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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
January 5, 2007

 

Ford was the only president to join an LGBT group

Washington, D.C.--With the death of Gerald Ford on December 26, America lost the only president to be a member of an organization advocating for LGBT rights and representation.

Ford, who ascended to the presidency with the resignation of Richard Nixon and later lost his election bid to Jimmy Carter, granted an interview to Detroit News columnist Deb Price in 2001 expressing his support for LGBT equality, 66 years after speaking out against racial inequality while on the University of Michigan football team.

�I think they ought to be treated equally,� Ford told Price. �Period.�

He called the struggle for federal benefits for same-sex couples �a proper goal.�

Ford also expressed support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, federal legislation that would bar discrimination by sexual orientation.

�That is a step in the right direction,� he told the openly lesbian Price. �I have a longstanding record in favor of legislation to do away with discrimination.�

After the Price interview, Ford was asked to join the board of the Republican Unity Coalition, a gay-straight alliance in the Republican Party pushing for LGBT inclusion in party politics and removing gay issues as a wedge tool in Republican campaigning.

�President Ford recognized that all Americans deserve to be treated with dignity and fairness,� said Patrick Sammon, president of the Log Cabin Republicans.

Ford was the only president to have two assassination attempts made on him, both in September 1975. In the more famous of the two, Lynette �Squeaky� Fromme pulled out a pistol when Ford went to shake her hand in a Sacramento, Calif. crowd. There was no bullet in the chamber, however, so the gun didn�t fire when she pulled the trigger.

The second would-be assassin, Sara Jane Moore, tried to shoot Ford when he was emerging from the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. Oliver �Bill� Sipple, a Vietnam veteran standing next to Moore, saw her aiming at the president and struck the bottom of her arm as she pulled the trigger, causing the bullet to miss Ford by a few feet.

Ford sent a thank-you letter to Sipple, who had it framed. But in the media glare, Sipple was outed by Harvey Milk, who called him a �gay hero.� Newspapers picked up the story, leading Sipple to be estranged from his parents, who coincidentally lived in Michigan, Ford�s home state.

Rumors circulated for years that Ford snubbed Sipple because he was gay, and that the letter was far less than Ford would have done had his savior been heterosexual.

In conversation with Price, Ford denied it vehemently.

�As far as I was concerned, I had done the right thing and the matter was ended,� he said. �I didn�t learn until sometime later--I can�t remember when--he was gay.�

Ford also sent a letter of condolence to Sipple�s friends when the veteran died in 1989 at the age of 47.

The president, who was not considered particularly moderate during his tenure, also opposed a federal constitutional amendment banning abortion, believing the matter should be left to the states, and in 2004 gave an interview to Bob Woodward saying that he believed that invading Iraq was a mistake. Ford, who asked Woodward not to release the interview until after his death, said that he did not approve of the Bush administration�s justifications for the war.

Ford was also a staunch supporter of affirmative action at the University of Michigan and wrote opinion pieces for the New York Times in favor of the program, which was struck by the Supreme Court last year.

In the end, Ford was a classic conservative, one who believed in limited government.

�He didn�t want government in the classroom, he didn�t want it in the board room, and he didn�t want it in the bedroom,� Richard Norton Smith, former director of the Ford library, told the New York Times� David D. Kirkpatrick.

 

 

 

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