January 5, 2007
Volume 35
Issue 01
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Gerald Ford: A rainbow President
Gerald Ford: A rainbow President
by Malcolm Lazin - Special to the SGN

Gerald Ford will be remembered in state eulogies as a great healer, who helped restore respect for the Presidency in the aftermath of Spiro Agnew and Richard Nixon. President Ford reminded Americans of Harry Truman in their shared understated and humble demeanor.

President Ford was respected for neither taking the easy nor politically expedient route. While some disagreed with his pardon of President Nixon, his adversaries respected that he was guided by conscience and the national interest.

Gerald Ford, the former House minority leader became the unlikely and unelected President of the United States. His legacy includes lessons for today's Republican party and the nation. In an interview one month after 9/11 with Deb Price, reporter for the Detroit News, former President Ford stated, "I have always believed in an inclusive policy, in welcoming Gays and others into the party."

When Price inquired about same-sex marriage, Mr. Ford supported same economic benefits including social security and tax deductions. "I think that is a proper goal...I think they should be treated equally." He supported equality including workplace discrimination protection for Gays and Lesbians.

In 2001, former President Ford joined the Republican Unity Coalition, an organization that advocates for Gay and Lesbian civil rights. He became the first and remains the only former President to join a Gay civil rights organization.

In March 2003, former President Ford supported the plaintiffs in Lawrence v. Texas, the case in which in 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned laws criminalizing same-sex intimacy.

While we mourn Gerald Ford's death, his life was saved over 31 years ago by a Gay man who thwarted an assassination attempt on then President Ford. Oliver Sipple was an ex-marine who had been seriously wounded in Vietnam. He was in a San Francisco crowd awaiting President Ford.

Sipple was within close range of the President when he noticed a woman pull a .38 caliber pistol and attempt to shoot the President. He grabbed the gun from Sara Jane Moore and wrestled her to the ground. While she got off a shot, Sipple's courageous action deflected a shot that would have likely killed the President. President Ford issued a public acknowledgement of gratitude to Sipple.

While we pause to remember a great American, we are reminded that in 2006 there is no federal workplace discrimination protection based on sexual orientation. It would be a wonderful tribute for his fellow Republicans joined by the Democratic majority to introduce, pass and send to President Bush the Gerald Ford Workplace Nondiscrimination Protection Act insuring workplace equality for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Americans. I have no doubt that former President Ford would be very proud.

Equality Forum is a national and international nonprofit, 501(c)(3) GLBT civil rights organization with an educational focus. Equality Forum develops high-impact educational content in the form of documentary films, history projects, innovative initiatives and the largest annual national and international GLBT civil rights forum.

Malcolm Lazin is the executive director of the Equality Forum.

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