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V.P. picks show much about candidates’ LGBT stands
Dayton--Republican presidential nominee John McCain announced a little-known governor of a state with fewer residents than the Cleveland metropolitan area on August 29. The choice of Alaska governor Sarah Palin was met with initial surprise. As time passes, however, it is clear that the choice was made to please the Christian conservative base of the Republican Party, much of which is anti-LGBT.
Almost immediately, the Log Cabin Republicans issued a statement in support of Palin. As her record is revealed, however, they are reconsidering it.
In the initial statement, Log Cabin president Patrick Sammon called Palin a “mainstream Republican who will unite the party and serve John McCain well as vice president. Gov. Palin is an inclusive Republican who will help Sen. McCain appeal to gay and lesbian voters.”
Log Cabin communications director Scott Tucker said after the GOP convention, “There’s a lot we don’t know, and won’t know until she talks.”
Tucker said the initial Log Cabin statement was based on media reports calling Palin a moderate.
“We’re not backing off our statement, but we need to wait and see,” Tucker said.
The LGBT Republican group is standing by their endorsement of McCain, however.
‘You don’t want her’
Palin was elected to the Wasilla, Alaska city council twice then served two terms as its mayor. The city has about 6,000 residents, similar to Oberlin, Ohio.
She was elected Alaska’s governor in 2006.
Hence, Palin’s LGBT record is thin, though evident and evolving.
One month into her term, Palin vetoed a bill that would have blocked gays and lesbians from health and other benefits provided to domestic partners of state employees.
That veto, however, was not because she supported the benefits, but because the Alaska attorney general said the measure was unconstitutional. As a candidate she railed against them.
At the same time, the legislature also passed a non-binding anti-LGBT measure to put the benefits before the voters in the form of a constitutional amendment. Palin signed that bill. The vote cost taxpayers more than $1 million, but changed nothing.
Ann Kilkenny is a Wasilla resident whose e-mail to friends got posted on the internet.
“I have known Sarah since 1992. Everyone here knows Sarah, so it is nothing special to say we are on a first-name basis,” Kilkenny wrote.
“Fear of retribution,” wrote Kilkenny, has kept “people from saying anything publicly about her.”
“I am just a housewife. I don’t have a job she can bump me out of. I don’t belong to any organization that she can hurt,” Kilkenny continued.
“You don’t want her. You really don’t want her,” Kilkenny told the Gay People’s Chronicle.
Librarian asked about gay book
Kilkenny confirmed that as mayor, Palin started asking questions about books in the library which that she found offensive.
Kilkenny said she believes that among the books Palin disliked was Pastor, I am Gay by Howard Bess.
Now 80, Bess retired as pastor of Church of the Covenant in Palmer, Alaska in July. He is one of the founders of the Anchorage gay rights group Identity, and he encouraged the Mat-Su GLBTA community to hold their meetings at the church.
Bess is a celebrated LGBT ally in Alaska, and the book is widely read among LGBT-affirming Christian churches.
Kilkenny said Palin tried to fire librarian Mary Ellen Emmons, who is since retired and not talking about the incident.
Palin claims she was asking the questions about the books and the librarian rhetorically, Kilkenny noted.
“I don’t believe it,” Kilkenny said. “You don’t ask questions like that rhetorically.”
Palin gave Emmons a letter of dismissal before retracting it under pressure, reported the Anchorage Daily News in 1997.
Palin’s church prays away the gay
Palin belongs to Wasilla Bible Church, a non-denominal congregation. The church sponsors conferences to “convert” gays into heterosexuals. Earlier, she belonged to the Wasilla Assemblies of God Church, which is Pentacostal.
Palin believes she gets messages from God and in the concepts of spiritual and cultural warfare.
National Public Radio broadcast a recording of Palin asking her constituents to pray about building a gas pipeline.
“I think God’s will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that,” Palin said.
During the same broadcast, a recording of Palin telling young missionaries she had “a word from the Lord” for them.
Palin also supports “abstinence only until marriage” sex education, which is inherently anti-gay, since marriage is prohibited in most states.
On a 2006 candidate questionnaire from the rightist Eagle Forum, Palin answered, “explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support.”
However, according to the Los Angeles Times, weeks later during a debate, Palin said she is “pro-contraception” and said condoms ought to be discussed in schools alongside abstinence.
Palin is squarely against marriage equality for same-sex couples and supported the 1998 Alaska constitutional amendment banning it.
Palin also told the Eagle Forum she opposes expanding hate crime laws to include LGBT victims.
Biden’s HRC score is 100
Obama announced his pick of Delaware senator Joseph Biden August 23, a day before the start of the Democratic National Convention in Denver.
Biden, 65, has served in the U.S. Senate since 1973. He currently chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is a former chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
It was as Judiciary chair that he fought some of his toughest battles for civil rights, including those affecting LGBT citizens.
Biden presided over the hearings that thwarted President Reagan’s attempt to put the anti-gay, anti-reproductive choice Robert Bork on the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987. He was not able to stop the confirmation of Justice Clarence Thomas, over whose hearings he also presided in 1991.
Biden also worked against passage of many of North Carolina Republican Jesse Helms’ initiatives against people with AIDs, gays and lesbians.
Biden has a mixed record on Human Rights Campaign scorecards.
In 2002, Biden had a score of 100 percent. In 2004, his score dropped to 63 percent, but two years lter it was back up to 78 percent.
Right now, his score is 100 again.
Biden supports an Employment Non-Discrimination Act that is transgender-inclusive and the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.”
Favors CUs, but not marriage equality
He voted against the federal constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality, but like Obama, favors civil unions in lieu of marriage equality. However, Biden calls same-sex marriage “inevitable.”
In 1996, Biden was one of the 85 senators voting in favor of the “defense of marriage act” ultimately signed by President Clinton.
However, he supports extending federal rights and benefits to domestic partners.
Biden has not expressed a position on legislation to allow bi-national domestic partners to live as a couple in the U.S. Biden voted for legislation mandating comprehensive sex education and against confirmation of Chief Justice John Roberts, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals Judge William Pryor, all appointed by President George W. Bush, and considered to be anti-LGBT.
Biden supports expanding hate crime laws to include sexual orientation.
Most recently, Biden helped add a provision to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief bill that allows the Secretary of Health and Human Services to lift the ban on people who are not citizens with HIV entering the United States. This represents a shift for Biden. In 1993 his vote helped establish the ban.
Biden was also a presidential candidate in 2008. He participated in the televised candidate forum hosted by HRC and the Logo network.
Biden’s ACLU legislative scorecards are similar to HRC’s.
The civil rights advocacy group scores Biden at 91 percent in the current congress, 92 percent in 2006, 86 percent in 2004, and 60 percent in 2002 for a career average of 86 percent.
GOP had a few gay delegates
According to Log Cabin’s Tucker, the Republican convention had about two dozen gay delegates, none from Ohio.
“These were who we know about,” Tucker said. “The RNC does not keep track.”
Sammon said there are four reasons why the Log Cabin Republicans continue to endorse John McCain, despite revelations about Palin.
“It’s strategically unwise for our movement to be shut out for four years,” Sammon said. “McCain is no George W. Bush, and it is likely that legislation involving our community will reach the desk of the president.”
Sammon said McCain “paid a political price” for his opposition to the federal marriage ban amendment in 2004. “That’s the biggest reason why the right wing distrusts him now.”
Sammon added that McCain was one of the first Republicans to sign a non-discrimination pledge in his office, and that the membership of the Log Cabin Republicans supports endorsing him.
“The politics on gay issues is changing quickly,” Sammon said. “Even Republican voters understand that.”
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