Despite promises by his campaign that he would be an “inclusive mayor who will celebrate diversity in Nashville,” Nashville mayoral candidate and former Congressman Bob Clement opposes same-sex marriage and is uncommitted to providing domestic partnership benefits to Metro government’s employees.
Clement, who attended a reception for the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) at Tribe on Monday, Feb. 19, has come under fire by local GLBT leaders for his non-support of gay issues while serving as a U.S. Congressman.
He was questioned about his support for the community when Jon Glassmeyer, a local GLBT community leader, gave Out & About Newspaper a letter he received from then Congressman Clement that outlined Clements opposition to same-sex marriage and domestic partnership registration.
In the letter dated July 27, 1998 to Glassmeyer, Clement stated that “I opposed the Same Sex Marriage Act last year, a bill that would have forced all states to recognize same-sex marriages. We must protect the God-ordained institution of marriage.”
When asked if this was still his view, Clement said that he remained “opposed to same sex marriage.”
With same-sex marriage illegal in Tennessee, it’s not an issue for mayoral candidates. But for many Nashvillians, the ability for Metro Government to provide domestic partner benefits, or discrimination protection based on sexual orientation, remains a priority.
Congressman Clement wrote to Glassmeyer that “you will be pleased to know that I have consistently opposed legislation that would allow gay couples to register as domestic partnerships and be eligible for certain benefits.”
It appears that if he is elected Nashville’s mayor, Clements stance on that issue has softened – he said he would evaluate domestic partnership benefits, but did not endorse the concept.
“Equality is a quality of life issue and something in which I strongly believe,” he said. “If this issue were to arise on the municipal level, I would closely evaluate it.”
Clement would not directly answer this reporter’s question if he viewed homosexuality as “an alternative lifestyle”. He had boasted in his letter to Glassmeyer that he had “voted for a ban on programs that promote homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle.”
“I believe all individuals should be treated fairly,” he said. “I oppose discrimination in any form.”
But when pressed with the question, “do you still view homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle?” Clement responded that “in a broader culture, we must all live and work together with each other and not invalidate those in our community.”
Throughout the interview Clement did state that he was “opposed to discrimination in any form.”
He cited the recent hate crimes that have occurred in Warren County, Tennessee and said that as a Congressman he co-sponsored two hate crime bills – HR 3081 in 1997 and HR 1082 in 1999.
“I do not tolerate hate crimes,” he said. “The story about the McMinnville man who was terrorized with death threats and harassment is truly reprehensible. No person is of less value than another. No one has the right to threaten another. I support punishing people who break the law and viciously attack or threaten others. I support a crackdown on criminal offenders. I hope authorities prosecute those who are responsible to the fullest extent of the law.”
Clement said he was against discrimination in any form, including workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.
“I am opposed to discrimination in any form. Those who break the law or who threaten others should be punished,” he said. “Our community cannot grow and prosper unless law abiding people feel safe and protected in their home and at their workplace.”
If elected Mayor of Nashville, Bob Clement said that his top priorities would be “improving our local schools and lowering crime – especially juvenile crime.” Furthermore, Clement stated “I will focus on increasing our graduation rate because I believe there is a direct correlation between the number of children who drop out of school and the alarming increase we are seeing in juvenile crime. I will also focus on discipline in the schools. Teachers and students deserve to be safe in our schools. We need to stop bullying and effectively discipline offenders.”
For more information on Bob Clement and his bid for Mayor, you can visit his campaign website at: http://www.bobclement.com/.