Sen. Arlen Specter Is the Gays’ New BFF. Too Bad It Doesn’t Matter


We know we’ve got a few friends on The Hill who have our backs. Harry Reid. Kirsten Gillibrand. Patrick Murphy. And now … Republican turncoat Arlen Specter?

The newly minted Democrat doesn’t have much authority these days. Despite being welcomed by Obama with open arms, Democratic leaders haven’t been willing to cede top committee posts — and Capitol cafeteria seats — to the Pennsylvania senator. And the Republicans hate the guy (at least during live Fox News hits).

So what good is it that Sen. Specter, who originally left the Democratic fold for the GOP in 1965 when Dems ignored homo witchhunting, is campaigning against the Defense of Marriage Act?

“The time has come to repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA),” Specter wrote yesterday in the Huffington Post. “Enacted 13 years ago when the idea of same sex marriage was struggling for acceptance, the Act is a relic of a more tradition-bound time and culture.” He continues: “The repeal of DOMA is one step among several designed to fully integrate and protect the rights of gays and lesbians in American society. Recently enacted hate crimes legislation is another. The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act (S 909), which I sponsored with the late Senator Kennedy, makes it a federal crime to target victims on the basis of disability, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity. […] Finally, the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy is outdated, and should be rescinded entirely. A person’s sexual orientation has no bearing on their ability to serve their country in the armed services. Countless studies and the experiences of gays who have served in the military have borne out these findings.”

This is so true! Except politically, Specter’s musings are worth little.

The guy has always been a moderate Republican — against abortion, but in favor of a woman’s right to choose, just to name one apparent paradox. But while he enjoyed a senior position inside the GOP, now that he’s among Dems, he’s been demoted. Just to give one example: Specter was once the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee; since switching sides, he’s barely a blip there. Why such a big deal? Because the Judiciary Committee is responsible for confirming Obama’s picks federal judges — something that might come in handy for a gay rights advocate who doesn’t want judges gaveling hate from the bench.

But for now, Arlen is expected to tow the Democratic line if he has any hope of regaining stature. He no longer trades favors; he hopes for them. So while it’s excellent to see him come out for gay rights — no, really, we’re loving it! — the three-decade veteran senator is suddenly one of the weakest votes in the chamber.