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Better Know An Anti-LGBT Senate Candidate: Former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM)

By Josh Israel on September 5, 2012 at 1:00 pm

"Better Know An Anti-LGBT Senate Candidate: Former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM)"

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Seventh in a series examining how anti-LGBT Senate candidates have worked to hurt the cause of equality.

Former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM)

Former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) (Credit: Eric Draper/AP)

After losing in the primary in her first Senate bid in the 2008 election, former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) is now the Republican nominee against Rep. Martin Heinrich (D) for the open seat of retiring Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D). Unlike Heinrich, a consistent supporter of LGBT equality and a backer of marriage equality, Wilson has opposed the LGBT community on several major issues.

Over her ten-plus years in the House of Representatives and her two Senate campaigns:

1. Wilson said she “tolerates” but doesn’t “approve of” homosexuality. Throughout her career, Wilson has repeatedly noted that though she tolerates LGBT people, she doesn’t much like having to do so. “With respect to homosexuality,” she told ABC News in 2006, “there are things I’m willing to tolerate that I’m not willing to approve of.” That disapproval was evident in her voting record: according to the Human Rights Campaign, she voted for LGBT equality just 5 percent of the time in the 110th Congress and zero percent of the time in the 107th, 108th, and 109th Congresses.

2. Wilson voted against Hate Crimes protections for LGBT Americans. In both 2000 and 2007, she voted against adding sexual orientation to the federal hate crimes laws. In 1998, in the wake of the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard, Wilson argued that there was no need to add hate crimes protections for LGBT people because “it’s already law” — citing a 1994 provision that only covered crimes committed when the victim was engaged in already-protected federal activities like voting.

3. Wilson opposed anti-bullying laws, comparing anti-gay bullying to mere “teasing.” Earlier this year, she outlined her opposition to SB 555, the Student Non-Discrimination Act, explaining that “with respect to this particular agenda we have to recognize as parents that children tease each other.” Wilson mocked the bill — which would merely provide LGBT students with similar civil rights protections against bullying to those already granted to students bullied based on race and gender — dismissing it as “so broad it would actually punish children and say that it’s prohibited to express an opinion with respect to homosexuality in the schools.”

4. Wilson has consistently and vocally opposed marriage equality and civil unions. She frequently notes that “marriage is the union of a man and a woman as husband and wife” and repeatedly voted for a federal constitutional amendment to force that definition on states. In her 2012 campaign kickoff speech, she ironically claimed, “I trust people more than I trust government to make the best decisions for themselves and for their families,” while noting that marriage can only be between one man and one woman. Asked in 2006 whether she would support civil union-like rights for same sex-couples, she said she would not: “I think that’s marriage. And I think marriage is an institution that we should protect and nurture and it’s not, you know, it’s not between two women, two men, or between, between a group of people. It is a union between one man and one woman, and it’s something that we should honor in law, as well as in our communities.”

5. Wilson has not even practiced non-discrimination personally. In her first Congressional race, she said that she would not support “special rights” for LGBT people — code words for opposing equal treatment under the law. In addition to voting against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, she refused to even adopt a non-discrimination policy against LGBT discrimination for employees in her own Congressional office.

Watch Wilson explain why anti-gay bullying need not be punished:

On her campaign website, Wilson calls herself “an advocate for families.” Clearly, some restrictions apply. Her election to the U.S. Senate would be a huge threat to LGBT people and families.

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