By Lucas Grindley
Originally published on Advocate.com August 18 2011 2:45 PM ET
U.S. senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts is set to receive the highest award given by the Log Cabin Republicans. But he hasn't always been on the side of LGBT rights.
"Senator Brown knew that 'don't ask, don't tell' was not working and was a critical part of the legislative team that ended the policy," said R. Clarke Cooper, the group's executive director, in the announcement of its next Spirit of Lincoln award.
Cooper said Brown deserves the honor because he "has proven himself to be an ally to our community."
Most recently, Brown took flak for being the only member of the Massachusetts congressional delegation to skip the taping of an "It Gets Better" video. If he had taken part, Brown would have become the first Republican to appear in any of the videos since the video campaign began.
Brown might have won over the Log Cabin Republicans but he hasn't won over the largest gay rights group in his state, MassEquality. Its executive director, Kara Suffredini, wrote an op-ed in February that said Brown "deserves praise for breaking with his party" on "don't ask, don't tell" but also rattled off a list of actions he should take if he wants the group to back his reelection. The organization called on the senator to address high HIV infection rates, support LGBT workplace protections, and work for on adoption and marriage equality.
Brown doesn't support marriage equality or the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. But he "accepts that gay marriage is settled law in Massachusetts and believes it’s time to move on," his spokesman said after the "It Gets Better" flap.
The Tea Party had boosted Brown's campaign to replace late senator Ted Kennedy. But after he bucked the party on "don't ask, don't tell," plus the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and Wall Street reform, voices have been promising a primary challenger in 2012. At one point Brown speculated (incorrectly) that MSNBC host Rachel Maddow would mount a challenge on the Democratic side.
Brown is known for his common-man approach to campaigning. He penned a surprisingly frank memoir, Against All Odds, in which he discusses being sexually abused by a camp counselor who threatened to kill him if he told.
"That's what happens when you're a victim. You're embarrassed. You're hurt," he told Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes.
The senator issued a statement thanking the Log Cabin Republicans for the award.
"As I said when I voted to repeal 'don't ask, don't tell,' when a soldier answers the call to serve and risks life or limb, it has never mattered to me whether they are gay or straight," he said. "My only concern has been whether their service and sacrifice is with pride and honor."