HRC names Andy Harris among nation's most 'anti-equality' legislators

Baltimore County Republican has opposed same-sex marriage, transgender protections

  • The Human Rights Campaign has named U.S. Rep. Andy Harris -- an Eastern Shore Republican -- as one of the most "anti-equality" legislators in the country when it comes to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.
The Human Rights Campaign has named U.S. Rep. Andy Harris --… (Photo by Matt Button/The…)
October 07, 2014|By Kevin Rector, The Baltimore Sun

The nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization has listed U.S. Rep. Andy Harris -- a Baltimore County Republican -- among the nation's "most anti-equality members of Congress."

The Human Rights Campaign said Tuesday that Harris made its new "Hall of Shame" list of 19 legislators nationwide for having "gone out of his way to sponsor nearly every anti-LGBT bill introduced in the House" since he arrived there in 2010.

The list, which also includes high-profile legislators such as Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), comes ahead of the release of the HRC's larger Congressional Scorecard for the 113th Congress, which will be made available here on Thursday.

Harris, the lone Republican in Maryland's delegation, is the only Maryland legislator on the list. The list is entirely comprised of Republicans, with the exception of Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC). 

Congressional votes often trend along party lines, with Democrats far more in favor of things like same-sex marriage than their Republican counterparts. But the HRC said the legislators who made its new list were singled out from a larger pool of "anti-LGBT members" because their "legislative actions, votes and anti-LGBT vitriol unfortunately marks them with a modern day scarlet letter."

“Although Congress is beginning to catch up with the American people in supporting LGBT equality, Representative Harris’ record stands in stark contrast to the views of the majority of Americans,” said David Stacy, HRC’s Government Affairs Director, in a statement. “Rep. Harris has gone out of his way to oppose steps toward equal protection under the law or to protect LGBT Americans from violence, discrimination and harassment. He proactively works to undermine existing legal protections and promote anti-LGBT discrimination.”

The HRC said its list of House members was determined based on votes to ban same-sex marriage and to preserve the religious rights of welfare providers and members of the military who object to LGBT sexuality.

Chris Meekins, a spokesman for Harris, said Tuesday that the congressman "believes marriage is between one man and one woman and believes in religious liberty."

Harris last year supported a bill that would have added a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in the country, and has spoken out against discrimination protections for transgender people in Maryland.

Same-sex marriage is legal in Maryland after voters approved it in a 2012 ballot measure, though Harris' district -- covering the entire Eastern Shore and parts of Baltimore, Harford and Carroll counties -- voted against it. Transgender discrimination protections went into effect statewide last week.

Harris, a physician, has also supported legislation that the HRC has praised in the past. Last year, the HRC lauded the passage of a bill that lifted the ban on organ donations from HIV-positive donors to HIV-positive recipients. Harris was a lead co-sponsor of the bill in the House.

The HRC is also not alone in its criticism of Harris for his record on LGBT-related issues. Equality Maryland, the state's largest LGBT rights organization, has also taken issue with his stances.

"It is disappointing to see that Harris has not evolved on issues of fairness and equality since his tenure in the Maryland Senate," said Carrie Evans, Equality Maryland's executive director, in a statement on Harris' inclusion on the HRC list on Tuesday. "So many Republicans in Maryland have embraced equality for LGBT people and we hope at some point in the near future Harris will."

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