Oh boy, it's on! When you have presidential and vice presidential candidates bootlicking over gay rights and marriage, you know you got their attention. Gay issues dotted the campaign trail all week, kids.

It started on Wednesday, when The Washington Blade published a Senator John McCain interview that was more pander than straight talk.

McCain answered questions in written form from the gay weekly where he once again attempted to fool us into forgetting his deplorable record on gay rights. And before I tell you what he said, for the record, here's that GLBT record:

_McCain opposed legislation protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination in the workplace (ENDA).

_McCain opposed expanding federal hate crimes law to include sexual orientation.

_McCain is a proponent of discrimination against gays and lesbians in the military (Don't ask, don't tell).

_McCain is a proponent of legislation that bars federal agencies from recognizing gay marriages (DOMA).

_McCain opposes any recognition of gay unions and campaigned for a gay marriage ban in Arizona.

_McCain supported Jesse Helm's strategy to cut off HIV/AIDS prevention efforts to the gay community.

_McCain supports efforts to ban gay people from adopting or fostering children.

Yet, McCain told the Blade, “I hope gay and lesbian Americans will give full consideration to supporting me,” after reiterating that a ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military was working, that marriage should be reserved as an institution between a man and a woman, and that no state should be compelled to recognize gay marriages performed in another state.

I suppose it's a compliment to be mavericked like that!

But the real fireworks occurred Thursday, when Senator Joe Biden and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin answered questions on gay rights at their first and only vice presidential debate.

There, at first glance, it appeared a winking Palin had flip-flopped on the issue of civil rights for gay couples. “No one would ever propose, not in a McCain-Palin adminstration, to do anything to prohibit, say, visitations in a hospital or contracts being signed ...” she said.

In contrast, she told Newsweek in an August 2007 interview that she would support a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman to block marriage benefits from gay couples.

Biden, who failed to support gay marriage, did give a strong endorsement to gay civil rights. “Look, in an Obama-Biden administration there will be absolutely no distinction from a constitutional standpoint or a legal standpoint between a same sex and a heterosexual couple.”

While the candidates talked shop on gay rights, California voters were witnessing gay politics play out on their television sets, as gay marriage friends and foes began their showdown on the airwaves there.

Both sides now have ads running in most markets in an attempt to influence undecided voters on a November 4th constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage in the state.

While the pro-gay marriage commercial is a limp-wristed affair – an empty-nest couple look into the camera and appeal for fairness for their lesbian daughter – the Yes-on-8, anti-gay marriage ad shows they are ready to take it to the street.

In that commercial, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom appears smug and self-satisfied celebrating the state Supreme Court's decision legalizing gay marriage and saying, “It's going to happen – whether you like it or not.” The ad falsely warns that without Proposition 8, people would be sued over personal beliefs, churches could loose their tax exemption, and gay marriage would be taught in public schools. And, just for good measure, out pops Newsom again: “Whether you like it or not.”

The 30-second spot punches through ideals of fairness or equality and goes right for the jugular of supposedly liberal politicians and cocky gays pushing a supposedly unwanted agenda on middle America.

And on a sadder note, last week's Gay Entertainment Report that announced Saint Petersburg's first-ever gay film festival is to be ignored, as authorities in Russia shut it down on its opening night. After authorities pressured the state-run Cinema House and a private theater to cancel their commitments to host the event, fire department inspectors closed the alternate bars and clubs where organizers had hoped to screen the films. Organizers said they hope to reschedule at a later date.

The Gay Slant pops in most Saturdays at On Top Magazine. Walter Weeks is a writer for On Top and can be reached at ww@ontopmag.com.