Frustrated with portrayals of Republican mayoral candidate Hal Heiner as an extremist, former Democratic mayoral candidate Shannon White recently set up a lunch meeting between the GOP nominee and Fairness Campaign director Chris Hartman to discuss gay rights in the city.
In August, White, who came in fifth in the May primary, broke with her party to endorse Heiner over Democrat Greg Fischer, citing the East End Republican’s experience and passion to move the city forward.
The meeting took place a month ago and covered a lot of ground, from Heiner’s vote against the Fairness ordinance to extending domestic partnerships to Metro employees.
From White’s blog:
Hal said he voted against Fairness, because he was under the impression that the LGBT community was protected under federal statutes and named three cases where folks were defended.
Chris proved this argument to be false and mentioned three local cases where the Fairness ordinance was the only protection available for LGBT in our community.
Hal repeated that he had NO intention of overturning the Fairness ordinance and as a referendum by the voters, he took the will of the people very seriously.
Chris appreciated hearing this AGAIN, and sincerely thanked him for his support moving forward.
Chris asked Hal about how he felt about domestic partnerships for Metro Government employees in his Administration.
Hal stated that putting financial considerations aside, a “PLUS ONE” benefit program whether for domestic partners of same sex or straight couples would be something he would like to see in his first term.
In several stump speeches Fischer has argued that Heiner is outside the mainstream and makes it a point to mention his opponent’s vote against the historic city bill, which prohibits discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals.
Last month, C-FAIR, the Fairness campaign’s political action committee, endorsed Fischer “with fervor”, citing Heiner’s opposition to gay rights.
In 2004, the Metro Council re-approved Fairness with a bipartisan 19-6 vote, but not without consistent objection from Heiner, who voted in favor of excluding language protecting LGBT individuals in the code, exempting the Boy Scouts of America from having to abide by the law, applying it to larger businesses only, calling for a local referendum on gay rights, and delaying its passage altogether.
And despite the fact Heiner has repeatedly said he won’t seek to repeal the law and will enforce it as mayor, his past opposition to gay rights is unsettling to progressives and his unwillingness to make overtures to the LGBT community could be costly in a tight campaign.
“I met with the councilman and the meeting was pleasant. We had a long discussion largely about the Fairness ordinance and his vote in 2004,” says Hartman. “I addressed our disagreements directly. At the end of the meeting I believe he understood them, but he still hasn’t changed his views publicly.”
The gay rights leader adds that Heiner’s “Plus One” program is a separate and unequal initiative that falls short of domestic partner benefits, while Fischer has committed fully to making LGBT employees equal under law.