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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Nelson plays it safe on gay marriage question: 'Should be left to the states'

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson on the gay marriage question, brought to the front of the election season by President Barack Obama:

“I have a record fighting against discrimination and standing up for people’s civil rights based on their sexual orientation. I believe marriage should be left to the states, and Florida voted on same-sex marriage in 2008," said Nelson, referring to the ban approved that year. Nelson is running for re-election.

Tonight, he will give a speech at a "Champions of Equality" event in Miami, and according to prepared remarks, he will expand on his record against descrimination, touting support of the "don't ask, don't tell." He does not mention gay marriage. (Remarks below)

I appreciate your thanks for Debbie’s and my support to ban “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

I am grateful for having the privilege of representing all Americans.

It’s also a privilege to be here with all the other honorees who helped repeal a policy that barred folks because of sexual orientation from serving openly in the U.S. military.

As a member of the Armed Services Committee I cosponsored and voted for, and the President signed this legislation.  I was proud to do so. 

The courage, the bravery, the sacrifice and the patriotism of all Americans who serve deserve no less.

Here in Florida, I stood against the proposed changes last year that would have added many people to the waiting list for AIDS medications.

That’s why Sir Elton John and I co-authored a national newspaper column to shine a spotlight on the situation in Florida.

This was not a political issue or a charitable cause.  It was a matter of what’s right and wrong; whether or not we are acting in people’s best interest.

It is also a matter of our country’s interest that we take responsibility for the way children can be cruel and injurious to each other.

This is why I’m cosponsoring legislation to stop bullying over a child’s race, color, national origin, religion or sexual orientation.  I thank Debbie and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for their bipartisan sponsorship in the House.

I suppose there are still some folks out there who might question the need for this, or any similar measure.

Let them read the tragic story of the high-school freshman who took his own life last month, after classmates threatened him in cellphone calls, voicemails and online comments for being gay.  The local newspaper said: “It wasn’t the first life lost to bullying, but we can strive to make it the last.”  

We can – and, we must.

So, tonight let’s call for passage of the bill that would make all of our children safer.

These are difficult times.  Extremism.  Division.  Excessive partisanship.  Polarization.

It’s time to bring people together to build consensus in order to govern.

Where we have differences, we can be honest, our dialogue can be respectful and our doors can always be open.

I am privileged to represent Florida in the U.S. Senate -- all of Florida.

Thank you all very much.

[Last modified: Friday, May 11, 2012 1:26pm]


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