Chambliss and Gingrey both have abysmal records on issues of concern to LGBT Americans. Chambliss earned a score of 15 out of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s most recent congressional scorecard of LGBT issues; Gingrey earned a flat 0.
If you only looked at Barr’s record when he served in Congress from 1995 to 2003, he could appear to be not only just as bad, but worse.
Barr was the lead sponsor of the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages from other states and specifies that the federal government will only recognize marriage between a man and a woman.
It’s the second part — about federal recognition — that was under fire in the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday, as justices heard the case of Edith Windsor, age 83, who was forced to pay more than $360,000 in inheritance tax after the death of her wife — when she would not have owed a penny if they were heterosexual spouses.
That’s also the part that Barr pointed out in 2008, when he ran for president as a Libertarian and argued that DOMA should be repealed.
Here’s an excerpt from an interview Barr gave back then to Dyana Bagby, now GA Voice’s deputy editor:
Barr delineated between two sections of DOMA: a full faith and credit clause that protects the rights of each state to implement its own definition of marriage, and a section that defines marriage as only between one man and one woman under federal law.
“This [second part] was intended to apply to federal programs, such as survivor benefits, Social Security [and others],” he said. Barr said it is the second part of DOMA he would work to repeal if elected president.
“Over the years and over the last year since I’ve been more active in the Libertarian Party, I’ve talked with a number of individuals, including members of Outright Libertarians [a gay Libertarian group], and have come to view the second part as having been used as a club, or the tail wagging the dog,” Barr said. “It has become in effect a national definition of marriage. This is not what I intended.”
Barr called that portion of DOMA a “mistake” during a May 25, 2008, speech to the Libertarian Party’s national convention.
“As I mentioned to you all last night, and I reiterate here today — standing before you, looking you in the eye — the Defense of Marriage Act, insofar as it provided the federal government a club to club down the rights of law-abiding, American citizens, has been abused, misused and should be repealed. And I will work to repeal that.”
According to the Hill, Barr’s bid to return to Congress will be as a Republican, not a Libertarian — a smart move in the conservative, heavily Republican district.
But will voters there be willing to elect someone, even a Republican, who supports repealing DOMA?
Jeff Graham, executive director of statewide LGBT political group Georgia Equality, raised that question last night at a town hall meeting discussing this week’s Supreme Court hearings on DOMA and California’s Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that ended same-sex marriage there.
I think it will depend on who else runs for the seat, and how much those other candidates choose to hype Barr’s change of heart on DOMA. He has also become a strong advocate for individual liberty, including working with the ACLU on privacy rights, and that is also potential campaign fodder for opponents.
Republicans like to talk about individualism when it comes to issues like taxes and social support programs, but not when it comes to LGBT citizens’ right to love whom we choose.
In the end, it may come down to what Georgia Republicans hate more.
Barr, you’ll remember, also took the lead in impeaching President Clinton.
If 11th District voters still hate Clinton more than they hate gays and the ACLU, it could work to Barr’s advantage.
If not, we can hope that some will actually listen to his explanation of why he changed his position to oppose DOMA — because even if he isn’t elected, that could work to ours.
Here’s Barr discussing DOMA at the Libertarian National Convention in 2008, pledging to work to repeal the measure: