Gay Marriage a Flash Point in Presidential Elections
The Victory Fund supports gay candidates at all levels of government. This year, the fund is backing eight candidates for House and Senate seats. Despite the retirement of Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, Dison said he believes there is a good chance that the number of gays and lesbians in the House will increase.
The Log Cabin Republicans were a presence at their convention in Tampa, Fla. This year, for the first time, Cooper, LCR Program Director Casey Pick, and LCR trustees Kathryn Lehman and James Abbott (an attorney and gay parent featured in a recent Washington Post article), helped draft the national platform. Although the Republican Party rejected all the group’s major proposals, the LCR considered it a victory that the conservative platform did not make any reference to repealing DADT.
But for Democrats like Socarides, a Romney-Ryan victory would mean a giant step backward. Socarides doesn’t see anything in Ryan’s record that suggests he is interested in discussing our issues with us. He views those who believe that because Ryan is young and seems reasonable as misguided at best.
"Ryan has defied expectations; he has very clear anti-gay positions," Socarides said. "We need to take him at his word. We can’t think that because he’s a nice guy, somehow he’s going to get in to the White House and treat us fairly. Maybe they are figuring that this guy is better on gay rights than Sarah Palin - but that’s not saying much."
LCR Sticks to Its Ticket
Despite their oft-stated stances on issues like marriage equality, the Log Cabin Republicans endorsed the Ryan-Romney ticket. The group holds out the hope that, if Romney won’t further our marriage-equality agenda, he will at least not overturn those rights already gained. They also point again to Ryan’s vote in support of ENDA.
LCR is engaged in magical thinking, Democrats counter. "I know that Mr. Ryan voted for ENDA in one instance, then later voted against it," Socarides noted. "But everything we know about him suggests he’s as bad - or worse - as Romney on LGBT rights."
Cooper dismissed an allegation circulating in the blogosphere that Ryan won’t again support ENDA as a "ridiculous rumor." A recorded vote is just that, insisted Cooper, who pointed to alleged conversations between the candidate and gay and lesbian friends as proof that he hasn’t turned away from federal employment workplace protections.
More telling for Socarides are Ryan’s two votes to keep DADT as the military status quo. He has also gone on record as supporting a constitutional amendment to codify DOMA as permanent and unwavering.
"In my view, it doesn’t get much worse than that," Socarides said. "What a lot of Republicans are saying now about Romney is that gay rights are not his priority. But what they mean is that his taking away our rights is not his priority. And for me, that’s nothing to be excited about."
While gains like hate crimes legislation and DADT will probably not be repealed, Stonewall Democrats’ David greatly fears executive orders repealing Obama’s lifting of the bans on people with HIV entering the United States and on hospital visitation for same-sex partners, and the ability of a transgendered persons to change the sex on passports would be very much in danger.
"All it takes is the stroke of the pen for a sitting president to eradicate all those," David said. "The Log Cabin Republicans will say that Romney won’t touch that, but he will be beholden to the right wing of the party if he is elected and will have to throw them bones. And his red meat will be to ’smear the queer.’ "
But Cooper pointed out that the process of lifting the HIV travel ban began under President George W. Bush, and that the science supporting it was too obvious for any administration to roll back. He also pointed to nondiscrimination executive orders that Bush signed.
"I imagine, based on what Romney said as governor and on the campaign trail, that this would stay the same," Cooper concluded.
While Socarides is willing to give Mr. Bush credit for the most ambitious international AIDS program under any president, Democrat or Republican, AIDS issues are no longer synonymous with LGBT rights.
"When Democrats are in charge, more often than not we move forward, especially in the last two years, when we moved forward dramatically," Socarides said. "But I don’t think you can make the same case with Republicans. President Obama got off to a very slow start for us, but he has really made up for lost time. So I think the choice is clear. We can continue to move forward, or we can go backward."