U.S. Senator Kay Hagan has a communications closet problem. While the North Carolina Democrat is a supporter of LGBT rights generally – she voted in favor of the current federal hate crimes law and to repeal DADT, she has a history of trying to fly under the public radar in doing so, as if the right wing isn’t going to notice her voting record.

Witness her recent statement, reported by the Washington Blade, about the business-killing anti-LGBT amendment that will go on the ballot in May 2012.

Senator Hagan implores elected officials everywhere to focus on lowering the nation’s unemployment rate and remains wary of attempts to alter constitutions in the heat of today’s charged political environment,” said Mary Hanley, a Hagan spokeperson.

The spokesperson issued the statement via email in response to the Washington Blade’s request for comment on whether Hagan opposes the measure, which will come before North Carolina voters in May 2012.

The statement doesn’t explicitly mention the amendment or state direct opposition to the measure. It’s similar to a statement the White House first issued to the Washington Blade this week saying President Obama “believes strongly in stopping laws designed to take rights away” without conveying explicit opposition the amendment.

Wary? Is that all?! Just pitiful. This tepid response from Sen. Kay Hagan is typical. No strong statement of opposition to what is a disgusting move by her state’s government to curtail civil rights to a minority group. A forceful condemnation is in order, but we have to settle for this. From a Democrat.

It’s one thing for the President to do that dumb tap dance of commitment (that’s bad enough), but Kay Hagan has no business — as a Senator whose state is going to host the Democratic National Convention — issuing any kind of statement that leaves it open to interpretation as to whether she supports “letting the people” decide the civil rights of any North Carolinians.

The History of Hagan’s Communications Closet and the LGBT community

Hagan ran and won her seat, ousting Elizabeth Dole in 2008. One of the more closet-communication-worthy episodes during the primary (she faced the first openly gay man to run for the U.S. Senate from NC, Jim Neal), was her refusal to be interviewed either by Pam’s House Blend, or LGBT-focused QNotes about her positions on any issues related to pending pro-LGBT legislation she would vote for as Senator. I had submitted very specific, non-gotcha questions on BlueNC, our state’s progressive blog, and received only a cursory public reply.

All of my follow-ups were ignored, as were related questions of the same nature asked by others at BlueNC. As I noted then:

The questions I asked are ones I that would ask of any candidate who would represent me. They weren’t “gotcha” questions, or vague general ones. Hagan is supposed to represent all of us as a U.S. Senator, and if she is not willing to respond to questions about pending legislation, then I’m left to believe that she has no intention of supporting those measures. I suppose Sen. Hagan could support all of the legislation, but her answer left it open to interpretation (though it would be simple enough to confirm with a reply that Kay Hagan would vote in these cases to affirm extending civil rights to LGBT citizens, not curtail them).

North Carolina voters who are advocates of LGBT civil rights have a right to know a U.S. Senator candidate’s position, and, as I showed in my recent interview with lieutenant governor candidate Dan Besse, there are politicians in the state who have no problem addressing LGBT issues in a straightforward manner. It speaks volumes about a candidate and their campaign when basic questions go unanswered.

The irony is that Sen. Hagan co-sponsored transgender inclusive non-discrimination bills in the past in our General Assembly; this perhaps makes her liveblog answer all the more disappointing. She could have cited this experience and support, yet she chose not to, playing it safe, hoping the issue will go away.

The irony is that in 2010, we had another Senate race that was a helluva sea change. Sen. Richard Burr was running to hold his seat and the Blend held liveblogs with the top three Democrats running in the primary, Ken Lewis, Elaine Marshall, and Cal Cunningham — and all the candidates openly discussed their views and had sections of their web sites devoted to LGBT issues, many beefed up during the days leading up to their liveblogs in response to Blend readers.

And this year, the man who became the chair of the NC Democratic Party, David Parker, also visited the Blend, strongly supporting LGBT equality.

Has Hagan learned nothing from this cultural and political change – LGBT issues don’t have to remain in the closet; if you want to collect LGBT money at fundraisers, you need to be able to strongly support equality, not hide. Now that we’ve passed hate crimes legislation and repealed DADT, the sky hasn’t fallen, Senator. Do the right thing and explain why our state constitution MUST NOT be used to strict civil rights. It’s not something to be “wary” about in 2011.

* 2008 – NC: U.S. Senate candidate Kay Hagan refuses to answer basic questions about LGBT legislation