On Monday, when state senator Bob Dixon stood on his front porch in Springfield and announced his intention to seek the Republican nomination for governor, he delivered several lines that drew applause, including this one: "I've spent almost 23 years as a strong supporter of traditional marriage."
He didn't elaborate at the time, but it's been a long journey up to this point for Dixon, 46, who reportedly once lived as a gay man until a spiritual epiphany turned him straight.
Dixon himself spoke about his history with homosexuality at a Springfield city council meeting in 1991, according to a report in the Springfield News-Leader. Then in his early twenties, Dixon claimed that he'd lived as homosexual for five years until an undefined "religious experience" in October, 1988.
Dixon's mother, former state representative Jean Dixon, told the newspaper that her son's "struggles" with homosexuality nearly led him to suicide that same month. Her son's ordeal, she said, informed her opposition to Missouri State University's 1989 production of The Normal Heart, a play that deals unflinchingly with the AIDS crisis.
"It had been a heartache I had to deal with, and it was a tough one," Jean Dixon told the News-Leader of her son's gay lifestyle.
Bob Dixon would soon go on to marry a woman, have three kids and serve fifteen years as a Missouri lawmaker, first in the House and then the Senate. On Monday, Dixon announced his intention to join an already crowded field of Republican Gubernatorial hopefuls.
"It is my faith in God that helps me to daily set the compass," Dixon said, according to a recording of the speech by KTTS (94.7 FM). "I hope the people of Missouri will accept my record of service as a reflection of my faith in the Almighty, because that frankly is at the core of what I do."
Here's the announcement video released by the Dixon's campaign:
Dixon's political resume hardly resembles that of his mother, who gained infamy by spearheading the opposition to The Normal Heart in 1989. The play went on, but Jean Dixon's moral crusade was accompanied by darker forces -- A bomb threat at the college theater venue preceded a successful arson attack on a house being rented by one of the play's main backers. The arson was never solved.
As for her son, Bob Dixon has largely followed the conservative pack during his career in politics. He was among the supporters of a 72-hour waiting period for women seeking abortion, a law which went into effect last year.
From his porch on Monday, Dixon touted his support for family values, including "traditional marriage."
"I believe its faith in the future and strong families that are essential to our state's spiritual and economic health," Dixon said "I also know that some of you here today have different opinions than I do on some issues. It's true, I'm 100 percent pro-life, I'm strong supporter of the Second Amendment."
But there's another side to Dixon's legacy as a lawmaker. Last year, his cooperation with openly gay Democratic Senator Jolie Justus resulted in a sweeping reform of Missouri's criminal code.
During a press conference at the Capitol, Dixon was asked if, as governor, he would support an LGBT nondiscrimination law. His answer was recorded by The Missouri Times:
"I think the wise thing to do about any legislation is to wait until I see it before me," he said, adding, "I think it's a sad day when we have to have laws to tell us to treat people with respect."
A reporter interjected: "Clearly, when we don't have those laws, people don't get treated with respect."
"That is a truth in American history," Dixon said, "and I think that hearkens back to the core of my campaign -- renewing America's spirit that Ronald Reagan talked about, and that's what we're talking about today, renewing Missouri's spirit and bringing people together rather than dividing people. I think we can do so much more that way, together, respecting people. And yes we do have to have laws, as witnessed by the revised criminal code. Senator Justus is a friend of mine, I have tremendous respect for her. I will reserve judgement for any legislation until it's on my desk."
We reached Senator Dixon by phone, but only briefly. He did not deny the details contained the Springfield News-Leader article from 1991, which is excerpted here in an obscure Ozark blog. Before hanging up, Dixon promised he would send a statement.
We're still waiting, but we'll update the story if/when we hear back from Dixon.
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