In the days following the Massachusetts Republican Party’s endorsement of gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker, the eight other declared candidates for governor met at a forum at Boston Public Library Tuesday to speak about the issues currently facing the Commonwealth’s LGBTQ community.
“As goes Massachusetts, so goes the nation and hopefully the world,” said Kara Coredini, executive director of MassEquality. “For the past 7 years, we had an incredible LGBT champion in the corner office. Some have heralded him as the most pro-LGBTQ governor in the history of our country. He will be very hard to replace.”
Co-sponsored by MassEquality and WGBH, the forum featured Democrats Joe Avellone, Don Berwick, Massachusetts Attorney Gen. Martha Coakley, Massachusetts Treasurer Steven Grossman and Juliette Kayyem; United Independent Party candidate Evan Falchuk; and Independent candidates Scott Lively and Jeff McCormick.
Moderating the event, Peter Kadzis, WGBH News senior editor, asked the candidates eight questions over the course of the 90-minute event. Each candidate was directed to keep his or her answer at a one minute maximum.
After the candidates briefly introduced themselves, Kadzis asked how they plan to use their role as governor to make Massachusetts the best place possible for the LGBTQ community. Focusing on the strengths and weaknesses of current Massachusetts legislation, the candidates spoke about their plans for improving equality in the Commonwealth should they be elected.
“We have very strong laws, constitutional and otherwise, in Massachusetts that say we don’t discriminate against people,” Coakley said. “We believe that in Massachusetts … we do more than not discriminate. We try to be welcoming. We try to be inclusive.”
Lively took a different approach to the question, bringing an opinion to the table that was not easily digested by the audience members. Despite Kadzis’ request for audience members to abstain from cheering, clapping or yelling during the forum, many members shouted responses to Lively’s responses.
“As Governor, I would ban LGBT propaganda to children,” he said. “There remains no objective proof that homosexuality is unchangeable, which means it is an acquired position. We must assume that that’s true. If that assumption is true, it is extraordinarily irresponsible to be treating our children as guinea pigs in a massive social experiment.”
Throughout the program, the candidates spoke about the weaknesses in protection for the Commonwealth’s transgender community in particular. Grossman, in one of his answers, targeted Baker, who was absent from the forum, for his decision to oppose the state’s transgender bill.
“The best way to combat those who oppose this position is to point to the other 16 states that have these provisions already in their laws, to see how well they work,” he said. “Or if they want to point to people closer to home, they can take a look at what we’ve done in Boston or in Cambridge. These laws are beginning to be implemented on a municipal basis, and they’re working very effectively.”
Several attendees said the forum gave them a valuable opportunity to hear from the candidates personally about the pressing issues in the LGBTQ community.
Mike Dunham, 57, of Holliston, said many of the candidates held the same opinions and said very similar things, but it was a worthwhile and informative event for everyone in attendance.
“I just love watching the political events in Boston, and I thought it would be great to see the candidates,” he said. “It was very informative. There was a lot of stuff I didn’t know about. It’s great to come out and hear the candidates talk about the different issues.”
Jessica Smith, 22, of Malden, said she is new to the Boston area and came to the forum to hear about the policies of the gubernatorial candidates before voting in her first Massachusetts general election.
“It would have been really nice to hear what a Republican would have been saying about this,” she said.
Chris Alburger, 26, of Somerville, said he is serving as student body president at Harvard Divinity School and has recently organized many events on transgender rights, awareness and issues. He said hearing Lively describe the transgender community as “dysfunctional” highlighted the issues that are at stake.
“That’s religious abuse,” he said. “So many people have suffered from being beaten over the head with a bible, wrongly so, and the core message of the Christian tradition, of the Jewish tradition, of so many world religions is love and compassion and loving your neighbor as thyself.”