Election 2012: GLBTQ Outlook
Published: Sunday, September 30, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
In a dramatic but somewhat predictable move, President Barack Obama became the first sitting president to announce his support for same sex marriage when he said this in May of 2012: "…[I]t is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married." But, despite the commander-in-chief’s nod of approval, this battle of the Civil Rights war is far from over—and the attitudes of the next president of the United States toward gay marriage and gay rights are critical to the direction of the momentum of both marriage equality forces and traditional marriage forces.
Presumably, when Obama voiced his support for marriage equality, he meant that same-sex marriages would exist in such a way that there would be no legal difference between the marriage of a heterosexual couple and the marriage of a homosexual couple. In fact, Obama has a solid record of holding pro-marriage equality positions, including in 2006 when he voted against a federal constitutional amendment which would define marriage as between one man and one woman, and in 2009 when, at a Human Rights Campaign event, he drew a parallel between the issues of marriage equality and the issues faced by African-Americans during the Civil Rights struggles.
Mitt Romney is a staunch supporter of marriage as an institution between one man and one woman. In 2006, Romney reiterated that he agrees "with 3,000 years of recorded history" and believes that "marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman," and that he’s been "rock solid in [his] support of traditional marriage." He has expressed support for the notion of a federal constitutional amendment that would define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. His party agrees: The 2012 GOP platform holds that marriage, as a union of one man and one woman, must be upheld as the national standard and promoted through laws governing marriage. Romney is also against civil unions if they differ from marriage only by name—stating that domestic partnership benefits, including hospital visitation, are all that’s appropriate.
Regarding issues besides marriage, the two candidates also hold quite dissimilar views. Obama supports adoption by all legally married couples, which would include same-sex couples. On the other hand, Romney has stressed the importance of government’s role in ensuring all children have one mother and one father. When it comes to good old Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Obama championed its repeal in 2011, while Romney has stated that even though it sounded silly, it was an "effective program." In 2008, he reiterated his position that gays should not serve openly in the military.
On the question of other types of discrimination (the types which usually come to mind when one hears "discrimination," like housing or employment discrimination), the two candidates again maintain differing opinions. Romney has stated that he would not support including GLBTQ individuals under the protection of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), and in 2003, as governor of Massachusetts, he vetoed a bill funding hate-crimes prevention. On the other hand, Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which expanded federal hate-crime laws to include crimes motivated by sexual orientation. He has also been a proponent of including sexual orientation in federal anti-discrimination legislation.
Obama, while a far cry from the ideal pro-gay rights candidate, is the most outwardly supportive sitting president to-date. By the same token, as far as we’ve heard, he has no intention of introducing a federal amendment that would end marriage discrimination (a la Civil Rights Act of 1964). Romney supports domestic agreements that afford some rights, such as hospital visitation and certain tax breaks, to same-sex couples that closely parallel those of their straight counterparts. Such domestic agreements, however, eerily harken back to the infamous label of "separate but equal." In fact, such partnerships are not even equal, by any measure.
Neither candidate brings an extreme, radical, or absolute version of a pro- or anti-gay rights stance to the table. But, relatively speaking, it is abundantly clear that Obama’s position falls closely in line with the Human Rights Campaign—marriage for 100 percent of Americans, whereas Romney’s stance is similar to that of the National Organization for Marriage—supporting marriage for only 90 percent.