Ninth in a series examining how anti-LGBT Senate candidates have worked to hurt the cause of equality.In June, Montana Republicans nominated Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT) to challenge incumbent Sen. Jon Tester (D). Unlike Tester, a fairly reliable supporter of LGBT equality, Rehberg has opposed the LGBT community at every opportunity.
Over his time as Lt. Governor of Montana, his unsuccessful 1996 Senate campaign, his 12 years in the House of Representatives, and this Senate campaign:
1. Rehberg proudly pranked a fellow Congressman with a gay-mocking “Idaho Travel Package.” In 2008, after Idaho’s Sen. Larry Craig (R) plead guilty to lewd conduct involving a male police officer in a Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport restroom, Rehberg decided to leave a care-package for Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID). On a congressional trip to the Middle East, Rehberg reportedly left “a stuffed sheep with gloves attached to it, a Village People CD, books on cross-dressing and sign language and a T-shirt that reads, ‘My senator may not be gay, but my governor is Butch.’” The governor of Idaho’s name is C.L. “Butch” Otter. A spokesman claimed “no offense was intended,” Rehberg boasted that he was proud of the travel package and “spent a bit of time putting the things together.”
2. Rehberg has consistently fought against marriage equality and even domestic partnership benefits for same-sex couples. In his Senate campaign kickoff, he told supporters: “I will never, ever, ever be ashamed to stand for the life of the unborn child and the sanctity of traditional marriage.” He has indeed shown no shame, voting twice for a federal constitutional amendment requiring “marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman.” He also voted for a 2011 amendment reaffirming the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 2007 amendment restricting the District of Columbia government from using any federal funding to provide domestic partnership benefits, and a 2004 bill of questionable constitutionality to strip federal courts of the right to review whether DOMA is unconstitutional. In May, he reiterated his support also for his state’s same-sex marriage ban, saying “Montana’s state constitution says ‘Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state,’ and I agree.”
3. Rehberg railed against hate crimes protections for LGBT Americans, calling them “extremist.” In addition to repeatedly voting against adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the federal hate crimes laws, he has also been an outspoken opponent of such “special rights.” In a letter to then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), he decried “extremist hate crime legislation” being attached to a Defense authorization bill. He called the protections “divisive social policy,” dismissed them as a “thinly veiled attack on federalism,” and added that they “violate our nation’s founding principles.”
4. Rehberg thinks it should be legal to fire someone just for being gay. He voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in 2007, which would have banned employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Worse, he refused to even adopt a non-discrimination policy against LGBT discrimination for employees in his own Congressional office.
6. Rehberg boasts of an award he received from a designated hate group. He was “honored” by the Family Research Council in 2003 with their “True Blue” award. The group’s president Tony Perkins praised him as a “consistent, stalwart ally of American families,” who should be “commended for his adherence to the belief that strong marriages and families are essential aspects of a resilient society.” Rehberg called it an “important recognition of my commitment to the American family.” The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated FRC as a hate group for its record of “false claims about the LGBT community based on discredited research and junk science.”
7. Rehberg pushed abstinence-only education, while opposing AIDS funding. In 1994, he opposed funding for Montana AIDS patients, arguing that “the problem with AIDS is: you got it, you die. So why are we spending money on the issue?” He also, as chairman of the relevant House appropriations subcommittee, voted to slash HIV/AIDS prevention funds while adding funds for anti-gay and ineffective abstinence-only sex education programs.
8. Rehberg has been a zero for LGBT Americans — literally. According to the Human Rights Campaign, he has opposed the interests of the LGBT community 100 percent of the time. He earned zero ratings for the 107th, 108th, 109th, 110th, and 111th Congresses.
Watch Rehberg dodge a question from a gay constituent about the second-class citizenship of LGBT Montanans:
Though Rehberg says he wants to “get government out of our lives,” he has consistently voted against giving the same respect to LGBT Americans. Rehberg’s election to the U.S. Senate would be a huge threat to LGBT people and families.