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Does ‘gay rights’ questionnaire offer insight into Miers?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–An Associated Press headline making the Internet rounds Oct. 3 screamed: “Miers backed gay civil rights.” It was enough to make conservatives nationwide panic.

In hindsight, though, it may have been much ado about nothing, a legal expert at Focus on the Family says.

The focus of the AP story was a questionnaire Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers filled out in 1989 for the Lesbian/Gay Political Coalition of Dallas while running for Dallas City Council.

The first question asked, “Do you believe that gay men and lesbians should have the same civil rights as non-gay men and women?” — to which she replied, “yes.”

The second question asked if she supported the repeal of Texas’ anti-sodomy law. She didn’t. That law and others like it were overturned in the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision, which remains the biggest Supreme Court victory in the history of the homosexual activist movement.

“The initial stories that I saw on Drudge [Report] and elsewhere were a lot more alarming than what the questionnaire itself revealed,” Bruce Hausknecht, judicial analyst at Focus on the Family, told Baptist Press. “As I read the questionnaire and the answers that she gave to it, I was not alarmed at all by her answers.”

Time magazine posted an Internet story saying Miers had supported “full civil rights for gays and lesbians.” The much-read website DrudgeReport.com then linked to the Times story, drawing thousands more readers. But the word “full” is not in the questionnaire.

Hausknecht says the questionnaire must be read in light of what was meant by “civil rights” in 1989 — and not through a 2005 lens in which “gay civil rights” are equated with “gay marriage.”

“I would have answered that the same way — yes, we believe they should have the same rights,” he said. “The issue is what do you mean when you say civil rights? As we have found out since the late 1980s, the homosexual lobby means special rights when they say civil rights. So, we’re looking at it in the rearview mirror, so to speak. Everyone thinks she should have been alarmed by that question. But in that year, in that context, it was a proper answer. And I think it would be a proper answer today, as long as you define your terms.”

Among answers to other questions, Miers said she supported AIDS education. She also said she believed the issue of discrimination in housing and employment on the basis of AIDS/HIV status should be handled by the legislature. Asked if she believed homosexuals should be denied public employment based on “sexual orientation,” Miers responded: “I believe that employers should be able to pick the best qualified person for any positions to be filled considering all relevant factors. Asked if she was seeking the endorsement of the Lesbian/Gay Political Coalition, Miers checked no.

Joe Solmonese, president of the homosexual group Human Rights Campaign, said the questionnaire provides “only a small window” into Miers’ thinking.

“She wrote she supports ‘civil rights’ for gay Americans but that she would not support repealing a law that criminalized consensual sex between same-sex couples,” Solmonese said in a statement. “That is a contradiction that the Senate should investigate…. But what we do know is that right-wing extremists are unhappy with the mere possibility that Miers is fair.”

Hawsknecht applauded Miers’ answer on the sodomy question.

“It’s nice to see that she took a position even back then that she would not support the repeal of the Texas sodomy statute,” he said.

If confirmed, Miers would replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who has been moderate to liberal on social issues during her career. Interestingly, O’Connor voted with the majority in the 1986 Bowers v. Hardwick case upholding anti-sodomy laws. But in 2003, O’Connor switched her vote, and sided with the majority in overturning those same laws.

Following is the full text of the 1989 questionnaire Miers filled out for the Lesbian/Gay Political Coalition of Dallas:

1. Do you believe that gay men and lesbians should have the same civil rights as non-gay men and women?

Answer: Yes

2a. Do you, as an individual citizen, support repeal of Section 21.06 of the Texas Penal Code which criminalizes the private sexual behavior of consenting adult lesbians and gay men?

Answer: No

2b. Do you support the inclusion of the repeal of Section 21.06 of the Texas Penal Code as a part of the City of Dallas’s legislative agenda?

Answer: No

3a. Do you believe that the City of Dallas has a responsibility to fund AIDS education and patient support services?

Answer: Yes

3b. Would you support increasing the level of city funding for the above services (currently $550,000 per year)?

Answer: Yes, assuming need and resources. I do consider the AIDS illness as a serious total community problem.

4a. Do you support a city ordinance that prohibits discrimination in housing and public accommodations based on AIDS/HIV status?

Answer: I prefer a legislative solution to the issues raised by these questions a and b. I do not have all the facts on the significance of these ordinances; however, I am willing to discuss the need and make an appropriate decision when fully advised.

4b Would you support passage of a city ordinance prohibiting discrimination in employment based on race, religion, age, sex, national origin, AIDS/HIV status, or handicapped condition? (Currently Dallas has no city ordinance dealing with employment discrimination.)

Answer: (see a)

5. Do you believe that qualified gays or lesbians should be denied employment (including employment by the police and fire departments) by the City of Dallas solely because of sexual orientation?

Answer: I believe that employers should be able to pick the best qualified person for any positions to be filled considering all relevant factors.

    About the Author

  • Michael Foust