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January 25, 2008

Ohio may still play a role in the primary contests

How the candidates stand on LGBT issues

Ohio’s presidential primaries are looming a little larger in importance than previously assumed, and issues of importance to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people will be in the mix.

Ohio’s primary election is March 4. Mail voting begins in two weeks on February 8, four days after the deadline to register.

Although Ohio is expected to be “ground zero” in the general election, the state’s primary comes behind 44 other states and territories, most of which hold their contests on February 5.

However, the races in both major parties are more competitive than previously believed, and Ohio, especially on the Republican side, may still play a role in choosing the nominees.

Dem front runners repeat 2004 stands

At press time, there are five Democratic candidates remaining of the original eight.

Three are getting national press. Of those, Senators Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois are being called front runners. Former North Carolina senator John Edwards is trailing them.

The campaigns of former senator Mike Gravel and Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio are garnering fewer votes and less attention.

Nonetheless, Gravel and Kucinich are the most LGBT-affirming candidates of either major party. Both have been unequivocal in their championing equality. Both have impressive public records that would suggest their sincerity.

Gravel is not on the Ohio ballot.

The three major Democratic competitors sound very much like Democratic nominee John Kerry did in 2004 on LGBT issues.

They are very careful to appear friendly to LGBT concerns, but also careful to stop short of supporting any real change, especially in marriage equality. Their positions on less-covered issues remain to be seen.

One such moment occurred in a January 17 debate in Nevada, which did not include Kucinich or Gravel.

Moderator Tim Russert of NBC asked Clinton, Edwards and Obama, “There’s a federal statute on the books which says that, if a college or university does not provide space for military recruiters or provide a ROTC program for its students, it can lose its federal funding.”

“Will you vigorously enforce that statute?”

All three said they would.

That law, however, was passed to stop colleges and universities that oppose the military’s gay ban from keeping recruiters off their campuses. It is known as the Solomon amendment.

By pledging to “vigorously support” this measure, the three endorsed a law whose only purpose is discrimination against gays and lesbians.

Hillary Clinton

With the exception of refusal to co-sponsor a bill that would give same-sex domestic partners the same immigration rights as spouses in 2004, Clinton has maintained a 100 percent rating on the Human Rights Campaign legislative scorecard since becoming a senator in 2001.

Currently, she enjoys the support of much of the Democratic Party’s insiders, including openly lesbian and gay Reps. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Barney Frank of Massachusetts.

Her LGBT support also includes lesbian lobbyist and commentator Hilary Rosen, and feminist Gloria Steinem.

Clinton’s website does not have an LGBT outreach section, but she has appointed an LGBT steering committee, which includes Rosen, former Clinton administration appointees Eldie Acheson, Fred Hochberg, and Roberta Achtenberg, former HRC president Elizabeth Birch, several lesbian and gay state legislators, and former Democratic Party staffers.

Clinton opposes marriage equality in favor of civil union, however states define it.

She also says she would not repeal the 1996 federal “defense of marriage act” signed into law by her husband.

Instead, she would repeal only sections two and three.

Section two allows states to ignore marriages and civil unions performed in other states. Section three limits marriage and the benefits of marriage to opposite sex couples for federal purposes, such as taxes and Social Security.

Section one, which Clinton would allow to stand, is the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.

Clinton is also the most cryptic in stating an opinion on the current military policy known as “don’t ask don’t tell.”

When an Air Force veteran asked Clinton about her support for gays serving openly, she responded, “I feel strongly that if someone wants to serve their country, if they’re a patriot, if they’ll comply with the code of military justice and have appropriate behavior, they should not be disqualified simply because they are gay.”

It is the Uniform Code of Military Justice that prohibits gays and lesbians from serving openly. Her web site, however, declares, “End don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Clinton has avoided committing herself to whether or not the Employment Non-Discrimination Act should be transgender inclusive.

She co-sponsored ENDA in the last session of Congress, as well as a bill to add gays and lesbians to federal hate crime laws and a measure to give domestic partner benefits to federal workers.

John Edwards

Edwards is not shy about his opposition to same-sex marriage. His position is to treat same-sex couples and unmarried opposite-sex couples the same, giving both the option of civil unions. Marriage, however, is reserved for opposite-sex couples.

Edwards has also said that same-sex domestic partners should have the same immigration rights as married couples, and supports transgender inclusion in ENDA and hate crime laws.

He supports the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” unconditionally, and supports adoptions by lesbian and gay couples. He also supports repeal of the entire federal DOMA law.

Edwards has arguably had the biggest transformation in learning to support LGBT issues.

While a senator, Edwards missed the vote on the federal constitutional marriage ban, did not support the immigration equality legislation he supports as a candidate, and did not sign HRC’s pledge of non-discrimination in his Senate office. He remains undecided on extending family and medical leave to same-sex couples.

