New Hampshire Senate candidate was pushing 'Don't Say Gay' agenda 12 years ago

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Republican Kevin Smith served as executive director of the anti-LGBTQ Cornerstone Policy Research for three years.

Republican Kevin Smith is campaigning for his party's nomination to run in the 2022 general election against New Hampshire incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan as a longtime local town manager and what his campaign website calls "a kitchen table conservative with local, New Hampshire values." The website fails to mention that, 11 years ago, Smith led the charge to stop public schools from acknowledging and affirming the existence of LGBTQ people.

From 2009 to 2011, Smith served as executive director of Cornerstone Policy Research and its Cornerstone Action lobbying arm. Affiliated with James Dobson's religious-right Focus on the Family empire, Cornerstone has been one of New Hampshire's leading anti-LGBTQ organizations for decades.

During his tenure at the helm, the New Hampshire Union Leader reported, Smith pushed to keep "pro-gay" curriculum out of New Hampshire's public schools. In February 2010, the newspaper reported on Feb. 14, he led opposition to the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in an anti-bullying proposal, which Cornerstone called a "bill mandating gay and transgender material in school curriculum" and said was being used "as a tool for political activists to inject their sexualized agenda into the classroom."

In June of that year, according to a publication under the title "Parents beware: 'Anti-bullying' initiatives are gay activists' latest tools of choice for sneaking homosexuality lessons into classrooms," issued by the lobbying arm of Focus on the Family, Smith was. quoted as saying, "Anti-bullying policies in and of themselves are not bad things, but parents have to be aware they are being co-opted by these political activists who are using it as a vehicle to infuse their own agenda into the public school curriculum."

Smith said that "no one is saying that kids who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender shouldn't be protected. They need to be protected just as every other student is protected. But we have to be sure that those antibullying measures don't translate into discussions of homosexual issues in the classroom."

In June 2009, Smith had pressured his local school board in Litchfield, New Hampshire, to remove material from its high school curriculums that he did not think had "good, wholesome values to it," including David Sedaris' "I Like Guys," about his experiences as a gay adolescent.

"We are not Cambridge, Mass., or L.A., or even Hanover," he told the school committee. The Union Leader reported on June 18, 2009, that Smith was considering taking legal action over the issue.

Republican lawmakers in Florida and across the country are today using a similar strategy, pushing "Don't Say Gay" bills to bar school teachers and staff from so much as mentioning to kids that some people and some families are LGBTQ.

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently signed a bill into law that bars elementary school educators from teaching about "sexual orientation or gender identity" before the fourth grade in a way that is "not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards."

Cornerstone's website during Smith's tenure included links promoting harmful "conversion therapy" that purportedly could change people's sexual orientation or gender identity. The now-scrubbed "homosexual issues" section contained links to groups that included Exodus International, which shut down in 2013 and apologized to the LGBTQ community for "years of undue judgment by the organization and the Christian Church as a whole."

Two years after New Hampshire became one of the first states to adopt marriage equality by legislation, Smith spearheaded an unsuccessful 2011 effort to repeal it. He promised to push every 2012 presidential candidate to sign a "pledge sheet for candidates saying whether they support marriage being only between a man and a woman."

"We will ask all the candidates to sign that pledge, and I think it will most certainly make news if some of them won't," Smith said.

A Smith spokesperson did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.

Smith is one of a number of Republicans hoping to run in November.

Hassan, who has consistently voted in support of LGBTQ rights, received the endorsement of the Human Rights Campaign on Tuesday. Interim group president Joni Madison praised the first-term incumbent as "a passionate and reliable ally to the LGBTQ+ community."

In the endorsement press release, the pro-equality organization noted that during his tenure at Cornerstone, Smith called marriage equality "radical social engineering" and being gay "a lifestyle choice" It also noted that he once lobbied for the National Organization for Marriage, a national group leading the fight to stop same-sex couples from having the freedom to marry.

In recent weeks, Smith has repeatedly attacked Hassan — who has close to a perfect attendance record — as an "absent senator." But a review of Smith's own record during his two years as a New Hampshire state legislator revealed that he missed 61% of floor votes during in 1998.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.