Saturday, July 28, 2007

Where the Dems stand on Gay Rights

Where They Stand: Part One
Our forum primer on how the Dems see GLBT issues.

by Jennifer Vanasco,

For the first time in history, the major candidates from a major political party – Democrats, of course – will be gathering in a public forum to discuss gay issues in front of an audience of gay people.

The forum, called “The Visible Vote ‘08" and sponsored by LOGO (which owns 365Gay) and HRC, will be broadcast from Los Angeles on August 9 – already, GLBT’s from around the country are submitting video questions.

A significant amount of information is already out there about the candidate’s take on the issues. Before you send in your questions, do a little prep work: here, in two parts, is a round-up of what the Dems have said they believe.

Part One, below, will focus (in alphabetical order) on Hilary Clinton, Mike Dodd, John Edwards and Mike Gravel; Part Two, next Friday, will put the spotlight on Dennis Kucinich, Barack Obama and Bill Richardson.

We bullet the issues that are easily quantifiable—a candidate’s stance on marriage, for instance—and then try to sum up in a paragraph or two some of the nuances.

What will they say during the forum? Print out our round-up before you watch The Visible Vote '08 and see if they are consistent with their histories, or if on that historic night, they decide to break new ground.


Equal Marriage: Voted twice against the Constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage (called the Federal Marriage Amendment, or FMA). If the amendment were enacted, it would have restricted marriage to a man and a woman. It may also have restricted civil unions and domestic partnerships. However, during her husband’s administration, she supported the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevented the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage.

She seems to both oppose same-sex marriage and an amendment against it, which, in political circles, is considered a compromise position.

She is on record as supporting civil unions.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Has supported ending the policy since 1999. Recently defended Pres. Clinton’s implementation of DADT as “an important first step.” She has also said that DADT “hurts all of our troops and this, to me, is a matter of national security.”

Hate Crimes: An original co-sponsor of the bill that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to groups protected by hate crimes legislation.

ENDA: Has committed to passing the federal law outlawing employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. She says she will introduce a measure extending benefits to the partners of federal employees.

HIV/AIDS: Co-sponsored legislation to bring Medicaid coverage to low-income , HIV-positive Americans. Pressed for full funding of the Ryan White CARE Act, an increase of $236 million.

Transgender Issues: Signed the GenderPac Diversity Statement affirming that they do not discriminate in hiring when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. Supports including gender identity and expression in both ENDA and hate crimes legislation, though as late as last fall, she did not support trans inclusion in ENDA.


As early as 2000, Clinton supported full domestic partnership benefits for gays and lesbians, back before Civil Unions were really on the table.

She also supports full rights for gay parents, including adoption rights. She was not a co-sponsor of the Uniting of American Families Act, which would provide same-sex partners with the same immigration benefits as legal spouses, but she supports the legislation.

In October 2006, she said, “I believe in full equality of benefits, nothing left out. From my perspective, there is a greater likelihood of us getting to that point in civil unions or domestic partnerships, and that is my very considered assessment.”

In her position paper on gay rights, Clinton says, “The LGBT community will always have an open door to a Clinton White House.”


Marriage: Supports civil unions but not marriage. Voted for the Defense of Marriage Act.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Calls for the repeal of DADT.

Hate Crimes: Voted yes to add sexual orientation to the definition of hate crimes; strongly supportive of expanding hate crimes to include GLBTs.

ENDA: For the prohibition of job discrimination by sexual orientation.

HIV/AIDS: Worked for significant HIV funding in Connecticut; introduced the Children and Family HIV/AIDS Research and Care Act of 2004 which expanded the Ryan White CARE Act to focus more on children and teenagers from low-income families.

Transgender Issues: For the inclusion of gender identity and expression in ENDA and hate crimes law.


Dodd has stayed fairly quiet on LGBT issues, letting the more popular candidates draw fire. This inexperience shows, perhaps, in the confusing response he continues to give when asked to distinguish between marriage and civil unions. He talks about how much he loves his daughters and then says, basically, that if they were gay “they ought to be able to have those loving relationships sanctioned.” Then he immediately follows with: “I don’t support same-sex marriage.”

He says he supports his home state of Connecticut’s new civil unions, but that marriage “is between a man and a woman.”

However, as the author of the Family and Medical Leave Act, he supports including domestic partners/civil unions in the definition of family.

Dodd has been very outspoken in his support for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, telling a group of firefighters in March: "There have been plenty of soldiers who have served in the military who were highly respected and revered and were gay and lesbian. It should be realized that we need every good person in the armed forces we can get, and that the idea of excluding for an orientation is ludicrous."


Marriage: Supports the repeal of DOMA and the federal recognition of same-sex civil unions, which, he says, should carry all the benefits of marriage, including expansion of Social Security benefits and the Family and Medical Leave Act. He told HRC, “Gay marriage is an issue I feel internal conflict about and I continue to struggle with it.”

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Supports the repeal of DADT; believes service members should be treated equally and in a way that promotes national security, without regard to their sexual orientation.

Hate Crimes: Co-sponsored hate crimes legislation that included sexual orientation.

ENDA: Co-sponsored ENDA when in the Senate; called for stronger federal accountability when it comes to discrimination.

HIV/AIDS: Co-sponsor of the Ryan White CARE Act. Told HRC, “There is an urgent need for more resources in the fight against HIV/AIDS.” Supports more funding for research and universal health care.

Transgender Issues: Supports the inclusion of gender identity and expression in ENDA and hate crimes legislation.

Comment: One of the most interesting aspects of John Edward’s presidential campaign is actually his wife, Elizabeth Edwards. Elizabeth Edwards has come out in full support of same-sex marriage, which reportedly surprised her husband.

John Edwards has been upfront about the internal conflict he feels around gay marriage; it is the only issue in which he is not in line with HRC’s stated agenda, though he supports full marriage rights, including gay adoption and equal tax law, if the result is called “civil unions.”

In a June 2007 CNN debate, Edwards said, “My wife Elizabeth spoke out a few weeks ago and she actually supports gay marriage. I do not. But this is a very difficult issue for me. And I recognize and have enormous respect for people who have a different view of it.”


Marriage: Unequivocally supports same-sex marriage and opposes the Defense of Marriage Act. If marriage can’t pass the Congress, supports full domestic partnership/civil union benefits.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Told college students in June that ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ should have been gotten rid of 20 years ago.” Declared in a press release that it is unconstitutional, and said that if he were president he would issue an executive apology to GLBT soldiers who had served while in the closet. Called for General Peter Pace’s resignation after the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff called homosexuality immoral.

Hate Crimes: Fully supports inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

ENDA: Fully supports.

HIV/AIDS: Supports increased funding for the Ryan White CARE Act, increased funding to assist low income HIV/AIDS victims.

Transgender Issues: Opposes any laws or measures that discriminate on the basis of gender identity or expression.

Comment: Sen. Mike Gravel, a dark horse with very little in his campaign war chest, has room to be a bit of an iconoclast, and he is. In a press release, the former Senator from Alaska spelled out very progressive views on gay and lesbian rights, including full marriage and the repeal of DADT. He also says that he opposes any state or national constitutional amendment that restricts the rights of the LGBT community.

He has said that “love between a man and a man or a woman and a woman is beautiful.”

And in the Huffington Post: “As long as our nation deprives gays and lesbians of basic rights, including marriage, we have not fulfilled the promise of the Declaration of Independence guaranteeing life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to all Americans.”


© 2006

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