A day after blogger Mike Tipping published a very detailed piece on Rep. Larry Lockman’s views about gay people, abortion and taxes, this Republican state legislator issued a statement saying he regretted some of it.
What should we make of this “regret”?
Frankly, while there are issues for Lockman himelf, the most critical implications, in my view, involve what this means for his Lockman’s party. But first let’s consider other issues.
First, should Lockman resign?
Well, personally, I’m not big on calls to have elected officials resign for reasons other than criminal activity. Lockman was elected by his constituents, with just over 51% of the vote, and they can decide whether to return him to office.
However, that certainly doesn’t mean that Lockman shouldn’t be criticized. Anyone, certainly including leaders in the Republican and Democratic parties, the latter of which said Lockman should resign, are free to say what they think of his views.
Second, Lockman did not say he thought that what he said was incorrect, nor that he has changed his mind.
Instead, the statement released was more on the lines of “I’m sorry if your feelings were hurt.” (That’s the kind of non-apology apology that really bugs me when someone says it to me.)
Look at the specific wording, as reported by this paper:
“I have always been passionate about my beliefs, and years ago I said things that I regret,” said Lockman in a statement released by the House Minority Office. “I hold no animosity toward anyone by virtue of their gender or sexual orientation, and today I am focused on ensuring freedom and economic prosperity for all Mainers.”
You see, he regrets saying things and wants to know he doesn’t have any “animosity toward anyone by virtue of their gender or sexual orientation,” so if anyone is offended, they just don’t understand that he doesn’t actually have negative feels toward gay people and women.
Now, when I read his statements about gay people, they seem homophobic, which by definition is anti-gay animosity.
But Lockman doesn’t think so and, again, he hasn’t said he thinks differently now than he did before — when 1) he talked about homosexuals purportedly recruiting members and 2) said that the way they have sex is not acceptable. The first presumes that gays are sexual predators. The second is a judgment about what consenting adults do in the privacy of their homes.
Third, Lockman doesn’t mention his outrageous statement about rape and abortion, nor apologize for it.
This is what he said:
If a woman has (the right to abortion), why shouldn’t a man be free to use his superior strength to force himself on a woman? At least the rapist’s pursuit of sexual freedom doesn’t (in most cases) result in anyone’s death.
Fourth, Lockman doesn’t say anything about whether he still thinks paying federal taxes is unconstitutional.
One of the most surprising parts of what Tipping revealed was that Lockman was brought to federal court because he refused to pay his taxes.
He claimed the federal government has no right to collect taxes, despite the fact that the 16th Amendment, passed over a hundred years ago, explicitly states they can.
Has he changed his mind on this? Does he regret his tax avoidance? He doesn’t say.
Fifth, what does Lockman’s history and current statements say about his party, the Republican party?
On the one hand, Lockman’s views are not representative of all Maine Republicans. There are plenty of moderate Republicans, although they will usually readily acknowledge that they are not always comfortable in their party.
Moreover, young Republicans, particularly college students and college graduates in their twenties and thirties, most certainly do not agree with Lockman on gay rights issues.
However, there is also no doubt that the Republican party includes others like Lockman. He is not alone in his views.
And even if one considers those views to be on the edges of the party, it is indisputable that the Republican party as a whole has not been supportive of gay rights, while the Democratic party has been an advocate for gay men and lesbians. That’s why, fairly recently, a prominent gay Republican activist left the party. He just got tired of fighting the homophobes.
America is changing rapidly on gay rights. Support for marriage rights is over 50% and growing. Yet there are also state-level efforts to allow discrimination, couched in the form of bills that would enable people to discriminate if they said it was based on their religious views. Those bills are mostly supported by Republican legislators.
So those are the tensions for the Republican party
Internally, one finds deeply homophobic members and individuals without an ounce of homophobia. Yet the party, in its official party platform, does not support equal rights for gay and lesbian people.
Moreover, quite recently, the Maine Legislature took up a bill that would allow for anti-gay discrimination under the guise of “religious freedom.” Most Republican legislators voted for it and most Democrats voted against it. A similar bill, quite controversial nationally, was just vetoed by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer.
Lockman’s history is embarrassing to many in the Republican party and makes it harder for them to appeal to the bulk of young people, as well as many others.
Rep. Ken Fredette, the House Minority Leader said today:
I do not condone these or any statements that are intentionally hurtful toward others on account of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.
While Fredette is critical, the phrasing leaves the implication that Lockman was “intentionally hurtful,” something Lockman most certainly has not said himself.
It’s too hard for someone like Lockman to say that he changed his mind. Saying that would turn off hard core social conservatives and there is no evidence that he thinks any differently. If his opinions have changed, why didn’t he say so?