Adieu, Arlen Specter.

One of the true political independents has died.  He seemed to grant allegiance only to his conscience rather than to a political party. During his career he was both a Democrat and a Republican at times, but he voted his mind when he was with either party.  He also showed a willingness to change his mind if given new evidence or information.

I don’t agree with everything he did, but in today’s environment of purely oppositional politics, I respect the man.

Specter stated that he is “personally opposed to abortion”, but is “a supporter of a woman’s right to choose”.  He received a 20% rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America in 2005 based on certain votes related to the regulation of abortion; in 2008, he received 100%.

Specter supported some LGBT rights. He voted to prohibit job discrimination based on sexual orientation, and was a co-sponsor of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act.  Specter was opposed to same-sex marriage, but was also opposed to a federal ban and supported civil unions.  Specter voted in favor of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the lame-duck session of the 111th Congress.

Specter strongly opposed most gun control, voting against the Brady Bill, background checks at gun shows, the ban on assault weapons, and trigger locks for handguns.

He supported affirmative action and voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1991, receiving a 76 percent rating from the NAACP in 2008.

He was one of only four Republicans to vote against the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act and in his later years was less enthusiastic about weakening consumer protection laws than many members of his party.

In 1995 he was the only Republican to vote to limit tax cuts to individuals with incomes of less than one million dollars. He voted against CAFTA. Specter also supported an increase in the federal minimum wage. He was a leading supporter of the U.S. Public Service Academy.

On immigration, Specter supported a “pathway to citizenship” and a “guest worker program”, which opponents call amnesty. He introduced Senate bill S. 2611 (the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006) on April 6, 2006, which was passed by the Senate on May 25, 2006 before reaching a stalemate in the House.

On May 3, 2009 Specter went on Meet the Press and was asked “Would you support health care reform that puts up a government run public plan to compete with a private plan issued by a private insurance company?” Specter said no.  Two months later, he changed his position.

Regardless of what you thought of Specter, you must acknowledge that the man had integrity.

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About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.


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