LGBT Community Has ‘Serious Concerns’ About Lt. Gov.-Elect Karyn Polito

Massachusetts Lt. Gov.-elect Karyn Polito and Governor-elect Charlie Baker.
Massachusetts Lt. Gov.-elect Karyn Polito and Governor-elect Charlie Baker. –Stephan Savoia/AP

Lieutenant Governor-elect Karyn Polito’s history of opposition to same-sex marriage and transgender rights as a state representative has members of the LGBT community warily eyeing the Republican political leader.

Just a day after the Republican gubernatorial ticket of Charlie Baker and Polito was elected into office, Sue O’Connell, co-publisher of LGBT-focused publication Bay Windows, said she has “serious concerns’’ about Polito on WGBH’s Boston Public Radio.

O’Connell reiterated those concerns to Boston.com.

“She has a long track record of being against just about everything this state is for,’’ O’Connell said, citing Polito’s past support of a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman, and her opposition to the Transgender Civil Rights Bill. “She has a history of voting against civil rights.’’

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When Baker chose Polito as his running mate in late 2013, the choice was thought to be an effort to appease social conservatives, The Boston Globe wrote at the time. Baker, in the mold of a Massachusetts Republican, campaigned on a socially moderate platform in an attempt to win over independents and moderates. In order to do that, though, he first had to shore up the support of the Republican base, and choosing Polito as his running mate was an attempt to do that.

However, Polito quickly angered some on the far right when she reversed her long opposition to same-sex marriage and civil unions.

“Like many, including President Obama, Karyn’s position has evolved, and she now supports the existing law and will not work to undo the progress achieved over the last decade,’’ Baker spokesman Tim Buckley said at the time. She has reiterated that “evolution’’ in recent campaign statements even as opposing Lt. Gov. candidate Steve Kerrigan hammered her record.

LGBT advocates don’t seem convinced by Polito quite yet. Polito’s switch wasn’t an “evolution,’’ but a “good old-fashioned white-washing,’’ DeeDee Edmondson wrote at MassLive last week.

“[Baker] may be a ‘progressive’ Republican, but he caved to the conservative party extremists and added former state representative Karyn Polito to his ticket,’’ Bay Windows wrote in its endorsement of Martha Coakley. “That lack of backbone does not bode well for the LGBT citizens of Massachusetts.’’

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Still, O’Connell said Baker was a “great pro-LGBT gubernatorial candidate,’’ and emphasized that she looks forward to having conversations with Polito and educating her on the issues facing the LGBT community.

“It’s not as if the LGBT community lost a lot with Martha Coakley’s loss,’’ she said.

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