Washington, DC — Tonight openly gay candidate Alex Morse lost the Democratic primary for Massachusetts' 1st Congressional District after a coordinated homophobic attack was launched against him in the final weeks of his campaign. Morse was targeted with false allegations that sensationalized his sexuality and used homophobic tropes just as internal polling showed Morse in a position to defeat incumbent U.S. Representative Richard Neal. The attacks drew national attention to the double standards LGBTQ candidates often face — especially as it relates to their dating and sex lives.
"The efforts to sensationalize and weaponize Alex's sexual orientation certainly influenced the outcome of this race, but the backlash it engendered should give pause to those considering similar tactics in the future," said Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund. "We are grateful Alex stayed in the race and took the body blows necessary to expose the double standards too often placed on LGBTQ candidates. His campaign contributed to a larger conversation about how candidates of color, women candidates and LGBTQ candidates face a level of scrutiny and sensationalism that straight white cisgender men simply do not.
"LGBTQ candidates are facing a growing number of homophobic and transphobic attacks this year and whether they succeed or fail will set an important precedent for the future. While Alex's loss is disappointing, it proved our community and our allies can respond forcefully in exposing the dog whistles and stereotypes that too often haunt LGBTQ candidates. We will not allow attacks on LGBTQ candidates to go unanswered during the final two months of this election cycle.
"We endorsed Alex for the U.S. Congress because diverse representation in elected office is essential to inclusive policies and legislation. When LGBTQ people are in the halls of power, it influences the debates, changes hearts and minds, and advances equality for our community. We still have an opportunity to double the number of LGBTQ members of the U.S. House this year — and we are ready to help make that happen."
Victory Fund was the first organization to defend Morse after UMass Amherst College Democrats released a letter with vague and anonymous allegations claiming Morse made several college students "uncomfortable" in interactions on social media or dating apps. Victory Fund noted the allegations were "timed with the political calendar" and the that the attacks were likely an effort to sensationalize his sexual orientation. Within days, at least one elected official and some media outlets were using the word "teenagers" to describe the anonymous college-age students described in the allegations — a clear attempt to evoke homophobic stereotypes of gay men as pedophiles.
Soon after, media investigations revealed the allegations against Morse were a "political hit job" and a politically-motivated hoax — with the key author admitting he pushed for the letter to secure a job with Morse's opponent and that efforts were made to seek out and bait Morse on dating apps. Yet almost a week after the allegations were disproven, voters in the district began receiving calls with supposed "survey questions" perpetuating the lies. And in the final days of the campaign, American Working Families PAC released a television ad showing Alex's dating profile photo and saying he "admits to sexual relationships with college students." The UMass Amherst College Democrats have since apologized for releasing the letter.
Victory Fund worked closely with the Morse campaign following the allegations — working to ensure the truth was investigated and that homophobic attacks on Morse were confronted and condemned.
Morse is one of a number of LGBTQ candidates who have been attacked this cycle because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Most recently, the National Republican Campaign Committee highlighted Congressional candidate Gina Ortiz Jones' same-sex partner and included it on a list of ways to attack her. Earlier this month, Florida state Representative Shevrin Jones was the target of robotexts that referenced his "homosexual contact" with other men. He has since won his primary for a Florida state Senate seat.
More LGBTQ people are running for office than ever before this year — at least 880. Victory Fund has endorsed in 310 of those races, the most in its 29-year history.
LGBTQ Victory Fund
LGBTQ Victory Fund works to change the face and voice of America's politics and achieve equality for LGBTQ Americans by increasing the number of openly LGBTQ elected officials at all levels of government.