Originally published on Advocate.com September 27 2011 10:05 AM ET
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the South Florida GOP congresswoman who Friday became the first in her party to cosponsor the Respect for Marriage Act, “has joined the dark side” as a result, according to the antigay group Family Research Council.
Ros-Lehtinen’s cosponsorship of the bill, which would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, passed in 1996, is not her first foray into pro-LGBT legislation. But it nevertheless drew the ire of FRC, designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its relentless antigay spin and perpetuation of flawed research on LGBT people.
Per its website, FRC officials wrote of Ros-Lehtinen’s decision to become the 125th House cosponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act:
“The GOP leadership has done a lot to protect marriage, mostly by appointing a top-notch lawyer to defend DOMA in the courts after the Obama administration refused to. However, having a member of the Republican leadership undermine everything they're doing on the marriage issue sends the wrong message, especially when her current actions specifically target Christian services. Is the Republican Party ready to be turned into a party that sacrifices religious liberty on the altar of unrestrained sexual license?”
FRC asserted that Ros-Lehtinen, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, is “never a big fan of family issues” and denounced her support for other LGBT legislation, including a bill to open up more homes to foster youth by banning antigay discrimination by adoption and foster care services receiving federal funds (known as the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, the bill currently has 69 House cosponsors; a Senate version has yet to be introduced).
Ros-Lehtinen, who has a transgender son, has been roundly praised elsewhere for stepping out in favor of the bill as a Republican-led House advisory group defends DOMA in multiple legal challenges.
“Ros-Lehtinen can be the bridge that turns fear into compassion, half-hearted acceptance into an unconditional embrace,” Fabiola Santiago wrote in a Friday op-ed for The Miami Herald. “Her role is a welcomed sign of true and rare leadership, and her change of heart on gay marriage is also a story about what our children teach us about humanity.”
Christian Berle, deputy executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, told The Advocate in response to FRC’s post, “Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is and has always been a staunch ally for all families, whether they be in Florida, throughout the United States or across the globe. The Family Research Council or anyone’s statement to the contrary is ridiculous and clearly a desperate plea for relevance.”
“By co-sponsoring the Respect for Marriage Act, Ros-Lehtinen is standing up for all families and promoting the core, conservative values of limited government,” Berle said. “The couples who will benefit from the end of DOMA pay taxes, raise children, and contribute to their communities.”