Even for one attuned to the feints and evasions of politics, it can be difficult to discern exactly where some of the US Senate candidates are on important social issues.

Take Democrat Stephen Lynch. He calls himself prolife, but in this campaign, he’s also said that he supports Roe v. Wade. Not only that, he has adopted what is effectively a pro-Roe v. Wade litmus test for US Supreme Court nominees.

That’s almost as muddled — excuse me, nuanced — as Republican Mike Sullivan’s stand on gay marriage. Sullivan says he is a traditionalist who believes marriage should be between a man and a woman. But he’s a traditionalist who would vote to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which restricts federal marriage benefits to traditional unions.

How to explain that untraditional traditionalism? Well, Sullivan is also a federalist, which makes him think the matter of gay marriage, including whether to recognize those from elsewhere, should be left to the states. Add his sense of fairness to his federalist outlook, and it leads him to conclude that the federal government should grant full marriage benefits to same-sex married couples in those states that allow gay marriage. Thus it is that the complex interaction of Sullivan’s principles leaves him with a stand that can appeal to both sides!

As you can see, all this can get very confusing very quickly. To help sort it all out, I asked each candidate’s camp to detail his stances on abortion and gay marriage.


My conclusions: The two hopefuls most clearly supportive of abortion rights and gay marriage are Democrat Ed Markey and Republican Dan Winslow. Lynch, Sullivan, and Republican Gabriel Gomez have positions that sometimes seem closer to straddles than forthright stands.

On the GOP side, Winslow is unequivocally in favor of both abortion rights and gay marriage. If the high court were to overturn Roe v. Wade, Winslow would support federal legislation to guarantee a woman’s right to choose. He thinks the court should overturn DOMA — and that Congress should repeal the law if it doesn’t. He also believes married gay couples should receive federal benefits and that under the US Constitution, each state would be obliged to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.


That’s stronger than Sullivan, whose stance on gay marriage is outlined above. On abortion, Sullivan’s team says he’s prolife, but that, if Roe v. Wade were overturned, he’d leave the issue to the states.

Winslow is also more forthright than Gabriel Gomez, who also supports gay marriage and also thinks DOMA should be overturned, but whose camp didn’t specifically answer questions about extending federal marriage benefits and whether one state should recognize same-sex marriages done in another.

Although Gomez calls himself “personally prolife,” he says that he is not “going to D.C. to change the law.” He further says that Roe v. Wade is “settled law in Massachusetts.” His campaign didn’t address what his position would be if the Supreme Court overturned that decision.

Of the two Democrats, Markey was strongest on both issues. On gay marriage, he gets credit for longevity; he was one of the 67 congressmen who voted against DOMA back in 1996.

That said, Lynch, who as a state legislator in the 1990s was usually opposed to gay-rights initiatives, now has the same basic position as his rival. Both want to see DOMA overturned or repealed; if that happens, both think the US Constitution would require one state to recognize another’s gay marriages, and both would also support legislation to ensure that.


Despite Lynch’s recent evolution on abortion rights, Markey is stronger there as well. As noted earlier, Lynch considers himself prolife, but supports Roe v. Wade. His camp says that in his view, overturning the law wouldn’t end abortions, but simply move them to more dangerous settings. Nor does he declare, as Markey does, that he’d have an abortion-rights litmus test for Supreme Court nominees. But he gets to essentially the same place; his campaign says that if a nominee “clearly expressed” a desire to overturn Roe v. Wade, Lynch would consider that person a judicial activist and oppose his or her nomination.

If the high court does overturn the law, Markey would support federal legislation to guarantee abortion rights. Not so Lynch. He “would leave the issue to the states,” his campaign says.

Let’s hope that clears the fog. And helps you choose the candidate closest to your own views — whatever they may be.

Scot Lehigh can be reached at lehigh@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GlobeScotLehigh.