Gay Marriage a Flash Point in Presidential Elections
With the 2012 presidential election just weeks away, LGBT people have mobilized their support to President Barack Obama after his dramatic May endorsement of marriage equality. The Democratic Party is following in lockstep with a platform that states unequivocally support.
On the other side of the aisle, some believe that a Republican White House does not spell disaster for the gay community. They cite these reasons: Republican candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will not reverse the end of the military’s "Don’t ask, don’t tell" policy, the lifting of the HIV travel ban or granting of partner hospital visitation rights.
But many, many others are gung-ho to give our sitting president a second term or fear losing the gains we have made, including the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare"), state-by-state marriage equality, the Employment Nondiscrimination Act and the repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin probably speaks for the vast majority of LGBT voters when he said, "Ryan’s record of voting against fairness, dignity and equality is out of touch with the majority of Americans and a fast-growing majority of Republicans. LGBT Americans need leadership that will continue to fight for their rights to protect their families, marry the person they love and enjoy equal protections under the law."
Griffin added that, despite Romney’s term as governor of Massachusetts, during which the Bay State became the first to legalize same-sex marriage, his record is no better than Ryan’s abysmal one on matters of LGBT equality.
Gay activists are ecstatic about the Democrats’ ringing endorsement of marriage equality in the platform that was adopted at the national convention in Charlotte, N.C. "This is very significant, because it’s the first time a national political party has endorsed what is our No. One agenda item as a movement," said Richard Socarides, who, as Bill Clinton’s senior adviser on gay issues, knows his way around inside the Beltway.
Mr. Obama will not only work to repeal DOMA, added Stonewall Democrats Executive Director Jeremy David, but will try to get through Congress the proposed Respect for Marriage Act, which would recognize same-sex marriages for federal benefits, regardless of where the couple is living.
"From there, there are 31 state constitutional amendments to overturn, which is going to take awhile without a Supreme Court ruling to overturn them," David added. After DOMA is repealed, it will make its way back down through the court system in a series of rulings invalidating state marriage bans. Or it can take a combined judiciary-legislative track to the same end. "The court track will likely take less time, but if we have to go state by state to overturn marriage amendments, it will take much longer."
For the present, however, David is concentrating on making sure that there is a second Obama Administration. He’s a one-man band, creating text-messaging donation campaigns, counteracting Right Wing rhetoric and getting the public to understand the issues. The Log Cabin Republicans are not making his work any easier, with their claims that a GOP presidency will turn out nearly as well for our side.
For their part, the Log Cabin Republicans, which is considered the "mainstream" LGBT group within what Ronald Reagan called the Republican "big tent," cite examples such as Ryan’s 2007 vote in favor of the Employment Non-Discriminiation Act and Romney’s comments that people should not be judged on their sexual orientation but on their merits.
Ryan’s vote indicated "an opportunity for the Romney-Ryan ticket to assert a position on nonemployment discrimination, which is something that would be well-received among conservative and independent voters," said Log Cabin Republican Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper.
Cooper could not make the same claim about his party platform’s stance on marriage equality, an issue that LCR supports. Romney and Ryan have rejected recognition of any gay unions.
"We advocate for the repeal of DOMA, but the bottom line is that no president will have an impact on the repeal of DOMA," Cooper told EDGE. "It will probably happen in the legal setting" or through an act of Congress. The ideal scenario, according to Cooper, would be legislation that avoided the word "marriage" but provided same-sex couples the same rights. As part of the Log Cabins’ mission, members speak regularly to groups of young conservatives who nevertheless support the freedom to marry.
National Conventions and Local Races
Many LGBT activists are still ginned up from the Democratic National Convention, held in early September. There was a record number of LGBT delegates seated at the convention: 400 by David’s estimate.
For his part, David is now concentrating on state and local races, such as the bid of Wisconsin U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin to become the first openly gay U.S. senator. Another openly gay candidate, Mark Pocan, recent won his primary to take over Baldwin’s seat in Congress. Given that his district is heavily liberal, his primary win all but guarantees victory in November, which means this will be the first time a congressional seat was handed over from one openly gay politician to another.
"The opportunity to have the first openly gay senator is huge," said Denis Dison, a spokesman for the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund in Washington. "She is in a great position to win this race, and the person running for her congressional seat will likely be the next openly gay member of Congress."
Winning the presidency is important, but winning both houses of Congress is crucial. "We are not going to get anywhere with our agenda if we don’t have a friendly Congress," David said. "A big part of our focus after the convention is turning the House back to Democratic control and keeping control of the Senate."