Harold Ford Jr., the former Tennessee congressman and potential U.S. Senate challenger to New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand, got a cool reception Wednesday from gay rights advocates who are skeptical of his new found support for gay marriage.
Speaking at the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York, Ford was interrupted numerous times by protesters who waved signs emblazoned “Liar” and shouted that he is “anti-gay.”
Ford had voted twice for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, but in recent interviews he has gone on the record in support of same-sex marriage.
Ford said all he can do is explain he was wrong in the past and has changed his mind.
Asked about his position on the landmark gay rights ruling, Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 Supreme Court decision that decriminalized sodomy, Ford responded “Can you tell me what that decision is? I’m sorry,” which prompted more jeers from the crowd.
Responded Ford: “I’m not dumb, I just don’t know the decision.”
One of few hushed moments of the evening came when Lt. Dan Choi — the openly Army National Guard who came out last March — rose to press Ford on gay marriage and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” noting pointedly that he fought in Iraq to secure rights “for your family that mine is not afforded.”
“I’m for repeal of the policy. Never been for it,” Ford said of the policy which bans gays in the military.
Ford is expected to challenge Gillibrand in this fall’s Democratic primary. He moved to New York after losing the 2006 U.S. Senate race in Tennessee.
Gillibrand, a gay rights supporter who once referred to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as an “outdated measure that violates the civil rights of some of our bravest,” was appointed to the Senate by Gov. David Paterson to fill the Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton after President Obama named her U.S. Secretary of State.