Christine Stuart photo
Sen. Beth Bye and state Comptroller Kevin Lembo, who are both openly gay elected officials, stood outside the state Capitol on Thursday to call upon Republican Tom Foley to reject the endorsement of a “pro-family” group they described as an “anti-gay” organization.

“The endorsement of the Family Institute is, or should be, the kiss of political death in this state,” Lembo said. “It’s outside of who we are as a people and the values of this community.”

The Family Institute of Connecticut Action Committee announced its endorsement of Foley on Wednesday in an email to its members.

In that email, the Family Institute reminded its members why it’s supporting Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s opponent, who is also pro-choice, the opposite of the group’s anti-abortion position.

“It was Gov. Malloy who flew the Rainbow Flag over the Governor’s mansion to show his support for same-sex “marriage.” (Indeed, it is the Malloy Administration that describes itself as the “gayest administration ever.”),” the group said in its email endorsing Foley’s gubernatorial bid.

The endorsement is the group’s first for a gubernatorial candidate.

Bye said she can still remember sitting in the balcony of the state Senate during the civil union debate and hearing members of the Family Institute say “these people won’t stop until they have marriage.”

“Do you know what it’s like to be referred to as ‘these people’?” Bye said Thursday. “It’s not so good, but that’s the endorsement that he sought.”

Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut, said Wednesday that they continue to have discussions with Foley about the issue of abortion and “it matters,” but it’s not an issue that’s likely to come up during the next four years. Wolfgang’s group also wants to repeal marriage equality.

However, the issue the group is most concerned about at the moment is assisted suicide or aid-in-dying. The legislation that would have allowed doctors to prescribe a lethal dose of medication for terminally ill patients was defeated this year in committee.

“Assisted suicide is THE life issue at the Capitol right now,” Wolfgang wrote in an email Wednesday. “FIC Action Committee won’t sit on the sidelines when the safety of Connecticut’s most vulnerable people is at stake.”

Foley met with the group in June for an hour and a half and spoke to them again in August by phone, according to the Family Institute’s endorsement.

Christine Stuart photo
“They didn’t just give him the endorsement, he sought it and I just have to say as a gay resident of Connecticut I find that offensive,” Bye said Thursday.

But Foley said in a phone interview that he did not seek the endorsement of the group. He said he met with the group and is happy to have its endorsement, “but I didn’t seek it.”

The Rev. Josh Pawelek said Foley’s acceptance of the endorsement is “offensive” and he should explain to the people of Connecticut why he has accepted it.

When asked for further comment on the endorsement, Foley’s campaign would only say “our campaign is happy to receive the endorsement of any group that recognizes the need to change direction toward a more proud and prosperous Connecticut.”

But Bye and Lembo, along with other LBGT, labor, and women’s rights advocates, questioned what the endorsement says about the company Foley keeps and the direction he would take the state.

The Family Institute, according to Lembo, continues to focus on this “little laundry list of issues that is so far outside the mainstream it’s stunning.”

He said from a purely political perspective “this is the kiss of death” for Foley’s campaign.

A court granted gay couples the right to marry in Connecticut in 2008.

Bye talked Thursday about Malloy’s support of the LGBT community and his active support in 2011 of legislation that extended workplace protections to transgendered people.