Dean Young was quoted in the Birmingham News in 1997 saying, “To the homosexuals who will not change, you are not welcome here in Etowah County or in the State of Alabama.”
Sixteen years later, Young is running in a special election to fill an open U.S. House seat in Alabama.
Asked about that quote by The Daily Caller on Friday, Young disputed that he ever said it: “First of all, don’t believe everything you read in the newspaper.”
“Homosexuality is wrong today,” Young told TheDC. “It was wrong yesterday. And it will be wrong tomorrow. I disagree with the homosexual lifestyle as you can tell, but all people are welcome in the United States. I never said people aren’t welcome.”
After placing second in the GOP primary held on Tuesday, Young is set to battle former Alabama gubernatorial candidate and state legislator Bradley Byrne in a November run-off. The winner of that contest is expected to easily win the general election and become the next congressman of this heavily Republican district.
“We’ve got a problem in this country where they’re trying to redefine the word marriage,” Young said Friday. “And marriage is between one man and one woman. And it always has been and it always will be. Anything other than that is pretending. And it doesn’t matter what five people on the Supreme Court say. They can’t just redefine what’s been true for thousands of years.”
Those are hardly controversial political views to have in Alabama. But Young’s past comments about gays make the Orange Beach businessman different from other Republican candidates in the state.
It’s not hard to find news clips dating back to the 1990s detailing Young’s strong anti-gay views. As executive director of the Christian Family Association, Young was often quoted in support of Roy Moore, the “ten commandments judge,” who Young once worked for.
Moore was removed from his position as chief justice in 2003 for refusing to move a Ten Commandments monument from the state’s judicial building. He has since been re-elected to the office and is supportive of Young’s candidacy.
During a July 30, 1996 courthouse rally in support of Moore, the Associated Press reported that Young said of gays: “Either you get your lives straight or you get back in the closet where you came from.”
The Gadsden Times reported on September 20, 1996 that Young said: “I have been brought into this battle and will fight the homosexual agenda and the ACLU with every fiber of my being.”
Young defended Moore’s ruling in a lesbian child custody dispute in 1997 by saying: “The fact that Judge Moore spoke out against that lifestyle is no different than speaking against murder and other crimes.”
“It breaks the law of Alabama to have homosexual contact,” Young continued. “And it is against the laws of nature and nature’s God.”
In 1997, the Birmingham News reported that Young said being a homosexual violates “the laws of nature.” “If animals tried it, they would get bit,” Young said.
The Associated Press reported in February 2002 that Young called homosexuality a “deviant” and “destructive lifestyle.”
“If they don’t like the laws of Alabama … then maybe they need to go back to California or Vermont or wherever they came from,” Young said.
On Friday, Young pushed back on the suggestion that he is hateful.
“I just want to be clear: trying to paint me as somebody who hates people, that people aren’t welcome, that’s not true,” he told TheDC. “Trying to paint me as someone that believes marriage is between a man and woman, that is true. I believe that.”
Even though his opponent, Bradley Byrne, is for traditional marriage, Young took a swipe at him on the issue. He pointed out that Byrne attends the Episcopal Church, the American leadership of which is staunchly pro-gay marriage.
“Am I against the homosexual lifestyle? Yes I am,” Young said. “Do I love the homosexuals? I don’t like what they do. But they’re people. I’m a person. I’m not any better than they are. But it’s just wrong. And it always will be wrong.”
Young’s strong Christian views have led to trouble before. In 1998, while working for the Christian Family Association, Young was accused of berating a rabbi inside a restaurant.
Rabbi Sidney Vineburg, who was leader of the Northeast Wisconsin Interfaith Alliance, later recounted that he had been invited to meet with members of Young’s group, including Alabama Judge Roy Moore. But Vineburg said when he arrived for the meeting, Young launched into a “vitriolic diatribe” and denounced Vineburg as “a leader of the forces of darkness.” Young then described himself as the “forces of light.” He demanded Vineburg leave the restaurant, according to the rabbi.
“I was shocked and dismayed by the attack since I have a good relationship with the local members of CFA and particularly since they invited me to have lunch with Judge Moore,” Vineburg said in a press release afterward. “I was even more surprised because it came from a person who claims to be a leader of religious people.
Young denies the accusations.
“I didn’t do that,” Young said. “[Vineburg] totally took that out of context. He was trying to get publicity.”
Young emphasized that he’s very pro-Israel, saying that people are “really stretching” to use the Vineburg accusation to suggest otherwise.
“Netanyahu is a hero,” Young said of the Israeli prime minister. “I think the world of him. And think Israel has every right to exist. “
Asked about the incident on Friday, Jim Zeigler, an attorney and spokesman for Dean Young’s campaign, emphasized that Young is strongly supportive of Israel and is a “Zionist.”
“The Roy Moore supporters and the Dean Young supporters are the strongest pro-Israel supporters that you could imagine,” Zeigler told TheDC.
For Young – who grew up poor and became successful in real estate — being known as the anti-gay marriage candidate could be helpful in getting his base of Moore-aligned social conservatives to the polls. He has benefited from the endorsement of former Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle, whose PAC spent money in support of Young in the primary.
Unlike many candidates in the age of Obama, the top issue for Young’s campaign is not the sluggish economy or the president’s unpopular health care law but gay marriage.
During the GOP primary, Young called for the ouster of a member of the State Republican Party Executive Committee for having pro-gay marriage views. He also asked all the candidates to sign a six-point pledge on gay marriage.
That pledge included the lines: “I believe the Biblical condemnation of homosexuality and thereby gay marriage”; “The [tenets] of my church oppose gay marriage” and “As a member of Congress, I shall take active steps to oppose gay marriage.”
“I’m against homosexuals pretending like they’re married,” Young told a local TV station. When asked if it was safe to say he wasn’t going for the gay vote, Young responded with a smile.
“I’m definitely not,” he said.