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Specter Flipflops on DOMA


Pennsylvania Democrat-turned-Republican-turned Democrat U.S. senator Arlen Specter, who's running for his sixth term, is going up against pro-gay congressman Joe Sestak in the Democratic primary next year. Hence the timing of Specter's blog on The Huffington Post Tuesday calling for the repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, when up to now he has consistently supported it, feels a bit suspect.

"Enacted 13 years ago when the idea of same-sex marriage was struggling for acceptance, [DOMA] is a relic of a more tradition-bound time and culture," Specter wrote. "Connecticut, Iowa, and Massachusetts have already passed laws recognizing same-sex marriage, and other states are moving in that direction. The states are the proper forum to address this divisive social and moral issue, not the federal government with a law that attempts to set one national standard for marriage."

But Sestak, in a statement released only hours after Specter's blog appeared online, pointed out that Specter voted for DOMA in 1996 and voiced support for it again during his 2004 primary battle with conservative Republican Joe Toomey, who also supported it.

"As [Specter] carries on his attempt to run away from his 30-year Republican record, this time on his vote to support the Defense of Marriage Act, he should be honest about his votes to oppose equal rights for LGBT Americans," Sestak said in his statement. "He actually voted with Republican senator Rick Santorum to deny equal benefits to legally married LGBT Americans in the first place."

But it is impossible to believe that Specter's positions on gay rights issues have evolved over time? Also citing his support for hate-crimes legislation and ENDA as well as repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," Specter went on to write, "The repeal of DOMA is one step among several designed to fully integrate and protect the rights of gays and lesbians in American society. Recently enacted hate-crimes legislation is another. The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which I sponsored with the late Senator Kennedy, makes it a federal crime to target victims on the basis of disability, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity."

Specter continued, "Measures to combat discrimination against gays and transgendered people in the workplace are another needed measure. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009, of which I am an original cosponsor, was introduced on August 5, 2009, and is currently before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

"Finally, the military's 'don't ask, don't tell' policy is outdated and should be rescinded entirely. A person's sexual orientation has no bearing on their ability to serve their country in the armed services."

So does Specter's apparent about-face represent enlightenment or expediency? Pennsylvania voters will have to decide that for themselves come 2010.

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