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National Center for Transgender Equality executive director Mara Keisling blasted Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty's recent fumbling comments regarding his state's long-standing nondiscrimination policy -- one that includes gender identity protections in housing, employment, and public accommodations -- while OutFront Minnesota Public Policy Director Monica Meyer says it's "unfortunate, but not surprising" given his track record.
In a Monday interview with Newsweek headlined "Tim Pawlenty Gets No Respect," the governor, who voted for the 1993 antidiscrimination law as a state legislator, called the statute "overbaked."
"I regretted that vote later because it included things like cross-dressing, and a variety of other people involved in behaviors that weren't based on sexual orientation, just a preference for the way they dressed or behaved," Pawlenty, a Republican prospect for the 2012 presidential ticket, said. "So if you are a third-grade teacher and you are a man and you show up on Monday as Mr. Johnson and you show up on Tuesday as Mrs. Johnson, that is a little confusing to kids."
The NCTE's Keisling said that Pawlenty "ought to be ashamed of himself."
"He knew exactly what he was voting for," Keisling said. "In the interview he was asked how his views have evolved. Well, they've evolved to become less inclusive. He's pandering to the far-right wing of his party, and picking on teachers who devote their lives to kids. ... It's cynical politics at its worst."
Pawlenty's comments come during continued delay in the passage of a transgender-inclusive federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Only 12 states and the District of Columbia currently ban employment discrimination on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity.
In the interview Pawlenty also stated his opposition to medical benefits for same-sex partners.
"This is a tactic he's taken before to appeal to a conservative base in the Republican Party," Meyer told The Advocate. He has handed out paperwork saying, 'this is my biggest regret, this vote.' It is really unfortunate, but not surprising. It is so sad when we watch candidates and elected officials try to pander to some kind of fear in voters."
The governor has not yet responded to a request by The Advocate to clarify his statements.