The Edwards campaign has done significant outreach to the LGBT community during the current campaign, as has racked up substantial support from LGBT activists, mostly among those who are also attracted to his populist themes.

Edwards’ LGBT endorsements have come from the North Carolina publication Q-Notes, and New Hampshire Freedom to Marry Coalition.

His LGBT steering committee includes Cleveland Stonewall Democrat Jason Lansdale, Michigan activist Sean Kosofsky, and National Stonewall Democrats board member Olga Hernandez.

Former National Stonewall Democrats director Eric Stern, a Wadsworth, Ohio native, is national Edwards organizer.

Mike Gravel

Mike Gravel served as U.S. senator from Alaska from 1969 to 1981, before HRC scorecards or much attention to LGBT legislation.

He is, however, a staunch supporter of constitutional rights, progressive social legislation, and has made it clear that they include equality for LGBT people.

Gravel is most known for waging a one-man, five month filibuster in 1971 that forced Richard Nixon to end the draft, and for reading 4,100 pages of the Pentagon Papers into the Senate record, thus making them public and beginning the end of the Vietnam War. First-term senator Gravel did this after Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the documents, approached anti-war senators George McGovern, William Fulbright and Gaylord Nelson, who all refused.

Gravel supports full marriage equality, transgender inclusive hate crime and ENDA legislation, and repealing “don’t ask don’t tell” and the federal DOMA.

He has indicated that he plans to keep his campaign alive after the Democratic National Convention, which would mean running as a minor party or independent candidate.

Dennis Kucinich

Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Cleveland is arguably the most LGBT supportive candidate in the race, with a 100 percent HRC rating during his congressional tenure.

Kucinich supports full marriage equality, immigration equality, hate crime legislation, the repeal of DOMA and transgender inclusion in ENDA.

A member of the Education and Labor Committee, Kucinich led the opposition to stripping transgender inclusion from ENDA while the bill was before the committee.

Kucinich cosponsors ENDA and a measure to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Kucinich has a section of his website devoted to LGBT outreach and has garnered deep, though not widespread, support among LGBT Democrats in this, his second run at the presidency.

LGBT activists like Kucinich, but they feel that other candidates, though less supportive, are more electable.

Kucinich scolds those candidates and party leaders on their same-sex marriage stands, saying, “The leadership of the Democratic Party is content to advocate a state-by-state approach to the issue of same-sex marriages, cloaking its lack of resolve with the words ‘civil unions.’ ”

Kucinich is also running to promote universal, single-payer health care. He and Michigan Rep. John Conyers have introduced legislation for it. Because the plan untethers health insurance from employers, the need for domestic partner benefits is eliminated, as is the matter of the benefits being subject to income tax.

(This reporter is the Kucinich delegate from Ohio’s 16th congressional district.)

Barack Obama

Obama has served in the U.S. Senate since 2005, where he scored 89 percent on HRC’s legislative scorecard, missing the perfect score for not supporting legislation that would give same-sex partners immigration rights equal to married partners.

As a presidential candidate, Obama has said he supports such legislation, but only if it is changed to “minimize the potential for fraud and abuse of the immigration system.”

In November, Obama wrote an op-ed piece calling for “full equality” for LGBT people.

However, he is also clear that equality does not include marriage.

Obama wrote on his HRC candidate questionnaire, “Marriage has religious and social connotations, and I consider marriage to be between a man and a woman.”

Obama wrote the op-ed after taking flak for October campaign appearances with “ex-gay” gospel singer Donnie McClurkin.

McClurkin told the Washington Post he’s fighting a “war” against “the curse of homosexuality.”

The singer’s appearances caused gay Obama fundraiser Bob Farmer to resign the campaign. Gay pundit and Obama supporter Andrew Sullivan wrote, “McClurkin, in short, should never have been allowed to speak at this event, because his words are inherently divisive, his record of comments on gay people offensive.”

Obama defended his McClurkin ties in his column, saying, “There are good, decent, moral people in this country who do not yet embrace their gay brothers and sisters as full members of our shared community.”

“McClurkin is a talented performer and a beloved figure among many African Americans and Christians around the country. At the same time, he espouses beliefs about homosexuality that I completely reject,” Obama wrote.

Some more progressive LGBT activists also have concern with Obama’s calls for an increased role of faith in American life. While such a call is not necessarily anti-gay, it is often code used to rally anti-gays.

On the HRC form, Obama avoided making any commitment to a transgender-inclusive ENDA, stating support for protection based on sexual orientation only.

Obama is a co-sponsor of the hate crime legislation in the Senate and supports extending the Family and Medical Leave Act to include same-sex partners.

He also supports repealing “don’t ask don’t tell.”

On the Sunday before Martin Luther King Day, Obama delivered a speech from King’s former pulpit at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where he called on black Americans to work against homophobia.

“For most of this country’s history, we in the African-American community have been at the receiving end of man’s inhumanity to man,” Obama said.

