By Heather Grossmann
DNAinfo News Editor
CHELSEA —Boos, hisses and derisive chants punctuated former Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford Jr.'s speech at the Stonewall Democratic Club in Chelsea on Wednesday evening.
Ford, who is contemplating a run for U.S. Senate against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, was interrupted several times as he answered questions on issues important to the club's liberal progressive political mission, including marriage equality, the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy and abortion rights.
"Anti-choice, Anti-gay, Snake Oil Harry, Go Away!" audience members chanted, referencing the characterization of Ford as a "snake oil salesman" by outgoing executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda Alan Van Capelle.
The potential candidate apologized for voting twice for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage as a congressman in Tennessee and asked the audience to accept the evolution of his views on the issue, using himself as an example of what advocacy for change can do.
Ford said that he had been wrong in not supporting gay marriage, saying, "I believe that the position that I hold now is the right position."
He also said that he did not and had never supported the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
But those in the crowd were unconvinced by Ford's change of heart, holding up signs reading "Anti-Gay Liar" and saying that Ford told gay activists in Tennessee that he would support them, only to turn around and vote against marriage equality.
There was a collective gasp of disbelief from the crowd when Ford appeared unfamiliar with the Lawrence v. Texas U.S. Supreme Court case, which said that the Texas ban on homosexual sex was unconstitutional. He clarified that he did not recognize the case by name, but knew its content.
Lt. Dan Choi, a West Point graduate, Arabic translator and a gay military rights advocate, said that he thought Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was a spectacular advocate for gay rights and that Ford should think very carefully about attempting to unseat someone who had done so much on that issue.
"I fought for your freedom to have a marriage and to have the security to have a family and because of your vote, I would not be allowed to do that [get married] even though I would die for your ability to have that security," Choi said in an interview after Ford's remarks.
"I have a hard time believing him," Choi said of Ford's assertions that he would fight for gay rights, saying that the former congressman had attempted to make him a second-class citizen in a "constitution that I would give my life to defend."