Gordon Ain't Gay Sen. Gordon Smith makes gays less than happy. Ryan Jackson
Last Thursday, about 100 protesters with handmade posters gathered outside Senator Gordon Smith's office to set the record straight on his relationship to gay Oregonians. The protesters were angry about a recent campaign commercial that features an appearance by Judy Shepard, mother to slain hate-crime victim Matthew Shepard. They accused the senator of exploiting a tragedy for votes.

In that ad, Shepard voices her support for Smith. "I consider Gordon a good friend," she says. "Matthew would have liked Gordon a lot." Since her son's murder in 1998, the Wyoming housewife has worked aggressively to pass anti-hate-crime legislation.

Meanwhile, in spite of a track record peppered with anti-gay legislation, Smith has been at the forefront of anti-hate-crime legislation and has signed on as co-sponsor of an employment nondiscrimination act.

"I have lent my support to Senator Smith because he has stood by me and my efforts," Shepard explains. She has not endorsed any other politicians--not even in her home state--and, according to a Human Rights Campaign spokesperson, was not paid for the ad.

Spokespeople for Basic Rights Oregon, a gay/lesbian/bi/transsexual/ transgender group, were careful to not criticize Shepard. Instead they called Smith's ad "manipulative" and "exploitative," and his voting record "inconsistent" and "disappointing." Quivering with rage, Roey Thorpe, executive director of BRO, addressed a supportive crowd of nearly 100 in front of Portland's World Trade Center. "We measure friendship by who we can count on day in and day out," said Thorpe. "Gordon Smith is not our friend."

A first-time senator, Smith has maintained a controversial relationship with many liberals. A Mormon, Smith gave $1000 to the Christian Coalition in 2001, and voted with them nearly 85 percent of the time between 1997 and 2000. As state senator, Smith failed to publicly stand against 30 anti-gay ballot measures and voted against every piece of anti-gay-discrimination legislation.

More recently, in August, a Smith fundraiser attended by President Bush drew thousands of protesters. Yet, in spite of these demonstrations, in his first bid for re-election, Smith remains far ahead in polls. A recent statewide poll reported that 53 percent support Smith. His Democratic opponent, Secretary of State Bill

Bradbury, lags at 30 percent. Even further back is Constitutional Party candidate Lon Mabon, who heads the Oregon Citizens Alliance. In past elections the OCA had endorsed Smith, but Mabon says he decided to run against him when the senator began working on anti-hate-crime measures.

"Gordon changed," explained Mabon. "He accepted the endorsement of the Log Cabin Republicans and accepted the homosexual agenda." Regarding the ad, Mabon said, "I was surprised that he would be so blatant in his support for the gay agenda to the voters of Oregon, but it didn't surprise me that he was willing to associate with the agenda and have homosexuals support him."