Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, widely regarded as a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2012, seems to be clarifying past positions, lest he be mistaken for supporting LGBTQ rights.
In a recent interview with Newsweek’s Howard Fineman, Pawlenty expresses his regret for having voted in favor of a 1993 state bill, the first of its kind in the nation, that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Newsweek: I know you are opposed to gay marriage, but what about medical benefits for same-sex couples?
Pawlenty: I have not supported that.
My general view on all of this is that marriage is to be defined as being a union of a man and a woman. Marriage should be elevated in our society at a special level. I don’t think all domestic relationships are the equivalent of traditional marriage. Early on we decided as a country and as a state that there was value in a man and a woman being married in terms of impact on children and the like, and we want to encourage that.
To borrow a phrase, have your views evolved over time?
In 1993 I voted for a bill prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in public accommodation, housing, and employment. That was 16 years ago.
Yes, gay-rights activists regarded you as a pretty cool guy at the time.
We overbaked that statute, for a couple of reasons. If I had to do it over again I would have changed some things.
That statute is not worded the way it should be. I said I regretted the vote later because it included things like cross-dressing, and a variety of other people involved in behaviors that weren’t based on sexual orientation, just a preference for the way they dressed and behaved. So it was overly broad. So if you are a third-grade teacher and you are a man and you show up on Monday as Mr. Johnson and you show up on Tuesday as Mrs. Johnson, that is a little confusing to the kids. So I don’t like that.
Has the law been changed?
No. It should be, though.
So you want to protect kids against cross-dressing elementary-school teachers. Do you have any in Minnesota?
Probably. We’ve had a few instances, not exactly like that, but similar.