BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com
A Christian group has chastised U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, as “an arrogant, anti-family, homosexualist extremist” for becoming the first Republican in Congress to co-sponsor legislation to repeal the federal ban on gay marriage.
“We’re putting her and all other Republicans on notice that if they’re going to represent themselves as Republicans, they’ve got to respect the party platform,” said Anthony Verdugo, executive director of the Christian Family Coalition in Miami-Dade County.
In late September, several national gay-rights groups announced that Ros-Lehtinen had become a co-sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal a 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which prevents the U.S. government from recognizing married gay couples.
"I have had the opportunity to speak with so many members of our community on both sides of the issue of marriage equality and, after much soul-searching, have concluded that it is time for our laws to better reflect the principles of equality that serve the better angels of our nature," Ros-Lehtinen told The Herald. "I'm a pro-life, gay rights advocate so I manage to upset many folks at any given time!"
Verdugo said Ros-Lehtinen’s conservative constituents are not happy. “When they voted for Ros-Lehtinen, this isn’t what they signed up for,” he said.
Ros-Lehtinen was among 342 'yes' votes for the '96 Defense of Marriage Act. Now, she has become the 124th co-sponsor of the bill to repeal it.
By 2003, Ros-Lehtinen had already co-sponsored or supported a federal hate-crimes bill that protects gays from federal employment discrimination and laws that increased funding for HIV/AIDS prevention.
In 2005, she bucked Republican Party leadership and joined 70 Democrats in supporting repeal of the military gay ban.
The next year, Ros-Lehtinen said she was one of 27 Republicans who voted against a federal constitutional amendment on gay marriage.
During summer 2008, Ros-Lehtinen told Miami gay Republicans that she opposed Florida's Amendment 2, which passed the following November and banned gay marriages, civil unions and state-recognized domestic partnerships.
Later, she learned that daughter Amanda had come out as a transgender man named Rodrigo.