Stephen Lynch and “Gay Panic”

About a month ago, Congressman Stephen Lynch put out a feel-good YouTube video discussing his view of LGBT issues.  It begins:

I think I’m informed by my own experience.  My cousin, Brian, is gay.  I saw, as he was growing up, the difficulties that he had.  LGBT issues were not as strongly supported as they are now.  I’m proud of my voting record on LGBT issues.

Lynch is implying that, because he saw his cousin’s “difficulties” growing up, he has long been a supporter of the LGBT community.  Of course, we all know this isn’t true.  Until a recent “evolution” on the issue, Lynch was an opponent of marriage equality.  As for his cousin Brian, we’ll re-visit him shortly.  Meanwhile, today’s Boston Globe profile of Lynch notes an even deeper and more insidious aspect of Lynch’s past approach to homophobia:

In 1994, during his first run for the Massachusetts House, he described himself as an opponent of legalized abortion, gay rights, and affirmative action, and as a supporter of the death penalty.

The main reason he cited for entering the race, he said, was his concern that the incumbent state representative, Paul Gannon, had not done enough to keep gay and lesbian groups out of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Blasting Gannon for being “reluctant to incur criticism from the liberal media,” Lynch promised that, if elected, he would uphold the “traditions of our community.”

Once in office, in 1996, Lynch pushed a so-called “gay panic” amendment to the state’s hate crimes law, which would have allowed those accused of attacking gay victims to defend themselves by saying they were provoked by “lewd and lascivious” conduct by the gay person.

Two years later, he tried to broaden a bill that would have extended health insurance benefits to the domestic partners of gay public employees to include any relatives of those employees living in the same household. Gay rights activists called the change a hostile attempt to sink the bill by making it too broad and too expensive to implement.

This “gay panic” policy that Congressman Stephen Lynch advocated for sounds a heck of a lot like Florida’s barbaric “stand your ground” law.  Under “stand your ground,” a person basically can suggest even the most tenuous claim of feeling threatened as a defense for killing someone.  Similarly, as it is written in the Globe, under Lynch’s proposed “gay panic” policy, a homophobe could theoretically go free after attacking a same-sex couple if the homophobe claims that the couple were acting “lewd” enough (which begs the question as to what qualified as “lewd and lascivious” to Lynch in 1996?  Kissing?  Holding hands?).

Now, to be clear, I commend Lynch and the numerous other elected officials who have – in recent years, months, weeks, and even days – “evolved” on the issue and come to support marriage equality.  But the point I’m raising here isn’t simply that Lynch was on the wrong side of an issue for a time.  Lynch didn’t just oppose marriage equality.  He actively sought to enact a policy that would give legal cover to homophobes looking to commit hate crimes against LGBT individuals, blaming the victims of the crime instead of the perpetrators.

This brings us back to Lynch’s gay cousin, Brian.  As Lynch witnessed the “difficulties” Brian had growing up, did Lynch think a “gay panic” policy would help Brian or possibly hurt Brian?  How does Lynch reconcile his claim of sympathy for the “difficulties” Brian encountered growing up with his advocacy for a policy that would potentially exonerate someone who committed a hate crime against Brian simply for being gay?  Where does this “gay panic” policy rank among Lynch’s record on LGBT issues that he claims to be proud of?



Discuss

19 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. I want Democrats to be Democrats

    I’ve had my fill of suggestions that we should embrace DINOs like Mr. Lynch.

    I’m sick of watching virtually every issue I care about go down in flames while we allegedly have a Democratic majority — in the case of Massachusetts, an overwhelming Democratic majority.

    I’m sick of a “Democratic Majority” that can’t pass gun control, couldn’t investigate and prosecute well-documented war crimes initiated from the Oval Office, can’t close an immoral concentration camp, can’t even acknowledge that anthropogenic climate change is even real, never mind doing anything about it, couldn’t purge the justice department of an army of right-wing political operatives embedded by the prior administration, can’t effectively rein in big banks, can’t protect social security, couldn’t even put single-payer health care or the public option on the table, and on and on and on. I’m sick of holding my nose while we invite DINOs like Joe Lieberman to caucus with the Democrats. I’m sick of a “Democratic majority” that couldn’t even change the filibuster rules to allow the Senate to again function. I’m sick of “leaders” like Harry Reid whining about how they just can’t get the votes.

