Cornyn's staff is still trying to set the record straight about his 2004 'box turtle' reference

Here’s a note I received this morning from Kevin McLaughlin, communications director for U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, about my post last night in which I said that Cornyn once equated gays with “box turtles.”

Hey John –

Caught your post below and just wanted to touch base with you regarding it, particularly the “box turtle” reference.

I just wanted to make sure you were aware that Sen. Cornyn never said that. I know many have claimed otherwise, but those who do so knowingly are just perpetuating a lie.

The truth is that it was written into a speech by a staffer and the Senator took it out and never said it.

I just wanted to make sure you had the facts in case you wanted to issue a clarification.

Thanks
KPM

For the record, it’s true that Cornyn dropped the “box turtle” reference from a 2004 speech to the Heritage Foundation. But the reference appeared in an advance copy of the speech that was given to The Washington Post, and the newspaper ran it. Here’s the quote:

“It does not affect your daily life very much if your neighbor marries a box turtle. But that does not mean it is right … [N]ow you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife.”

I guess we should give Cornyn a little credit for dropping the reference from his actual speech, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s been a vocal proponent of a federal marriage amendment, most recently trying to attach it to health care reform legislation. I’m also aware that he’s consistently received a score of zero on LGBT equality from the Human Rights Campaign. To elaborate on my post from last night, it appears as though Cornyn and other conservatives might not have a problem with a gay Supreme Court nominee, as long as that person doesn’t support gay rights. Indeed, conservatives are already preparing for the possibility that Solicitor General Elena Kagan will be the nominee by zeroing in on her support for gay rights. Kagan isn’t gay, but she once filed a court brief supporting law schools’ right to bar military recruiters from campus based on the discriminatory “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Read more in The Advocate.

UPDATE: Since I made a clarification, I asked McLaughlin to clarify Cornyn’s remark about a gay Supreme Court nominee. Here’s what he said: Sen. Cornyn believes every nominee, for the Supreme Court or elsewhere, should be evaluated based on their qualifications for the job and a person’s sexual orientation should not disqualify someone from serving.” I’ve replied with a simple question, That’s great, but shouldn’t Sen. Cornyn then support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would essentially apply this philosophy to federal employment protections?” Stay tuned to find out what McClaughlin says.

UPDATE NO. 2: Here’s McLaughlin’s response:

“He [Cornyn] subscribes to Chief Justice Roberts’ theory, and I am paraphrasing, that the best want to stop discrimination is to stop discriminating.”

And here’s my response to him:

“Yes, but oftentimes people won’t stop discriminating unless they’re forced to. Does Sen. Cornyn propose repealing employment protections for race, religion or gender? If we simply have faith that employers will stop discriminating, why do we need any protections at all? Furthermore, if Sen. Cornyn thinks it’s best to stop discriminating, why does he want to discriminate against gays and lesbians by denying them the right to marry, or barring them from serving openly in the military?”

Let’s see how long I can keep this conversation going.

—  John Wright