Matheson versus Love: The question of the queer vote

Spanning the distance from South Salt Lake to the west end of Utah Lake and through Utah County, Utah’s brand-spanking new Congressional District 4 is a national enigma.

In one corner of the ring is incumbent Jim Matheson from Congressional District 2. The son of a former Utah governor and an active Mormon, Matheson has defied all odds as the lone Democrat from Utah’s delegation for the past 12 years.

In the other corner is Mia Love, the mayor of Saratoga Springs. She’s a first-generation American of Haitian immigrants and in an interracial marriage. She touts her conservative credentials on news stations around the nation and she showed her ability to gather support by defeating all other Republican challengers, including presumed nominee Carl Wimmer, with nearly 70 percent of delegate votes.

Matheson touts an ability to compromise and work both sides of the aisle, while Love is a Tea Party-endorsed conservative with a distaste for federal government involvement in local issues.

Neither candidate supports gay marriage or makes queer-rights issues a large platform of campaigning.

So who’s a queer to vote for?

Rep. Jim Matheson

No matter what Fox News pundits or Republicans say, Matheson isn’t overly concerned about Love’s celebrity status. She’s been slamming Matheson with accusations of mismanagement in the government and seems convinced that she’ll do a better job with taxpayer dollars than Matheson.

“This year is no different than past years, when national paid party insiders write the talking points for my opponent,” Matheson said. “I am proud of my record of cutting and capping spending, supporting a Balanced Budget Amendment and successfully restoring pay-as-you-go budget enforcement rules in Congress to create more fiscal discipline.”

With fewer and fewer Blue Dog Democratic colleges in Washington D.C., Matheson seems to be defying current political trends of extreme political polarization. He voted against the Affordable Care Act, but voted for the repeal of the ban on gay members of the U.S. Armed Forces serving openly.

“I have a strong anti-discrimination record, including voting for hate-crimes legislation and ending housing and workplace discrimination against gays and lesbians,” Matheson said. “Unlike my opponent, who says she’ll vote to reinstate ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’, I stood with American military leaders and soldiers to repeal it. Anyone who is willing to put his or her life on the line for this country deserves our respect and should not face discrimination.”

Matheson’s strong stance for equal treatment in the military stands in stark contrast to his position on the anti-gay and so-called Defense of Marriage Act and his vocal support of passing a resolution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

In 2004 and 2006, Matheson voted for bills that would have altered the U.S. Constitution to bar gay marriage from being recognized. He also said he supports DOMA, the 1996 law that has been struck down by federal and appellate courts as unconstitutional. It bars the federal government from recognizing gay marriage and effectively stops gay couples from receiving the same tax credits as straight couples, and it has resulted in the deportation of gay individuals whose state-sanctioned marriages were not recognized by the federal government.

Although the leader of his party President Barack Obama has voiced his support for gay marriage, Matheson said his views are not about to change, but he is willing to consider some domestic-partnership recognition and support.

“I have always defined marriage as between a man and a woman. However, people who disagree on the fundamental nature of marriage ought to be able to find common ground on issues such as domestic-partnership benefits, hospital-visitation rights, and legal decision-making capabilities,” Matheson said.

Matheson may not be the savior for gay rights voters, but he appears to be a better alternative to many. The Human Rights Campaign ranked him with a 78 percent approval score, which is a solid C+, and a hell of a lot better than the big, fat zeros for Republican Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz.

Mayor Mia Love

With an apparent knack for making crowds stand and cheer, the 37-year-old mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, population 18,000, appears inflexible on Tea Party principles.

She wants to cut the budget and whittle down the deficit. Her stance on bringing more jobs to Utah is completely uncontroversial. Her political theory is true-blue Tea Party. Pushing for more state control of every governmental process except military, Love doesn’t support legislation to protect gays and lesbians in the workplace, but she does oppose conservative efforts to bar the federal government from recognizing gay marriage, said James Humphreys an outside political adviser and president of the Log Cabin Republicans.

“Her position is that most of the LGBT issues we’re facing today don’t belong in the federal government so she shouldn’t be addressing them anyway. That’s why she opposes DOMA. If the states have decided to recognize gay marriage and the courts are examining the issue, Congress shouldn’t be telling what the States and the courts to do,” Humphreys said. “She’s a true conservative and doesn’t want the federal government to tell local communities how to act or what laws they should endorse.”

Love has never sought the endorsement of the LCR, the queer caucus within the Republican Party, but she’s always been supportive and friendly, said Mel Nimer, former president of the organization.

Despite being in an interracial marriage, which would have been outlawed less than 50 years ago, Love says she supports traditional marriage.

In all of QSaltLake’s attempts to secure an interview or statement from Love to confirm or deny her positions, she proved elusive. While responding affirmatively to an initial request for an interview, Love later recanted and her campaign spokesperson, Dave Owen, stated she wants no association with QSaltLake, but he insisted her decision did not reflect on her position regarding fair treatment for all.

“Our opponents could use our involvement against us, but this is absolutely not a gay issue,” Owens said. “It is simply because we don’t want to be involved with a magazine that is sexually explicit.”

While not being able to cite a single article, advertisement or photo that Love may have found objectionable in the publication, Owens assured QSaltLake that neither he nor Love could possibly make homophobic decisions, because he has a gay son.

Through due diligence, QSaltLake respectfully worked with four campaign staffers, but we were categorically denied any statements about specific issues or concerns.

And QSaltLake is not alone in efforts to contact her without much avail. Representatives from Equality Utah have reached out to Love to discuss the possibility of passing nondiscrimination ordinances in Saratoga Springs without much success, Brandie Balken, EU executive director, said.

“We have attempted to contact her several times and the conversation usually goes well and ends trying to set something up, but it never really happens,” Balken said. “I do know, however, that she’s been very busy with her campaign.”

Love’s relative silence on queer issues, with the exception of speaking out against marriage equality, is a clear sign that she’s not a strong ally to the queer community, said Utah Democratic Party chairman Jim Dabakis.

“Not surprisingly, Love refuses to talk to QSaltLake, Equality Utah and HRC.  Love is another Sen. Chris Buttars in her extreme views on many subjects, including LGBT issues. Love’s political extremism is a disaster for all of Utah,” Dabakis said. “Mia Love is no friend of LGBT equality.”

Love is young and inexperienced, but she’s surrounding herself with political masterminds who will help guide her, Humphreys said.

“She’s got the principles down. She is the real deal — more so than any other candidate in the state and probably the nation,” Humphreys said.

The general election is months away. But campaigning is in full swing. To learn more, go to mathesonforcongress.com and love4utah.com.

Seth Bracken

Seth Bracken is the editor of QSaltLake

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