A Republican condemned for his offensive remarks about people with “14 different genders” has insisted that it doesn’t reflect his true views because his niece is gay.
New Jersey state senator Chris Brown came under fire for using his speech at a Veterans Day ceremony to malign the LGBT+ community.
“You give somebody who has 14 different genders a Citizen of the Year award and you have other people who have gone and fought, and they wind up not getting that type of recognition,” he told the crowd.
His unprovoked attack was condemned by Democratic assemblyman John Armato, who called the comments “deplorable”.
“I think that being political, we do political speeches, but not at veterans’ events,” Armato told the New Jersey Globe. “That was very inappropriate, and to be quite honest with you, I don’t usually like to go tit-for-tat, but this actually touched a nerve with me.”
Michael Suleiman, chairman of the Atlantic county Democratic committee, added: “At best it was inappropriate, at worst it was homophobic.”
In the face of mounting criticism, Brown admitted he regretted his comments and used his niece’s sexuality to defend his record.
“Watching my niece, Alexis, have the courage to come out, I witnessed the difficulty of growing up gay, which is why I’m disappointed in my poor choice in words,” he said.
“I apologise because they in no way match my beliefs or my voting record that clearly shows I treat all families with the dignity and respect they deserve.”
He continued: “As a combat veteran and father of three children currently serving in the US Army, my point was, I believe our veterans — including LGBTQ+ veterans — deserve more public recognition for their service and sacrifices.”
Brown’s voting record does indeed indicate support for the LGBT+ community, which makes his offensive comments all the more surprising.
He previously voted in favour of bills requiring LGBT+ history on school curriculums, allowing transgender residents to alter the gender on their birth certificates, and barring “gay panic” as a legal defence.
State records show, however, that Brown also voted against a 2012 bill that would have recognised same-sex marriage in New Jersey.