Kirk, Cornyn Differ on Issues Facing Gays
Rivals Split on what Federal Law Should Cover
News, September 14, 2002
Box 655237, Dallas, TX 75265
By Gromer Jeffers Jr.
Texasí major candidates for the Senate are split on legislation that
would make violence prompted by victimsí sexual orientation a federal crime.
Republican John Cornyn opposes it, and Democrat Ron Kirk supports it.
They also are at odds about whether the federal government should prohibit
workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. Mr. Cornyn opposes such
a law, and Mr. Kirk supports it.
On another issue, Mr. Cornyn said he supports the
stateís century-old sodomy law that bars gay sex. Mr. Kirkís campaign
manager said the former Dallas mayor had no opinion on the law, saying he
believes that "itís a matter best left up to the state."
Both candidates say more funding is needed for prevention and treatment
programs to halt the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
The candidates were asked their views on law enforcement, workplace rules
and other issues facing gays and lesbians because Mr. Kirk speaks Saturday to
the DFW Federal Club, which is affiliated with the Human Rights Campaign, a
national gay lobby.
Mr. Cornyn, the state attorney general, is scheduled to meet Saturday with
a group of Boy Scouts in San Antonio.
The Human Rights Campaign, which says it is the largest gay and lesbian
political organization in the country, endorsed Mr. Kirk in June.
David Smith, a spokesman for the group, said that despite Mr. Kirkís
opposition to some issues pursued by the group, "he supports treating all
people fairly, including gay people. We focused on our core issues, such as
banning workplace discrimination and working to combat hate violence in
looking at this endorsement of Mr. Kirk."
The group has endorsed 18 Senate candidates nationally in this yearís
campaign, 16 Democrats and two Republicans, and has promised to help make
donations and get out the vote in November.
"We hope that our support for candidates like Ron Kirk will help lead
to victory so that they can make Capitol Hill a more fair-minded place,"
said Winnie Stachelberg, political director for the Human Rights Campaign.
Asked about his approach to gay-rights issues, Mr. Cornyn responded in a
written statement: "Every human being should be treated with dignity and
respect. I oppose discrimination and believe the way to make progress in this
area is by changing the hearts and minds of individuals."
Previous bill failed
On the issues, Mr. Kirk favors legislation to make federal offenses of
crimes motivated by gender, sexual orientation or disability.
In June, Senate Republicans blocked action on a bill to do that. The
legislation would allow federal prosecutors to pursue, as a hate-crimes case,
an assault upon a person or group because of sexual orientation or
disabilities if state officials decide against filing charges.
Current federal law covers crimes based on race, color, religion or
national origin. That law grew out of the reluctance of many local
jurisdictions in the South to prosecute crimes against minorities.
Backers say gays and lesbians, as well as the disabled, deserve the same
protection, and they vowed to try to bring up the measure later this year.
Opponents argued that the bill is an unconstitutional power grab by the
Mr. Kirk also has promised to co-sponsor a bill that would give local law
enforcement officials more resources to combat hate crimes. He also has vowed
to co-sponsor legislation that would prohibit workplace discrimination based
on sexual orientation.
"He believes employees should be judged on the quality of their
work," said his campaign manger, Carol Butler.
Stateís sodomy law
Mr. Cornyn is against an anti-hate crimes bill, said his spokesman, Dave
Beckwith. "The current law is sufficient," Mr. Beckwith said.
For that reason, Mr. Beckwith said, Mr. Cornyn sees no need for a federal
ban on workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Mr. Cornyn said he supports the stateís sodomy law,
which makes it a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500, to
have sexual relations with someone of the same sex.
Gay-rights groups say the law is discriminatory and
have sought for years to overturn it in the Legislature and the courts. While
a Texas Supreme Court justice, Mr. Cornyn voted to throw out lower-court
decisions that had declared the stateís law unconstitutional.
Ms. Butler said Mr. Kirk considers it a state issue
and did not say whether he favors or opposes it.
Both candidates said they support more funding in the fight against AIDS.
Mr. Kirkís campaign did not provide specifics. Mr. Cornyn, in his
statement, said he supports a Bush administration proposal to double funding
for the National Institutes of Health in hopes of finding a cure for the
"I also support administration plans for expansion of community health
clinics and substance abuse treatment," Mr. Cornyn said.
Mr. Cornyn and Mr. Kirk also agree with the current "donít ask, donít
tell" policy relating to gays serving in the military. Under the policy,
military commanders are not to ask about service membersí sexual
orientation, nor are the service members supposed to make it known.
"He supports the current policy, especially in time of war," Ms.
Butler said of Mr. Kirk.
Mr. Cornyn agreed, adding: "Military decisions should be left to
On other subjects, the candidates did not make clear all of their views,
- Whether gays and lesbians should be allowed to adopt children. Mr. Kirk
said itís a decision that should be left up to states. Mr. Cornyn said,
"The goal should be for every child to have a father and mother who
are married." The Cornyn campaign would not elaborate on his
- Whether same-sex couples should be allowed to set up a domestic
partnership registry. Mr. Cornyn said he opposes that; Mr. Kirkís
campaign did not provide an answer.
As for the gay-rights groupís endorsement, the Kirk campaign did not
publicize it when it was made this summer, nor did a press aide on Monday
mention Mr. Kirkís upcoming speech at the groupís luncheon or list it on a
tentative weekly schedule he sent to reporters that evening.
Earlier Monday, the group separately had sent its own news release about
the Kirk endorsement and speech, and Michael Spann, one of the eventís
organizers, said later that Mr. Kirk in April confirmed his attendance at the
Ms. Butler said the initial media schedule was incomplete because other
events that day were being finalized. She said it would be "crazy and
unfair" to suggest that the Kirk campaign had tried to keep his
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