    If they can’t or don’t want to do the jobs they were elected to do, they should step aside (or be shoved) to make room for men and women who can and will.

    I’m sick of watching the state that I love and chose for home forty years ago go to hell in a handbasket while an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature can’t or won’t raise enough taxes to sustain the basic services required by a twenty-first century first-world society. If even a portion of the energy (not to mention column-inches) squandered on the Red Sox, Bruins, Celtics, Patriots, or whatever was instead focused on restoring our transportation infrastructure, education system, and basic services for the least fortunate among us, we would not have doors falling off of Red Line cars.

    All of which brings me to Mr. Lynch.

    I would like Mr. Lynch to please go home. If he wants to hold public office, I encourage him to find a state where he can join his fellow Republicans and run as a viable GOP candidate.

    I won’t vote for him in the primary, and if he somehow survives the primary, I won’t vote for him in the general.

    I’m done. D O N E. Mr. Lynch is NOT a Democrat in any sense of what I mean by the term, and I’m tired of pretending otherwise — about Mr. Lynch, Mr. DeLeo, Mr. Lieberman, Mr. Reid, and a host of others. Frankly, I have my doubts about Mr. Obama.

    I’m a D E M O C R A T.

  2. More reminders

    of how unacceptable (and how mendacious) Steve Lynch is. It’s hard to say which is worse: the odious positions he’s held over two decades in public office, or the shameless way in which he lies about them to make himself more electable now.

    I won’t vote for him in the primary, and if he somehow survives the primary, I won’t vote for him in the general.

    I feel the same way. And, with that, I’ll head over tonight to the opening of Markey’s Newton campaign office, in the same space occupied by Elizabeth Warren, another real Democrat.

    I’m sick of a “Democratic majority” that couldn’t even change the filibuster rules to allow the Senate to again function. I’m sick of “leaders” like Harry Reid whining about how they just can’t get the votes.

    For the fifteenth time or so, Reid says today he’s “a very patient man” but thinking of doing something, maybe, about the filibuster now.

    • No more "warnings"

      Every cop I’ve ever known has told me that the only time you ever aim a gun at somebody is when you intend to use it, and that you NEVER say “stop or I’ll shoot”. The “warning” only gives your adversary time to react.

      I don’t want to hear any more “warnings” from Mr. Reid. I want to read, after the fact, about the rules change that he just pushed through — in the dead of night if need be.

      This crazed and out-of-control GOP actually filibustered a Secretary of Defense nominee — and Mr. Reid is still blathering about “warnings’?

      Pull the trigger, Harry. Now.

  3. More on Cousin Brian

    In 2001, Lynch was running for Congress. Challenged in the primary about hissupport for gun control, Lynch ran ads saying “five years ago, my cousin Brian was shot nine times just down the street from my family’s home. He died.” (see: http://www3.nationaljournal.com/members/adspotlight/2001/10/1018slma1.htm ) So, that’s why questioning his support for gun control was otu of bounds.

    So, if there really is a cousin Brian (?) and all the stories Lynch tells about him are true, that means that cousin Brian was shot and killed in 1996. The very year that Lynch was promoting his “gay panic” amendment!

    I’m more than a little skeptical to now be told more than a decade later that this very same cousin Brian (!) was the reason for Lynch’s change of heart and newly found conviction on LGBT issues. Somehow, his close cousin Brian being shot (nine times! down the street from Lynch’s familiy’s house!) in 1996 caused not a single pause in the good Congressman’s crusade to weaken the hate crimes act?!?

    I call bullshit.

    • Was Mr. Lynch lying then or is he lying now?

      Surely somebody over on Morrisey Boulevard has access to the relevant papers from 1996. Rather than fawning puff-pieces, perhaps the Globe might pursue the truth of just how real “cousin Brian” is.

      Was Mr. Lynch was lying then or he is lying now?

      • My bet is that he is lying now.

