Expectations that gay rights issues
will be addressed at tonight's presidential debate in Nashville remain
low – neither Senator John McCain nor Barack Obama discuss gay
issues much with the mainstream media.
However, both men have discussed gay
rights with the gay media. Analysis from those interviews and
previous positions indicate severe differences on where the two men
stand with regard to gay rights.
McCain has been endorsed by the Log
Cabin Republicans – the gay Republicans – who call the Arizona
senator an “inclusive” Republican. “On the most important
issue that LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] Americans
faced in the last decade – the Federal Marriage Amendment – Sen.
John McCain stood with us. Now we stand with him,” Log Cabin
Republicans President Patrick Sammon said in endorsing the candidate.
But opponents point out that McCain's
vote should not be interpreted as support for gay marriage or even
gay unions. McCain has repeatedly said that he is a deep believer in
federalism – the notion that social issues should be the domain of
“I voted against the Federal Marriage
Amendment in 2004 and 2006. I continue to oppose such an amendment
today, because, as I've explained, this should be a state matter, and
not one for the federal government – as long as no state is forced
to adopt some other state's standard,” he told the gay weekly The
McCain supported and campaigned for a
measure in his home state of Arizona to alter its constitution to ban
recognition of gay couples in 2006. He believes states should forbid
gay marriage and even keeps open the possibility of reversing his
decision on the federal marriage ban should the need arise.
Senator Barack Obama opposes gay
marriage as well. However, the Illinois senator has endorsed civil
unions for gay couples. And his endorsement appears to be evolving.
In September, he told The Washington Blade that he would
repeal the Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that prohibits
the federal government from recognizing gay couples.
“If elected, I would call on Congress
to enact legislation that would repeal DOMA and ensure that the over
1,100 federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the
basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil
unions and other legally recognized unions,” he told the gay weekly
Obama does not call this gay marriage,
but quiver he does not on the issue – calling on civil unions for
gay couples with full federal marriage-like benefits is as complete
an endorsement from a presidential candidate as one can expect during a
McCain told the Blade he
supported implementation of a national AIDS strategy.
“I am committed to supporting the
development of a National AIDS Strategy. Countries receiving PEPFAR
aid are required to develop a national plan; but we don't have one in
our country. It's important to settle on a national strategy –
with input from state, local and federal government officials; along
with private sector, doctors, drug companies and AIDS advocates.
Let's roll up our sleeves and put together a National AIDS Strategy
for more effectively addressing the domestic challenges. Recent CDC
statistics show that gay men continue to be strongly impacted by the
disease, and the disease is disproportionately affecting people of
color. Our prevention and treatment efforts must be improved to
address these challenges.” McCain said.
An apparent flip-flop for a senator who
supported Jesse Helms' strategy to cut off HIV/AIDS prevention
efforts to the gay community. Helms called gays “degenerate” and
argued that gay people should not receive AIDS care because they had
contracted the disease through their “deliberate, disgusting,
revolting conduct.” More recently, McCain has supported
abstinence-only programs that leave out gay youth. The strategy,
which calls for abstinence before marriage as a method to combat
AIDS, ignores the fact that gay youth cannot marry in most states and
has been called ineffective by experts.
Obama often advocates for a national
AIDS strategy and has outlined a plan on his official website.
Moreover, he has discussed the role homophobia has played in fueling
the spread of the disease.
“One of the things we've got to
overcome is a stigma that still exists in our communities,” Obama
said at Howard University. “We don't talk about this. We don't
talk about it in the schools. Sometimes, we don't talk about it in
the churches. It has been an aspect of sometimes a homophobia, that
we don't address this issue [of HIV] as clearly as it needs to be.”
McCain believes the ban on gays and
lesbians serving openly in the military is working, while Barack
Obama believes the policy – “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” – is a
failure that should be repealed.
Gay Republicans concede their candidate
is weak on gay issues, saying that their endorsement is not about gay
issues, but issues such as fiscal conservatism and national security
that affect all Americans.
The non-gay endorsement of the gay
Republicans serves to underscore McCain's lackluster support on gay