Former president said atmosphere was different during his time in Washington, but lately became a staunch supporter of gay rights
Of all the things that former President Gerald Ford is remembered for, his support of the LGBT community probably is not high on the list.
Ford died Dec. 26 and was buried in his hometown of Grand Rapids, Mich., on Wednesday, Jan. 3, following a state funeral.
But even though “the atmosphere was totally different 25 years ago,” said Ford of his own presidency, he had recently come out in support of equal rights for LGBT people. The former president told lesbian columnist Deb Price during an exclusive interview in 2001, “I think they [LGBT folks] ought to be treated equally. Period.”
Ford served as the president of the Republican Unity Coalition’s advisory board in 2001, when a famous Dallas businessman, Trammel S. Crow, also served on the board. According to their Web site, the Republican Unity Coalition works to make “homosexuality a “‘non-issue’ for the Republican Party.”
“I have always believed in an inclusive policy, in welcoming gays and others into the party,” said Ford in Price’s interview. “I think the party has to have an umbrella philosophy if it expects to win elections.”
“I think that the Republican Unity Coalition is a wonderful organization that’s had a really positive impact on the Republican Party,” said Log Cabin Republicans co-chair Carla Halbrook.
Ford, whose ascension through the vice presidency and presidency came through appointment rather than election, faced lifelong criticism for his full pardon of Nixon on Sept. 8, 1975, less than a month following Nixon’s resignation. Although he helped keep spending under control, according to Halbrook, Ford lost the following election to Democrat Jimmy Carter.
Since then, Ford had stayed involved with public life and policy. In his 2001 interview with Price, Ford said he supported federal legislation to outlaw employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.
“That is a step in the right direction,” he said. “I have a longstanding record in favor of legislation to do away with discrimination.”
The former president also said that he thought that getting Social Security, tax and other federal benefits secured for same-sex couples is “a proper goal.”
Find out more about the Republican Unity Coalition at www.RepublicanUnity.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, January 5, 2007.