A hot and slightly nervous Tennessee House Minority Speaker Craig Fitzhugh was kind enough to give an interview to Out & About Nashville early Saturday afternoon. Speaker Fitzhugh is contesting the Democratic Party primary nomination with former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean in less than a month, and the Fitzhugh campaign strongly believes that Speaker Fitzhugh has a strong chance to pull off an upset.
We asked Speaker Fitzhugh to please explain his views on LGBTQ+ people and issues on camera, addressing his prior stands as well as what he believes today. He did so without hesitation. Below is the transcript of the video interview.
How is the campaign going?
Really good. We have got some wind behind our sail and we are really picking up momentum…we are encouraged. So we’re going 24/7.
What do you think your chances are against your Democratic opponent?
Well…my name recognition is not what my Democratic opponent is at the moment but we’re working on that and we have come up just tremendously, especially in Middle Tennessee where he had an edge since he was the Mayor of the capital city for two terms. But it’s coming up really good. We’re getting some really good responses and got some great endorsements. We have a bunch of volunteers that are coming out of the woodwork for us, so we’re really encouraged. We have not peaked…but I think we are heading toward that peak, and hopefully at the right time.
If you are a Democratic voter, especially if you are an LGBTQ+ Democratic voter, why should someone choose you over your primary opponent former Mayor Karl Dean?
Well…from the LGBT community perspective in particular…I believe in the cause. I have staff members who are gay. I don’t make a particular show of that…I just treat people like they are. I‘ve had a bit of a change in my opinion that I would like to talk about…
You know, I’m a lawyer…and I have long thought that…because of my upbringing in church and things…that marriage was normally just between a man and a woman. And as a lawyer, I felt like it was unfair that we were giving State benefits and Federal benefits to people who had married. So, I came to the conclusion that maybe a civil arrangement (for) the LGBT community would take care of that. I made a legal conclusion about that.
But over the years, I’ve determined that it’s none of my business. Whomever you love, you should be able to marry them and have the same rights one-hundred percent. And that is what the Supreme Court has said…and that is what has made me very comfortable with the change of positions over the years. I think that my position, and some of the others has changed, including our former President…well, the President – I still call him…
A lot of people still do! (laughing)
I think his was much the same way….so, I have no difference here. It’s not the same thing I thought before. Marriage is a marriage. It’s perfectly fine with me and I am totally one-hundred percent supportive.
I believe you are an officer of your local church. Have you discussed this with your church?
Yes, I have. As a matter of fact…I had a very tough situation with my church. I have been in that church…well, that church is probably the first thing I remember in my lifetime.
We had a Boy Scout troop in that church, the oldest Boy Scout troop chartered in all of West Tennessee. And I’m a former scoutmaster, Eagle Scout…my son is an Eagle Scout. It has been an integral part of our church. Our church took the position that because of (LGBT) Scouts and leaders that they weren’t…
I have a really, really hard time with that. I still have that…and it’s a “burn in my saddle” as you say. But I’m not one to just quit and walk away because I don’t like what happened. I want to work through that and hopefully one day to convince people that it was the wrong thing to do. Those who have a different feeling, not just from mine but for what I think the right thing to do is, (I want to) change their opinion as well.
How do you feel about people who hold the opinion that Gay and Lesbian people should not be treated in the same way as heterosexual people?
I don’t see any reason behind that. Zero. None. I don’t follow that. I have not for many years, and that gets stronger every day. Some of these things that are happening now are abhorrent.
If your opponent (Karl Dean) wins the Democratic primary, will you support him in the fall?
Yes. I’m a Democrat…but I believe that if you are a public education person you have no other choice than to vote for me. If you are a believer in Medicaid expansion than you really have no choice. I have been working on it in the legislature for five years. If you are for jobs, especially government jobs that could be outsourced or privatized, then you have to vote for me (both laughing).
But on the other hand, my Democratic opponent is the closest to me that there is…and I would certainly support him. We will have a unifying situation (in case of his winning) and I hope it will work both ways, and I’m sure that it will. And we will go toward victory, because I’m telling you…that there is something out there going on, and it’s a positive thing for people. And that means it’s for Democrats. Democrats in our big tent. No matter who they are, no matter where they are, no matter size they are, what colour they are, what health they are, what economic status they are…who they love, or anything else about them. I am very encouraged about things this late summer.
For more information about Speaker Fitzhugh’s campaign and positions, visit www.craigfitzhugh.com.
Our thanks to the people at Our Revolution Nashville and Middle Tennessee for letting us drop in on their event. See also: the full story about Our Revolution’s endorsement of Speaker Fitzhugh for Governor in the Democratic primary.