Illinois congressman Joe Walsh, a Tea Party favorite who has opposed pro-LGBT legislation, styled himself as a gay rights supporter when he first ran for office in 1996.
Walsh, a Republican who is serving his first term, originally ran for Congress in ’96 (unsuccessfully) against liberal Democrat Sidney Yates, who represented a district covering parts of Chicago and its northern suburbs for many years. At that time, reports Chicago LGBT paper Windy City Times, Walsh said he would support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and be willing to cosponsor it. He also said he opposed restrictions on gays in the military and supported AIDS education and treatment.
Walsh’s record since being elected in 2010, when he defeated Democrat Melissa Bean in a somewhat more conservative district in Chicago’s northwestern suburbs, tells a different story. He has failed to cosponsor any pro-LGBT measures, such as ENDA and the bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, earning him a zero rating from the Human Rights Campaign.
In 1996 he described himself as undecided on marriage equality, but more recent statements indicated that he’s made a decision. He has said he believes “a marriage can only exist between one man and one woman” and that same-sex marriage is a “socioeconomic issue.” “Walsh argues that ‘male-female, two-parent households’ produce children who do better in school, stay away from drugs and are less likely to be in poverty,” the Chicago Tribune reported this week. (His statement ignores many studies indicating that as parents, same-sex couples do just as well as opposite-sex ones.)
Walsh has apparently changed his mind on other issues as well. In 1996 he told Outlines, a paper that has since bought and merged with Windy City Times, adopting the latter name, that he believed abortion should be legal in the first trimester of pregnancy. Now his campaign website says he is “pro-life without exception,” and he recently claimed modern technology has made it so abortion is never necessary to save a woman’s life, a medically inaccurate assertion that he attempted to clarify on his website, where he now says such cases are “extremely rare.”
His Democratic opponent, decorated military veteran Tammy Duckworth, is pro-LGBT rights and pro-choice.
Go here for the Windy City Times comparison of 1996 Walsh with 2012 Walsh.