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Friday September 19, 2014
Posted: Jun 25, 2014

UPDATED: Major LGBT group endorses Collins, who endorses same-sex marriage

Open Season

The national gay rights organization Human Rights Campaign has endorsed Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who also indicated Wednesday for the first time (publicly, at least) that she supports same-sex marriage.

As the nation’s largest advocacy organization on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered individuals, the Human Rights Campaign’s endorsement certainly carries weight within the LGBT community. So the endorsement is clearly a disappointment for the campaign and supporters of Democratic challenger Shenna Bellows, who helped lead the fight to allow same-sex couples to marry in Maine.

“Senator Susan Collins has played a pivotal role in advancing support for LGBT equality – from her dogged support for the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ to her critical vote for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act last year,” Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement.  “HRC is proud to stand with Senator Collins, and with allies on both sides of the aisle like her, because she firmly believes that every American should be evaluated based on their abilities, and not who they love.”

Collins is a moderate viewed by many as one of the friendliest Republicans in Congress on LGBT issues.

Until Wednesday, however, has always declined to say where she personally stood on the issue of same-sex marriage when asked by journalists. Instead, Collins has argued it was an issue best handled at the state level.

After the announcement, the Collins’ campaign released the following statement:

“A number of states, including my home state of Maine, have now legalized same-sex marriage, and I agree with that decision. Today, same-sex couples can be legally married in 19 states and the District of Columbia.  Nearly 44% of Americans live in a state where same-sex couples can be legally married, and I believe this number will only continue to grow.”

Collins spokesman Lance Dutson said the announcement was in response to reporters’ renewed questions about her stance, and was “absolutely not” tied otherwise to the endorsement. Regardless of the timing, HRC’s support of Collins is no surprise.

HRC has frequently praised Collins for her position on key votes and gave her an 82 out of 100 in its last congressional scorecard – higher than every other Republican, most of whom scored either a zero or a 15. For instance, she fought to extend federal benefits to the same-sex partners of government employees and opposed Constitutional amendments to prohibit same-sex marriage.

HRC also endorsed Collins over Democratic U.S. Rep. Tom Allen during the 2008 Senate race.

But the endorsement has to sting the Bellows campaign.

As the head of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, Bellows served on the executive committee for seven years of the group that organized the 2009 and 2012 ballot box fights to legalize same-sex marriage in Maine. She was frequently a spokeswoman in those campaigns as well and has lobbied the Legislature on LGBT issues.

And as she points out in campaign speeches and materials, Bellows and her husband even delayed their own marriage until after same-sex couples could also legally wed in Maine beginning in December 2012.

“I’ve been proud and very privileged to be a leader in the LGBT equality movement for many years,” Bellows said. “As executive director of the ACLU of Maine, I spent every day bringing Republicans and Democrats together to expand civil liberties and strengthen equal protection under the law. I believe in taking strong stances in favor of Constitutional protections and equal rights even when they’re unpopular. Remaining silent on some of the biggest civil rights issues of our generation, even after the voters have spoken, isn’t leadership, and it isn’t how Maine became one of the most inclusive states in the country for LGBT rights.”

The Collins campaign was pleased to receive another HRC endorsement.

“I am grateful for the support that I continue to receive from the Human Rights Campaign for my work in the Senate to end discrimination and achieve LGBT equality,” Collins said in a statement. “HRC fully understands the need to have allies in both the Republican and Democratic caucuses, and I am proud of the reputation that I have established for working with my Senate colleagues of both parties in a bipartisan spirit for fairness and equality.”

Collins was a key broker in arranging a Senate vote to end the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that prohibited openly gay service members. She also co-sponsored legislation to prohibit federal prosecutors from discriminating against LBGT jurors in federal trials and to treat same-sex “permanent partners” the same as heterosexual married couples in immigration cases.

 

 

 

 

Maine Sen. Susan Collins picked up the endorsement Wednesday of the Human Rights Campaign – one of the nation’s largest gay rights organizations – over Democratic challenger Shenna Bellows who helped lead the fight to legalize same-sex marriage in Maine.

The Human Rights Campaign’s endorsement is another win for Collins, a moderate viewed by many as one of the friendliest Republicans in Congress on issues affecting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LBGT) community.

“Senator Susan Collins has played a pivotal role in advancing support for LGBT equality – from her dogged support for the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ to her critical vote for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act last year,” Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement.  “HRC is proud to stand with Senator Collins, and with allies on both sides of the aisle like her, because she firmly believes that every American should be evaluated based on their abilities, and not who they love.”

The endorsement is not surprising.

HRC has frequently praised Collins for her position on key votes and scored an 82 out of 100 in its last congressional scorecard – higher than any other Republican, most of whom scored either a zero or a 15. HRC also endorsed Collins over Democratic U.S. Rep. Tom Allen during the 2008 Senate race. Endorsing a Republican also allows HRC to claim a level of bipartisanship.

But the endorsement has to sting the Bellows campaign.

As the head of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, Bellows served on the executive committee for seven years of the group that organized the 2009 and 2012 ballot box fights to allow same-sex couples to wed. She was frequently a spokeswoman in those campaigns as well.

And as she points out in campaign speeches and materials, Bellows and her husband even delayed their own marriage until after same-sex couples legally wed in Maine beginning in December 2012.

While Collins has fought to extend federal benefits to the same-sex partners of government employees and opposed Constitutional amendments to prohibit same-sex marriage, she has never publicly shared her personal views on the marriage issue. Instead, Collins has said she believes it is a state-level issue.

That’s a distinction that Bellows tried to hit hard Wednesday in her response to the HRC endorsement as she accused Collins of remaining silent on arguably the LGBT community’s most significant policy fight.

“I’ve been proud and very privileged to be a leader in the LGBT equality movement for many years,” Bellows said. “As executive director of the ACLU of Maine, I spent every day bringing Republicans and Democrats together to expand civil liberties and strengthen equal protection under the law. I believe in taking strong stances in favor of Constitutional protections and equal rights even when they’re unpopular. Remaining silent on some of the biggest civil rights issues of our generation, even after the voters have spoken, isn’t leadership, and it isn’t how Maine became one of the most inclusive states in the country for LGBT rights.”

The Collins campaign was pleased to receive another HRC endorsement.

“I am grateful for the support that I continue to receive from the Human Rights Campaign for my work in the Senate to end discrimination and achieve LGBT equality,” Collins said in a statement. “HRC fully understands the need to have allies in both the Republican and Democratic caucuses, and I am proud of the reputation that I have established for working with my Senate colleagues of both parties in a bipartisan spirit for fairness and equality.”

Collins was a key broker in arranging a Senate vote to end the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that prohibited openly gay service members. She also co-sponsored legislation to prohibit federal prosecutors from discriminating against LBGT jurors in federal trials and to treat same-sex “permanent partners” the same as heterosexual married couples in immigration cases.

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