By Andy Metzger
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
BOSTON -- Though a wide gulf separates their views on gender and sexuality, the five Democrats and two independents who shared a Tuesday night debate stage with longshot gubernatorial candidate Scott Lively hardly acknowledged the anti-gay pastor's comments.
"Why would we be propping up homosexual relationships?" Lively asked in response to moderator Peter Kadzis's question about how to raise awareness of same-sex domestic violence.
"I should get an award after this. Somebody owes me a martini," said independent Jeff McCormick, who went next and sat to the left of Lively at the end of the dais. Democratic candidate Juliette Kayyem, who sat on the other side of Lively, said she deserved a glass of white wine.
Lively is a Springfield pastor and is listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a "veteran of the anti-gay movement," who is "perhaps best-known for co-writing the thoroughly discredited, Holocaust revisionist book The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party (1995), which claims that the Nazi party was full of gay men who, because of their 'savagery,' were able to carry out the Holocaust."
The other candidates - Democrats Joe Avellone, Don Berwick, Martha Coakley, Steven Grossman and Kayyem along with independents Evan Falchuk and McCormick - talked about the need for more services for gay and transgender youth and supported policies granting gay and transgender people the right against discrimination.
Republican nominee Charlie Baker - who could face a court challenge for primary ballot access by Republican Mark Fisher - had a scheduling conflict, according to the campaign, which said there were longstanding campaign events and declined to provide further details.
If Baker had shown up, he would have found agreement with the five Democrats on gay marriage, and disagreement on transgender access rights. Baker spokesman Tim Buckley said Baker "is and has always been a strong supporter of marriage equality." Buckley also said Baker supported the 2011 law giving transgender people the right against discrimination, but opposes efforts to extend transgender rights to locker rooms and bathrooms - an issue that is up periodically for debate in the Legislature.
Baker has missed other opportunities to appear alongside the Democrats.
The debate at Boston Public Library was sponsored by WGBH and MassEquality, an advocacy group for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer, or LGBTQ communities.
The closest any of the candidates came to directly challenging Lively were bank shots. After Lively closed with a reading from Corinthians, Grossman recited his own biblical passage, from Deuteronomy.
"Justice. Justice, thou shalt pursue," Grossman intoned, saying he wanted to give "another part of the Bible equal time."
Lively, who said in 1992 his family took in a "former homosexual dying of AIDS" and cared for him until his death, drew some vocal reactions and occasional laughter from the crowd gathered for the debate.
"You're never going to stop AIDS until you stop treating homosexual sodomy as a civil right and start treating it as a moral conduct to avoid," said Lively.
"Okay," Kadzis said, moving on to the next question as many in the audience burst into laughter.
While they advocated nearly opposite positions from one another, neither Lively nor the other seven candidates directly challenged one another during the debate.
"Those who support LGBTQ rights are on the right side of history, and there's no point in engaging someone who's so clearly on the wrong side," Kayyem told the News Service after the debate.
"This country would be worse if we didn't have a First Amendment protecting freedom of speech," Grossman told reporters. He said, "All I was really trying to say is that the Bible can be used by anybody to make a point."
Grossman also knocked Baker, reiterating comments he made on stage for the News Service, saying, "For Charlie Baker to have called public accommodations 'The Bathroom Bill,' to have been as demeaning and as denigrating to the rights of transgender people that he has been - and he's never taken it back, and never changed it - that's not open; that's not welcoming; that's not accessible. This Commonwealth deserves better leadership..."
Grossman was passing a kidney stone during the forum, according to aides.
A Baker aide said he would be happy to meet with MassEquality.
Others experienced some discomfort at the gathering.
"Seated where I was seated I felt a little isolated," McCormick told the News Service, continuing, "And I applaud the organization for encouraging a full conversation."
"This is clearly not my constituency," Lively told a television camera at the debate's conclusion.