A Glimmer of Humanity

The reporter was correct, of course. I was psyched when Ned Lamont held a press conference attacking Family Institute of Connecticut a mere two days after winning the Democratic nomination for Governor. “They have impact in this state,” Lamont said of FIC, a line we will be quoting for years to come.

But that was not the most interesting part of the Lamont press conference. A boilerplate event which the press saw right through and then quickly forgot, there was nevertheless one part that was extraordinary.

Only those who have spent years in the trenches for social conservatism in the State of Connecticut would even have noticed it. But it spoke well of our next Governor–even as he was using FIC as a foil to attack his opponents–and we want to take note of it.

At the point where there is 4:35 remaining in CT News Junkie’s video of the Lamont presser, a reporter puts this question to Lamont:

FIC “comes from a point of view that’s opposite yours,” the reporter said to Lamont. “Is it not legitimate for them to advocate for their point of view? They don’t believe in same-sex marriage. They don’t believe in abortion. Is there no room in the public square for people with opposing views?”

Now, what the reporter does next is even more important than his question.

Rep. Jeff Currey, one of the last two openly gay members of our state legislature, is practically jumping out of his skin to answer that question. “I got it!” he enthusiastically volunteers. But the reporter shuts him down and says he wants to hear from the gubernatorial candidate instead.

And that is when we get a hopeful glimmer of humanity from our next governor.

“Of course they have the right to advocate,” Lamont responds. “Of course there’s a public square. Of course they can have this debate…They have the right to advocate, yes.”

You can understand why Jeff Currey did not want Ned Lamont to have first crack at that question. Currey quickly jumped in, nominally agreeing with Lamont but with the language he likely wished Lamont had instead used, language indicating the exact opposite of Lamont’s answer: “anti-gay,” “anti-choice,” “bigotry,” etc.

The point of such language is to imply that, yes, it is not legitimate for FIC to advocate for a socially conservative point of view, that there is no room in Connecticut’s public square for anyone who dares to dissent on same-sex marriage and abortion.

Perhaps Lamont has learned the lesson Currey intended to teach him and will stick closer to the stylebook for slurring social conservatives next time. But we hope not.

Because what was striking about Lamont’s answer–and what perhaps made Currey nervous–is that disparaging people with whom he disagrees is not Ned Lamont’s first instinct. Verbal abuse does not come naturally to him. This would be a significant change for Connecticut’s socially liberal politicians, for whom invective toward social conservatives is standard stuff.

Please do not misunderstand me. Lamont is, if anything, to the left of Dannel Malloy on key issues, most immediately recreational marijuana. (Such is the state of our politics that Malloy is now what passes for a social moderate in today’s Democratic Party.)

But to go from a self-professed porcupine in the Governor’s office to someone with Ned Lamont’s “Aw, shucks” Jimmy Stewart-like manner is a change with positive implications for social conservatives in Connecticut.

The cultural left has taken a sort of soft-totalitarian turn in recent years, declaring not just that social conservatives are wrong but that we should be run out of society. The examples are too numerous to list but the most relevant one for this discussion would be New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2014 statement that pro-lifers “have no place in the state of New York.”

That is what Jeff Currey is really saying about social conservatives in Connecticut. Indeed, it is what our state’s liberal elites have said about us for years.

But it is not what Ned Lamont is saying.

We thank Gov.-elect Lamont for acknowledging what is our due in a free society, our right to advocate for what we know to be true. We wish him well in his inauguration tomorrow and throughout his governorship. And we look forward to working with him when we can and opposing him when we must.