Karen Ocamb

Republican Moderate Turned Democrat Arlen Specter Dies at 82

Filed By Karen Ocamb | October 15, 2012 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: Arlen Specter, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, obituary, Specter and gay rights, switching parties

Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Democrat who became a moderate Republican, then became a Democrat again after the GOP became to extreme for his liberal/moderate beliefs, died from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma at his home Sunday. He was 82.Arlen-Specter.jpeg

Former Senator Arlen Specter. (Photo via guardian.co.uk)

As the New York Times reports, "Specter was a part of American public life for more than four decades." A lawyer on the Warren Commission, Specter claimed the single bullet theory that a lone gunman killed President John F. Kennedy. Oliver Stone contested that theory in the movie "JFK." But the former prosecutor was best known for the roles he played on the Senate Judiciary Committee where he eviscerated right-wing Republican Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork to the delight of liberals and spitting hatred from right wingers - only to later disgust liberals with his treatment of Professor Anita Hill during the confirmation hearing for right winger Clarence Thomas.

Specter was a pro-choice, pro-gay moderate Republican who sponsored or co-sponsored pro-LGBT legislation, such as the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which he sponsored with his friend Sen. Ted Kennedy. In 2009, Specter wrote a piece in the Huffington Post calling for the repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, the passage of the Non-Discrimination Act (he was an original cosponsor of ENDA) and the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. As Andy Towle noted in 2009, gay rights actually help spur Specter's political career. There are few Republicans left who would dare suggest that being pro-gay rights was a positive political stepping stone.

Video of Specter speaking about switching parties and HRC President Chad Griffin's statement after the break.

"On behalf of the Human Rights Campaign, I extend our condolences to the family of Arlen Specter. His support for repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and passage of the Matthew Shepard hate crimes law was critical. As was his willingness to change his mind and oppose the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2006 after voting for it in 2004.

"While we disagreed with his support for some conservative judicial nominees which will leave a lasting negative impact on our community, he was willing to work across party lines to get things done.

"I had the opportunity to host him in Los Angeles while working with him on funding for stem cell research at a time when it was difficult for a Republican Senator to speak out."

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