McMahon said, “I absolutely support America’s law for same-sex marriage, and I wouldn’t pretend to try to impose my will or rights on others. I think everyone should have the freedom to make that choice.”
Murphy pounced on her answer, saying, “America doesn't have a law protecting same-sex marriage, in fact it has the exact opposite.” He continued, “The fact that Linda McMahon only spent 20 seconds answering that question tells you that she's not going to stand up to her party in Washington when it comes to these issues that right now are being dominated by the social right in Washington,” according to the Connecticut newspaper The Day.
McMahon attempted to clarify her answer after the debate, saying that she meant she would not vote for measures that would end marriage equality in Connecticut, according to The Day. She said, “I’m a supporter of gay marriage.”
The support for DOMA repeal expressed by McMahon puts her in front of other Republican Senate candidates, including Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts. The incumbent has been evasive about his position despite the fact that same-sex marriage has been legal in his state since 2004.
Senator Brown is the only member of the upper chamber so far to receive the backing of the Log Cabin Republicans, the country's largest group for gay Republicans, which announced its first wave of congressional endorsements last week. The organization has not yet indicated whether it plans to endorse McMahon, but executive director R. Clarke Cooper provided The Advocate with a positive assessement in response to her debate performance.
“Naturally, Log Cabin Republicans were very pleased to see Linda McMahon make a strong case for fairness on behalf of married Connecticut families,” he said. “McMahon is currently going through Log Cabin's endorsement process. Her clear opposition to DOMA expressed in the debate last night, combined with good business sense and a commitment to fiscal responsibility make her an excellent candidate for the Log Cabin Republicans endorsement, and a strong candidate to represent Connecticut in the United States Senate. We anticipate releasing our second wave of congressional endorsements very soon.”
Only one Republican in Congress, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, publicly supports legislation to repeal DOMA. The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the bill last year, but the measure remains stalled in the Republican-controlled House, which has intervened to defend the law in the federal court challenges.
Watch the debate from WFSB-TV below. The marriage equality discussion begins around the 48:20 mark.