Politics

Scott Brown defends gay rights record from Democratic criticism

Senator Scott Brown, facing criticism of his gay rights record from Democrats, today preemptively released the text of the speech he will deliver tonight after receiving an award from a Republican gay rights group.

In remarks planned for delivery in Washington to the 2011 Spirit of Lincoln Awards Dinner, a national event hosted by the Log Cabin Republicans, Brown defends himself by noting his vote last year in favor of repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on gays serving openly in the armed forces.

It officially expired overnight.

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“When I ran for this seat, and after I won, I pledged to keep an open mind on every issue, including the military’s `don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy. From the start, I made clear that I wanted to review the findings of the Pentagon report to ensure that a change in policy would not negatively affect in any way our troops currently serving around the world,” said the text of Brown’s remarks.

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“After I reviewed the Pentagon report, spoke extensively to active and retired military service members, the Joint Chiefs, and discussed the matter privately with then-Defense Secretary Gates and many others, I accepted the findings of the report. I supported repeal based on the secretary’s recommendations that it will be implemented when the battle effectiveness of the forces is assured and proper preparations have been completed,” added the senator, himself a member of the Massachusetts National Guard and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

In anticipation of the appearance, the Massachusetts Democratic Party announced this morning that it would hold a conference call at 2 p.m. today to discuss Brown’s gay rights record.

About a half-hour later, Brown’s staff released his remarks.

Earlier this year, Democrats criticized him for not joining in a delegation video offering encouragement to gay teens who might be otherwise contemplating suicide. They also criticized his voting record and comments on gay rights issues while a state lawmaker.

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“The junior senator is and has been a staunch opponent of equal marriage, he is opposed to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act,” party Chairman John Walsh said during the conference call. “When he was in the state Legislature, he voted three times for a constitutional amendment to ban equal marriage and opposed funds for the commonwealth’s commission on gay and lesbian youth.”

As to Brown ultimately voting for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” Walsh said: “Scott Brown only stepped forward to do the right thing after it was clear that the repeal would pass without his vote. That’s not leadership by any definition, and it shows Scott Brown is only willing to vote the interests of the LGBT community in Massachusetts when its in his best political interest.”

Glen Johnson can be reached at johnson@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.