In just over two weeks, the next President of the United States will be elected. Following their recent debates, some polls indicate that Republican nominee Mitt Romney has made up some ground over the incumbent Barack Obama.
But where do the nominees stand on equality for same sex attracted people, and marriage equality?
Whilst political experts in the US suggest that GLBT equality will not be a deciding factor, in some of the key swing states, it is. North Carolina will be a swing state and could be one of those that will determine the outcome of the election, and it has recently voted in favour (61% -39%) of an amendment that states marriage is between one man and one woman, similar to the Marriage Amendment Bill of 2004 here in Australia. But it is also suggested by the experts and pundits that a majority of those who voted against the amendment, will vote Democrat. Confused? So am I.
In May of this year, following comments from his Vice President, Joe Biden and several of his key ministry secretaries, President Obama made clear his position with this statement:
“I think same-sex couples should be able to get married…
when I think of members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think of soldiers or airmen or Marines or sailors…”
The next step was to seek endorsement at the Democratic National Convention, and when he was endorsed as the Democrat nominee for this election, his platform for change was endorsed as well.
Each nominee has indicated publicly where they stand, and it is clear that Obama would be the choice for the millions of GLBT Americans.
Romney is unflinching in his opposition – for the moment at least. As early as December of last year, Romney was telling a gay Vietnam veteran to his face and in front of television cameras, that he believes marriage is the union between a man and a woman. For now!
But in his bid for a Senate seat back in 1994, Romney wrote a letter to a gay rights group known as the Log Cabin Club claiming that he supported full equality for America’s gay and lesbian citizens.
Then in his gubernatorial race in 2002 to become the Governor of Massachusetts, Romney’s campaign circulated a flier in a gay pride weekend asserting his support for equal rights for all Americans regardless of sexual orientation.
So, where do gay rights sit now, officially, as part of each candidate’s election platform?
Romney has committed to the appointment of an Attorney General who will defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a law that defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
He also plans to champion a Federal Marriage amendment to the US constitution that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. How this will affect those states like Washington and New York that have recently legislated in favour of equal marriage, we are not yet sure.
President Obama, on the other hand, is the first sitting President to publicly announce his support for equal marriage, and it is also supported by former Presidents Clinton, and Carter and former Vice Presidents Cheney and Gore as well as the former Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.
Obama’s website states that the President believes that LGBT Americans should be treated fairly and equally.
The President has repealed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell legislation to protect members of the United States armed forces, and prevent them from having to lie about their sexuality. Obama also endorsed the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill that would repeal the aforementioned DOMA.
He has also signed various acts, including the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, ensuring that hate crimes include those that are committed against a person for perceived or actual gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability and ensuring extended hospital visitation and medical decision-making rights to LGBT couples.
Obama seems to be the clear choice for LGBT Americans. On November 7th, I for one hope that the rights of those citizens are upheld and Barack Obama is allowed to forge forward to further protect our US lesbian and gay friends.
What happens post-election if Obama is elected? How will his decisions change what happens in the rest of the world, particularly in those countries where gay men, lesbians, bisexual, transgendered and intersex people are put to death or jailed for the way they love? We can only hope that the tide of conservatism that has pervaded international politics over the past few years will turn in our favour.