“And yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that none of our hands are entirely clean,” Obama continued. “We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them. The scourge of anti-Semitism has, at times, revealed itself in our community. For too long, some of us have seen immigrants as competitors for jobs instead of companions in the fight for opportunity,” he concluded.

‘Values voters’ affect GOP positions

The role that LGBT issues play in the general election depends on who the Republican nominee is.

Each of the current GOP candidates is trying to appeal to a different base constituency of their party. LGBT issues will be at play to the extent that so-called “values voters” need to be energized.

Rudy Giuliani

The former mayor of New York is arguably the most LGBT-friendly of the Republican field.

Giuliani says he supports basic rights for same-sex couples and civil protection for lesbian and gay people. As mayor, he generally lived up to that. In 1997, he signed domestic partner benefits for same-sex couples in the city and appointed a number of lesbian and gay people to his administration.

Giuliani is also known for having lived with a gay couple when his ex-wife kicked him out of the mayor’s residence for having an affair.

More recently, he has spoken in favor of keeping “don’t ask don’t tell.”

However, Guiliani’s more LGBT accepting past has put him at odds with the “values voters” he now needs.

Consequently, Giuliani as candidate has abandoned those positions and taken the advice of former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed to emphasizeissues where there is agreement.

That has caused Giuliani to promise the appointment of only strict constructionist judges, which is code for anti-gay.

Giuliani also courted Rev. Jerry Falwell before his death.

Mike Huckabee

The former Arkansas governor and Southern Baptist preacher is the closest candidate to “values voters” and probably the most opposed to LGBT rights.

Huckabee has argued for a federal constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. He told a Michigan crowd two weeks ago, “That’s what we need to do--is to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than try to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family.”

As governor, he supported a law barring adoptions by lesbians and gays.

In 1992, while a Senate candidate, Huckabee advocated quarantining people with AIDS. Last month, he did not disavow the claim. Instead he defended it by saying more is known about AIDS now.

However, by 1992, no one believed AIDS was spread by casual contact.

Huckabee opposes every pro-LGBT piece of legislation currently under consideration, and supports “don’t ask don’t tell.”

John McCain

Arizona Senator John McCain was the lone Senate Republican vote against the federal marriage ban amendment in 2004, saying the decision should be left to the states.

But he supported Arizona’s ill-fated state constitutional marriage ban amendment in 2006.

McCain has had lines of communication with the Log Cabin Republicans and other moderate and libertarian Republican groups for years.

He has generally opposed both pro-gay and anti-gay bills, but unlike many of his GOP colleagues, he has avoided promoting the latter.

McCain supports “don’t ask don’t tell” and opposes hate crime bills and ENDA in all forms.

McCain’s HRC legislative scorecard rating is between 25 and 33 percent, due to his opposition to the constitutional amendment.

Although McCain has spent great deal of campaign time reaching out to “values voters,” including giving the commencement address at Liberty University, they are not warm to him. His supporters tend to come from the fiscal conservative wing of the party and those advocating an aggressive foreign policy.

So, social issues have not been prominent in McCain’s campaign.

If McCain is the Republican nominee, it is likely to continue that way.

Ron Paul

The ten-term Texas representative scores between zero and 38 percent on HRC’s legislative scorecard.

Paul is primarily libertarian and does not pander to “values voters.” In fact, he chides them for what he sees as moving away from the core values of the Republican Party.

During interviews, Paul avoids taking the bait of interviewers who want to bash LGBT people.

However, Paul voted to ban adoptions by gay couples in the District of Columbia in 1999. He believes marriage is only to be between a man and a woman, though he votes against the federal marriage amendment, citing states’ rights.

Paul votes against non-discrimination and hate crime legislation, claiming it violates the First Amendment.

Though perhaps not on purpose, Paul’s campaign, according to The Nation, is also attracting “paleolibertarians,” who tend to be culturally conservative, and in many cases white supremacists and confederacy apologists.

Their draw to him is the shared disdain for the Federal Reserve and “imperialist” foreign policy.

Mitt Romney

Romney is the only candidate the Log Cabin Republicans have actively opposed--and enough to have purchased advertising against him.

The television spot, which aired in October, attacks Romney for his position shifts on abortion, gun ownership, and Ronald Reagan. In closing, the ad accuses Romney of “Massachusetts values.”

Although Log Cabin won’t say for sure, the ad is likely an attempt to get back at Romney for his acts as Massachusetts governor, including attempts to fight the high court’s Goodridge for marriage equality, and for pushing a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

Romney, a Mormon whom the “values voters” have questioned on his bona fides, has reacted by running to the right and away from pro-LGBT statements he made in 1994 while running against Ted Kennedy for a U.S. Senate seat.

Romney now says he opposes ENDA and hate crime protection, favoring “don’t ask don’t tell” and a federal marriage ban amendment.

He is arguably the second most anti-gay candidate, behind Huckabee.


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