Mum for Days, Mass. GOP Head Refuses to Condemn Committee Member's Anti-gay Comments

Sunday June 6, 2021
Originally published on June 5, 2021

Deborah Martell
Deborah Martell  (Source:Facebook)

While most Massachusetts Republicans have asked that Republican State Committee member Deborah Martell to resign, Jim Lyons, the state's GOP chairman, refused to on Friday. This came after nearly a week of silence on his part.

In a lengthy statement, reported by the Boston Globe, Lyons said that "not everybody views the world through the same lens."

"Members of the Massachusetts House Republican caucus are demanding that I force a woman of deep Catholic faith to resign from the Massachusetts Republican State Committee," Lyons said. "I acknowledge that she wrote in a manner that was offensive. However, Massachusetts Republican Party bylaws are clear: freedom of speech and religious liberty are values that are unbending and uncompromising."

The controversy occurred after e-mails that Martell had written went public in which she criticized Congressional candidate Jeffrey Sossa-Paquette and his husband for adopting two children.

"I heard he was a 'married' homosexual man, who adopted children. I was sickened to hear this," Martell wrote in a May 15 e-mail to fellow Republicans.

When Sossa-Paquette learned of the e-mails he confronted Martell and told her he planned to go public with her comment. In turn, she responded to him in an e-mail that read in part: "I am a Catholic who loves God and His Ten Commandments. I wish the best for every person in the world, including you!" Martell wrote back to Sossa-Paquette on May 19, according to an e-mail reviewed by the Globe. "What sickened me was that you adopted children... Children deserve a mom and a dad. That's how God designed marriage and the family."

"Sossa-Paquette pleaded with Lyons to get involved and direct Martell to resign, but said the chairman is 'washing his hands of it," reported the Globe.

But Lyons remains the outlier amongst politicians who are nearly unanimously asking for Martell's resignation. On Wednesday Governor Charlie Baker asked for her resignation.

"Deborah Martell's comments about Jeffrey Sossa-Paquette and his family are abhorrent and have no place in public discourse and of course have no place in the leadership of a political party founded on protecting individual freedom," Baker said in a statement.

By Friday, the Globe reported, 29 of the 30 Republicans in the Massachusetts House had signed on to a letter calling Lyons' silence up to that point "unfathomable and deeply concerning." Only state Representative Marc Lombardo, of Billerica, hadn't signed the letter by Friday afternoon.

"If you will not assert your position as the leader of this esteemed party and demand Ms. [Martell's] resignation, then we call on you to resign as the Chair of the Party and allow for your replacement," the letter says. "If you are unprepared or unwilling to call for the resignation of Ms. [Martell], then it gives the appearance that you, and by extension, the Massachusetts Republican Party, are tolerant of these beliefs and actions. As a collective, we legislators are not."

Martell's comments "are disturbing on many levels and are in no way representative of the values of the Republican Party," the letter said.

All three Massachusetts Senate Republicans also condemned Martell's remarks on Friday and called on GOP leaders to take action.

"Anyone who would make such statements is not suited to serve in a position of leadership in the Massachusetts Republican Party," the senators said in a joint statement.