Chrissy Gephardt, the eldest daughter of the Missouri representative, came out to her family and husband in spring 2001 and is now campaigning full-time for her father.
In a speech co-sponsored by the Harvard College Democrats and the Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender and Supporters’ Alliance (BGLTSA) Gephardt focused mainly on her father’s plan to rejuvenate the economy, which she said has been destroyed by President Bush. She said her father will work towards bringing back the bull market of the Clinton era.
“People are losing their jobs left and right. If there are people sitting at home and listening to Bush talk about job increases and they are unemployed...You can only dupe the American people so many times,” said Gephardt, a Washington, D.C., social worker.
But while as a candidate, her father’s focus is on jobs and the economy, the issue of gay rights is one that touches a personal cord within the Gephardt family, she said.
“He sees how it impacts me. He sees how I don’t have the same rights as my brother and sister. He sees that if my partner goes to the hospital, I can’t visit her,” she said.
Gephardt said her dad supports civil unions, gay adoptions and a repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy employed by the military.
These issues, Gephardt said, are part of a larger picture: one of equal rights and civil rights for all citizens.
“If my dad wasn’t a champion of civil rights, I couldn’t be out here doing this,” she said.
But while Gephardt said she and her father are both champions of social justice, she said they do disagree on specificities. While she supports gay marriage, he supports civil unions—which accords couples fewer legal rights.
“If you are talking equal rights, you need equal rights across the board,” she said.
But in an effort to explain this disparity, she said her father is not against gay marriage, but has chosen to support civil unions as a more “realistic stance.”
“My dad is very practical,” Gephardt said. “He has told me, ‘I want to do something that we can actually push through and get accomplished. Civil unions are feasible. We did civil unions in Vermont, but can you imagine getting it done in Missouri?’”
Some students attending the event said they were satisfied with Gephardt’s effort to explain the difference in their beliefs.
“She resolved it very well in showing that she really believes that gay marriage is the right thing to do but at the same time her father brings the pragmatism of an experienced politician. It seems they had struck a balance which I was heartened by,” said Joseph M. Hanzich ’06, speakers director of the Harvard College Democrats.
However, Ryan P. McAuliffe ’06, a member of the Harvard College Democrats and the BGLTSA who did not attend the event, said he was unsatisfied with her explanation.