alt

culture
John McCain's Expected Replacement Is No Friend to LGBTQs

In the wake of John McCain’s death, a replacement must fill his seat in the U.S. Senate as the representative for Arizona. On Tuesday, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced he would be appointing former Senator Jon Kyl for the position.

Kyl highlighted his personal friendship with McCain, who passed away on August 25 from cancer, in his acceptance speech.

“I’m accepting this appointment to fill the seat vacated by the passing of my dear friend because of my sense of duty to the state I love and the institution of a Senate in which I served for 18 years,” said Kyl on Tuesday, as first reported by ABC News.

This isn’t Kyl’s first time in the U.S. Senate. The Republican served as a representative for Arizona alongside John McCain from 1995 until 2013, when he was succeeded by Jeff Flake. Over the course of that time, he served as a ranking member of several committees, as well as the Senate Minority whip.

Kyl spent his nearly two-decade tenure in the U.S. Senate, however, supporting anti-LGBTQ policies.

In 2006, Jon Kyl scored a zero percent from the Human Rights Campaign on its Congressional Scorecard. That score indicates he has supported every anti-LGBTQ policy that has come across his desk. Other lawmakers which have shared that distinction include Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and former Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions.

For instance, Kyl voted in support of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 1996 law which defined federal marriage as between one man and one woman. However, it allowed individual states the right to recognize same-sex unions.

Kyl then went on to co-sponsor a constitutional amendment that would ban marriage equality by defining marriage as between one man and one woman in 2006.

During his time on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kyl interrogated Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan on her opinions of same-sex marriage during her confirmation hearing — suggesting that support for LGBTQ rights would be a deal breaker. Kyl asked a series of questions related to Kagan’s belief in the constitutionality of DOMA.

“So you wouldn’t tell us today, then, whether you believe that the Constitution could be properly read to include such a right?” he asked.

Beyond the marriage equality issue, Kyl also has a history of opposing protections for marginalized communities. In 2002, he voted “No” on a proposed U.S. Senate bill which would have expanded the definition of hate crimes to include characteristics like sexual orientation.

In 1996, during his first term in the upper body of the national legislature, he voted “no” on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 1996. The act — better known as ENDA, — has stalled in various iterations since it was first introduced in 1994. The proposed bill would have extended non-discrimination rights on the basis of sexual orientation to employees.

The most recently introduced version of the bill in 2013 would have prevented discrimination based on not only sexual orientation but also gender identity. It died in the U.S. House of Representatives, later shelved in favor of the Equality Act.

The Equality Act expands on ENDA by including LGBTQ protections in housing, credit, education, and jury service.

Kyl has also been acting as a liaison for the Supreme Court appointment of Brett Kavanaugh, using his power by working to secure Kavanaugh’s nomination. Kavanaugh, whose confirmations hearings began earlier today, has a raised considerable amount of concern in regards to his stance on LGBTQ rights.

Although Kavanaugh didn’t have a chance to weigh in on queer and trans equality during his time as a D.C. district court judge, advocacy groups have fought to unseal his records from the George W. Bush administration. He worked as staff secretary as the White House backed an amendment to the U.S. Constitution which would have prevented same-sex couples from marrying.

If he is quickly seated in the U.S. Senate, Kyl could potentially vote in favor of Kavanaugh’s nomination himself.

But even aside from his history on LGBTQ equality, Jon Kyl has voted against rights and protections for marginalized people in other areas as well. He has opposed affirmative-action in hiring from places that receive federal funds. Prior to Sept. 11, he co-sponsored a proposed federal amendment outlawing desecration of the United States flag.

Along with his stances against black and queer communities, Kyl is a devout pro-lifer — and opposed every conceivable pro-choice measure that has come his way in Congress. His votes include opposing budget increases that would allocate funding to measures reducing teen pregnancy through education programs and contraceptives.

Kyl’s predecessor also scored poorly on the HRC index — finishing his career in Congress with a rating of 15.

McCain, however, made notable progress over the years. He went from opposing LGBTQ inclusion in the military — calling the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” a “sad day” — to voting against a defense reauthorization bill which would allow federally funded religious groups to discriminate in the name of faith.

But Kyl’s history would take Arizona — and Congress — backward. His vote stands to negatively impact equality during a moment when the LGBTQ community needs all the support it can get.

Image via Getty


Phillip Henry

Phillip Henry is a writer, comedian, advocate, and performer in New York City. His writing can be seen in various publications including Teen Vogue and Mic. He hosts a weekly LGBTQ comedy variety show The Tea Party in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan.

in case you missed it