        Unfortunately, Lynch is my U.S. Rep, and he was my state Senator before Jack Hart, so I had the displeasure of hearing (and reading) his diatribe throughout the St. Pat’s Day Parade nonsense and various other LGBT issues both while he was at the State House as well as in Congress, and IMHO, he has always been a complete and utter disaster on LGBT issues, to the point of embarrassment. which is why I was not surprised by his vote on the ACA but also part of the reason why I intend to hold him accountable for his votes against my interests. I believe he is finally seeing that if he does not do some serious “damage control” now, he will not make it past April 30th.
        It is also why even if I am the only person in Dorchester to vote for Markey, I will be voting Markey (gladly).

  4. More On Cousin Brian II

    Looks like the cousin Brian who was killed does exist. He was shot nine times after a bar fight in Southie in August 1996: http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-8392045.html

    Meanwhile, the hate crimes bill was debated prior to that and passed in June 1996. So, the timing doesn’t quite work. Maybe Lynch would have felt differently about promoting his “gay panic” amendment had in known that his cousin Brian (who’s “difficulties” related to being gay Lynch had supposedly observed) was about to be shot and killed at age 25. I guess we’ll never know. But, I do take back my supposition that these events occured in reverse order.

    By the way, there is no indication here or anywhere on the internet that Brian Havlin was gay or the victim of a hate crime. Maybe it was a different cousin Brian who was gay?

    • So he's lying now

      He uses the present tense in his campaign spot (“My cousin Brian is gay”, 0:13-0:14).

      So the truth is that his cousin Brian, perhaps, was gay. He says “I saw, as he was growing up, the difficulties that he had”. He fails to mention the extremes to which he compounded those difficulties during his campaigning while his cousin still alive. He fails to mention his insulting and demeaning “gay panic” initiative. Maybe Brian’s killers were suffering from gay panic when they pumped nine shots into him.

      So now that his cousin is dead, buried, and therefore unable to speak, “Cousin Stephen” exploits him again.

      What a swell guy, Stephen Lynch.

      • Taking care

        Brian is not such an unusual name.

        Conceivably Rep. Lynch had multiple cousins Brian. As this is rather personal territory, one might be advised to tread lightly until this apparent contradiction is illuminated with fact.

        Now, if we followed Rep. Michelle Bachmann epistemology, we’d be accusing Rep. Lynch of murdering cousin Brian himself. We strive, though, to be better than that.

        • Conceivably

          I grant you that two Cousin Brians is within the realm of possibility. Yes, of course it’s “personal” — just like the gender preference issue that

          Mr. Lynch launched his political career on. It doesn’t get much more “personal” than “I am Stephen Lynch”. He’s building this campaign around his “personal” biography. The apparent lie about his cousin is fair game.

  5. I don't care

    if his cousin Brian is, was, is not, or was not gay. I don’t care if this cousin Brian is or is not the same one who was killed in 1996. I care about the issues.

    Steve Lynch’s record on gay anything is abysmal, even after his “evolution” since he first thought statewide office might be nice. If he has, or had, a gay cousin and still took these positions that’s even worse. Even Rob Portman changed his tune when it was a member of his own family implicated.

    • Under Lynch

      Matthew Shepherd’s death would’ve been legally permitted and justified rather than prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Think about where we are now in this commonwealth and in the country on this issue, and where we would be had Lynch had his way. He is not getting my vote, no way, no how.

    • I care that he lies

      I agree with you that our focus should be on the issues.

      It simply isn’t possible to focus on issues given a candidate who so flagrantly lies. My concern about the “Brian episode” is the way it so clearly displays Mr. Lynch’s dishonesty.

  6. Isn't gay panic

    why Harvey Milk and Matthew Shepherd are dead?

  7. No surprise

    He actively sought to enact a policy that would give legal cover to homophobes looking to commit hate crimes against LGBT individuals, blaming the victims of the crime instead of the perpetrators.

    He launched his political career as he was defending, pro bono, racist thugs at Old Colony accused of hate crime assault. He talked the charges down and averted eviction. Talk about legal cover…

  8. I'd be correct in assuming...

    …that there is exactly zero logic behind the idea of “gay panic” right? I mean, even if you are offended by someone else’s lewd behavoir of the heterosexual variety or didn’t like being propositioned even by someone of the opposite sex, that doesn’t give you the right to shoot that person!

    • But heteros are so damn sensitive.

      How can they (Hetero’s) continue to live knowing that at least one person (at random) exists on the planet who believes He is not straight? The horror!

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