- Ward 5 candidate Delano Hunter on gays (photo courtesy Delano Hunter)
On Thursday, the Washington Post editorial board advised readers to elect Delano Hunter as Ward 5's representative on the D.C. Council. "Mr. Hunter is not a supporter of marriage equality," the piece read, "but he is not the homophobe his critics make him out to be."
"Not the homophobe" is perhaps not the most ringing endorsement of a D.C. Council candidate, particularly in a town still glowing from a legislative victory for same-sex marriage. But in a phone interview, Hunter, 26, called the endorsement "an honor"—and expanded on his views on homophobia, faith, and funding courtesy of the National Organization for Marriage:
TBD: The Washington Post said you are not the homophobe your critics make you out to be. Have critics accused you of being a homophobe?
Delano Hunter: I think so. I believe so. And it’s a small group—I don’t want to make it seem like it’s something that’s too prevalent, but I’ve heard that come out of some groups who have asked for my stance on marriage. I have a sense that it is a lack of understanding of my beliefs, and of many folks who share my beliefs, they’re trying to label us as homophobes, and we’re not that.
TBD: In a video addressing the issue, you mentioned some harsh criticisms and even death threats you’ve received over the course of the campaign. Can you elaborate on those?
DH: I wasn’t aware of them at first, but after time I started noticing the comments, sometimes on social media, through Twitter. I try not to feed into it, but it can be discouraging. It’s a misrepresentation of who I am and the values that I stand on. I consider myself to be a person that is very tolerant and very accepting, and respectful of others, even if we disagree. We’ve received letters without return addresses, from people saying “I have a son, or I have a daughter that’s gay or a lesbian, and I can’t believe you have these views,” saying that I’m homophobic, intolerant, and a hate-monger. It’s a misrepresentation. We’ve gotten a few phone calls and other things, saying “You’re a hate-monger. You should be wiped off the face of the earth.” Very suggestive comments like that.
You don’t want to take these things lightly, but I don’t fear for my safety. What I do fear is that my position is being misrepresented. That’s why I decided to do the video, and I think it has encouraged some conversation and it has sparked a dialog. I’ve had some back-and-forth with some people via email, and I’ve gotten a few phone calls, so that’s really encouraging.
TBD: How central is your position on marriage to your campaign?
DH: When you’re running for council, you can’t run on one niche issue like that. When you ask me, what are the most pressing issues in Ward 5? I’ll say unemployment, high HIV aids rate, the need to get our residents into the workforce. Those are my top priorities as a council member, and that’s a reflection of what the residents here are telling me is important to them. But of course, running for council, folks will ask for your position on a myriad of issues, and this is one of them. I’m trying to get my whole message out there, but individuals may choose to define your candidacy on one position or stance. That’s just the nature of the beast.
TBD: The Washington Post also said that you would "not seek to change the law." Is that true, that you would not seek to change the marriage law in D.C.?
DH: That is very true. I will respect what the law is, what the law states. I will not seek to change any laws.
TBD: Would you support a vote on same sex marriage in D.C.?
DH: I think the vote is really indicative . . . of the fact that there hasn’t really been enough communication on this issue. There’s really a lot of ignorance in relation to this issue, I think on both sides. . . . In speaking with gays and lesbians, and with proponents of traditional marriage, it's clear that we aren't even arguing about the same issues. The same-sex marriage proponents are saying, “I want equality. I want to have the same rights that are afforded to other married people.” What the traditional marriage proponents are talking about is religious conviction. They’re not opposed to an individual’s rights to do X, Y, and Z. Like health benefits: Most folks are unopposed to that.
. . . But folks don’t want to feel like something is being forced on them, and that’s where the resentment and ignorance on the issue is coming from. I think that the vote is an option, but I think that there are other ways to open up the dialog that will really involve our community more in the conversation. . . . The vote is one way we can express ourselves. But ultimately, I think that would vote would have been kind of the last resort, after we actually attempted to have an honest dialog on the issue. This thing was absolutely, with the exception of the hearings, and a few straw polls in some of the wards, there wasn’t any opportunity to vet this and to get both sides out to talk about this. And that’s why there’s the amount of ignorance out there on both sides.
. . . I've had the opportunity to speak with gays and lesbians on this issue, and there are a variety of viewpoints held even within that community. There are various individuals that I've consulted with on this—former coworkers, friends, people in the community. And I heard a myriad of feelings that were expressed/ So I think that in and of itself is indicative of the complexity of this issue. I valued those conversations, and they did help inform some of my perspectives and some of my beliefs on this issue.
TBD: How would you vote on same-sex marriage?
DH: I would vote in favor of traditional marriage. But there are some caveats to that. . . . When we talk about a vote, it doesn’t have to necessarily be: “Do you believe in same-sex marriage or not?” It could be, “What’s the best vehicle to bring about equality?” Or, “Are you in favor of strengthening domestic partnerships?” Or “what are your thoughts on legalizing same sex marriage?” Because those conversations were never had. We never really explored those issues, to talk about what laws were already on the books. I think that this is an extremely complex issue, something that has a lot of nuances. And it’s something that we have not fully explored.
TBD: You've described your relationship with the National Organization for Marriage as “comfortable,” but you've said you don't agree with them in all their efforts. Can you elaborate on that?
DH: You know, if I didn't know much or I wasn’t really following this race, I would think, ‘Oh, well NOM, they have donated significantly to this campaign.’ And that amount has been 450 dollars. That’s enough to buy a Playstation. That’s negligible.
One of the things I have really campaigned on is addressing the joblessness rate and preparing our residents for the workforce. I have the support of a lot of teachers, a lot of people with a vocational education, and together they’ve donated between 5 and 10 thousand dollars. So why wouldn’t I be considered as the vocational candidate, you know? It misrepresents the campaign to overstate NOM's contribution.
As it relates to their views . . . For instance, the mailer they sent out. [Read the text of the mailer here]. I didn't get that in my mailbox. I didn't see it until the next day. I don’t disagree with what the messaging was, but I may have done it differently. I wouldn’t have used certain terminology or certain words. It’s a relationship that I’m comfortable with. But I may not agree with them 100 percent.