Arlen Specter has mixed record on LGBT rights
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Arlen Specter has mixed record on LGBT rights
by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The US Senate's newest Democrat, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, comes to his new party with a mixed record on LGBT rights. Specter, a US Senator since 1981, announced on Tuesday that he was leaving the Republican party to become a Democrat.

Specter opposes marriage rights for same sex couples, but supports civil unions. He voted for the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996, but against a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples in 2006. In 2004, he announced he favored civil unions as an appropriate way to recognize same-sex relationships.

Specter has supported the Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would forbid discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation. He voted for ENDA in 1996, and announced he would vote for it in 2007. In that year the bill was never brought up for a vote in the senate, however, because President Bush had promised to veto it if it passed. Specter did not take a public position on the controversial exclusion of Transgender workers from the 2007 version of ENDA.

He has been inconsistent on adding sexual orientation to federal hate crimes legislation, voting yes in 2000 and no in 2002. To date he has not announced a position on the hate crimes bill pending this year.

Specter has a 67% rating from the HRC, and 60% from the ACLU. He has a 32% rating from the NAACP, reflecting spotty support for affirmative action legislation.

He has been rated at 21% by NARAL and 0% by the National Right to Life Coalition, indicating a very mixed record on reproductive choice.

Specter has an 81% rating from the Christian Coalition.

Terry Hamilton, chair of the Board of Directors of Log Cabin Republicans, an LGBT Republican organization, described Specter as "a friend and supporter" in a statement released on Wednesday.

"He was very supportive," Log Cabin staffer Christian Berle recalled. "He threw a reception for us at the 2000 Republican National Convention."

In spite of their fond memories, the group was not sympathetic to Specter's decision to join the Democrats. "Log Cabin Republicans, like most other GOP advocacy groups, believes that the best way to influence the Republican Party is to be a full and active member and work for change from within," Log Cabin spokesperson Charles Moran said on Wednesday. "Senator Specter has relinquished his ability to be a true agent of change by abandoning the Republican Party."