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A Timeline Of Tim Pawlenty’s Evolving Homophobia

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"A Timeline Of Tim Pawlenty’s Evolving Homophobia"

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Our guest blogger is Elon Green, a freelance writer living in Brooklyn.

On Monday, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty (R) doubled down on last month’s promise to reinstate Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell if elected president, telling the Wonk Room’s Igor Volsky that rescinding the funds necessary to implement the repeal of DADT is a “reasonable step.” This position consigns Pawlenty to the fringe of the Republican Party itself, whose members backed the repeal by a considerable margin.

In light of last year’s Pentagon study, which concluded that “the risk of repeal … to overall military effectiveness is low,” Pawlenty’s stance on gays in the military cannot be justified with the customary nod toward ‘unit cohesion.’ In fact, his new position should be seen as part and parcel of the Governor’s evolving view of gays, which, over nearly two decades, is sometimes nuanced but generally regressive:

1993: Pawlenty voted to extend protection to gays and lesbians under the state Human Rights Act, effectively banning discrimination in housing and employment based on sexual orientation as well as race, religion, ethnicity and physical or mental disability. (The conservative Star Tribune wrote “the bill would destroy family values and give official sanction to an immoral lifestyle.”)

2002: Pawlenty expressed regret for the vote nine years earlier after his opponents in the governor’s race accused him of, as the Pioneer Press put it, “being soft on gay rights.”

2003: Pawlenty refused to sign a bill sponsored by Rep. Arlon Lindner that would have repealed the 1993 Human Rights Act. Pawlenty’s spokesman told the Star Tribune, “He [Pawlenty] is extremely supportive of human rights. … This [law] is not about gay rights or ‘special rights’ — it is about human rights and fairness for all.” Pawlenty, the spokesman said, “does not believe that anyone should be discriminated against for a job or housing simply because they are gay.”

2003: Pawlenty said, initially, that an attempt by then-state Sen. Michele Bachmann (R) and Rep. Mary Liz Holberg (R) to amend Minnesota’s constitution to ban same sex marriage in the wake of Goodridge v. Department of Public Health is unnecessary. He changed his mind a few days later and enthusiastically supported the amendment.

2004: Pawlenty said it is vital that states avoid “leapfrogging”” same-sex marriage; in March, the Minnesota House passed the amendment.

2009: Pawlenty told Newsweek’s Howard Fineman that the 1993 act was “overbaked” and “not worded the way it should be” because it protected cross-dressers “and a variety of other people involved in behaviors that weren’t based on sexual orientation.” Pawlenty theorized, “[I]f you are a third-grade teacher and you are a man and you show up on Monday as Mr. Johnson and you show up on Tuesday as Mrs. Johnson, that is a little confusing to the kids.”

2010: Pawlenty vetoed a bill that would “allow a surviving same-sex partner to sue to recover damages in the case of wrongful death and to execute a deceased partner’s funeral wishes.” Pawlenty cited his personal opposition to same-sex marriage as he vetoes the legislation.

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