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NY-Sen: Ford Flips On Gay Marriage, Says He Will Decide “In The Coming Weeks”

Today was a busy day in the New York Senate race even if you didn’t talk about Kirsten Gillibrand and Harold Ford. Left-wing Democratic candidate Jonathan Tasini launched a campaign to end the filibuster, and both of the top Republican recruits for the race – Rep. Peter King and former Rep. Susan Molinari – dropped out of consideration for the race.

With Gillibrand and Ford included, the day was, in a word, hectic. It started early, with Harold Ford dropping a bombshell – he now supports same-sex marriage.

In what will likely be read as another sign of his interest in running against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in this year’s Democratic primary, ex-Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford Jr. publicly said for the first time that he was in favor of same-sex marriage.

“He supports gay marriage, in the interest of fairness and equality,” Ford spokesman Davidson Goldin told The Post.

Ford backed up that statement himself this morning on the “Today Show.”

Host Matt Lauer asked, “So you’re now in favor of same sex marriage?”

“Civil unions and same-sex marriage, yes,” Ford said.

I’m all for welcoming politicians to the right side of this debate. But as far as flip-flops go, this one is pretty epic. Ford has written about his opposition to gay marriage. He aired ads affirming his commitment to banning gay marriage. And he voted for a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. This is analogous to George W. Bush suddenly coming out for a windfall 90% tax on the wealthiest 1% of the nation.

And that’s why the NY Empire State Pride Agenda isn’t buying this conversion.

I know Harold Ford Jr. just arrived to New York, but as a native and lifelong resident, I know what New York values are, and I know a snake oil salesman when I see one. You simply can’t claim to be pro-equality if you’ve twice voted to enshrine discrimination into the U.S. Constitution.

While it may be tempting for Mr. Ford to compare himself to people like Sen. Chuck Schumer, the fact remains that Sen. Schumer — who did evolve on his position on marriage equality — has been a longtime supporter of several pieces of legislation that are very important to LGBT people and never supported the awful Federal Marriage Amendment. Harold Ford Jr. is no Chuck Schumer, and he is no Kirsten Gillibrand.

For what it’s worth, the White House has stepped into this debate, saying that they support Gillibrand:

“I think the White House is quite happy with the leadership and the representation of Sen. Gillibrand in New York, and, as many are in the [Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee] we’re supporting her reelection,” Gibbs said at the daily press briefing.

Asked whether White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) would be able to clear the primary field, Gibbs was coy.

“Stay tuned,” he said.

Ford was actually asked about the White House’s lack of support for his candidacy on tonight’s edition of Hardball. He told Chris Matthews that he’s “giving a lot of thought” to running in the Democratic primary, and that he would “make a decision in the coming weeks,” adding that “New York deserves a fair election and a free election.” (I’m still trying to figure out exactly what that means; presumably something about Gillibrand being appointed.) Asked if he would run if the White House didn’t back him, Ford said that “I have great respect for President Obama, and if I was elected I look forward to working with him […] I will listen to voters in New York if I make this decision.”

Capping the interview with a nod to the latest scandal du jour, Ford said, “No Negro dialect here tonight.”

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David Dayen

David Dayen