Reid: LDS church is "changing (on gay rights), and that’s good"

In a roundtable with reporters from various news organizations, including The Washington Blade, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made some fairly stunning statements, even for him.

I don't mean Reidsims, his verbal pratfalls that have become legion and legend. I mean some remarkably personal disclosures about his family and faith as it relates to his positions on social issues now that the Senate has passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

This is a continuing pattern of late from Reid, a Mormon who has been reliably conservative on social issues for most of his public career, which frequently has irked or even infuriated the left. But as he has gotten older, he has portrayed himself as changing with the country, of opening his eyes where he was once blind, of being accepting where he all but acknowledges he was once intolerant. Real conversion, as it seems, or politically convenient, it is nonetheless amazing stuff.

From The Blade, which bills itself as "America's Leading Gay News Source," some excerpts from the full piece, which also includes more sneering at Ted Cruz and Republicans but more interestingly, how he sees himself and his church evolving and how he didn't speak out against gay-bashing when he was a kid:

Reid also talked about the significance of including transgender protections in ENDA this time around after they were stripped from the bill when the House voted on it in 2007.

“As I’ve grown on this issue, so have the American people,” Reid said. “One time it was a big deal to people who have tried to understand transgender. That held up this legislation for a while. I’m confident of that. To the credit of the HRC, and other groups, when we wanted to move forward without that, they said ‘no.’”

For me to feel any differently about this, they wouldn’t feel proud of their grandfather,” Reid said. “It’s just with my five children, it’s a non-issue, but for my three adult grandchildren, it’s a non-non-non-issue. They can’t imagine why anyone gives a damn.”

Reid disclosed in an earlier conversation with reporters that he had a lesbian niece. Asked whether he had spoken to her since Senate movement on ENDA, Reid said he hadn’t.

“She called me, left a message when we were able to open the government,” Reid said. “She’s, of course, proud of her uncle. But she and I don’t need to dwell on the issue, she’s just like everybody else.”

Reid, a Mormon, was asked by the Blade how he reconciles his faith, which says homosexuality violates God’s law, with his support for gay rights. Reid replied that he’s given a lot to his church and there are Mormons like him who share his views.

“When I attend church here in Washington, D.C., I bet more people agree with me than disagree with me, and so the church is changing, and that’s good,” Reid said.

In the aftermath of ENDA passage in the Senate, Reid said he’d have to hear from the LGBT community on what the next steps should be, but mentioned bullying as a problem over which he shares concern.

“As I was growing up, somebody who was ‘queer’ was really easy to pick on,” Reid said. “I was not in that category, but I saw it happen, and I didn’t do enough to speak out."

On the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, Reid talked about possible legislative maneuvers and executive orders and: "I think the House is going to have to capitulate,” Reid said. “If they have any hope of a president that can be a viable candidate, or they think they can elect some Republicans, and want to hang on to the House, they’ve got issues.”

Reid also implies in the piece that the Rob Portman religious liberty amendment in ENDA agreed to Wednesday was simply a way to get the Ohio Republican and others, including Sen. Dean Heller, to sign on to get to 60 votes: “I believe it was an effort by them to have a reason for joining the bill."

Now there's the subtle Harry Reid I remember.