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Viewpoint: Democrats waffle on the web

By |2018-01-16T06:03:28-05:00January 17th, 2008|Opinions|

By Chris Crain

The top three presidential hopefuls made all
sorts of campaign promises on gay issues, but
what are they telling the world on the web?

As the race for the Democratic presidential nomination really heats up, a lot of LGBT voters may feel pretty well informed about where the top candidates stand on gay issues and yet still left wondering which ones would step up and defend us in a pinch.
Like any other campaign constituency, it all boils down to how we avoid being lulled into falling for a candidate who says one thing to us as a candidate and then does another in office. One way is to see whether each of the leading Democrats is telling general audiences the same things on gay issues that they’ve promised in more comfy quarters to us directly.
After all, if they don’t have the mettle now to tell Democratic primary voters – and anyone else listening in – about where they stand on gay rights, then why should we expect them to stick with us as president when the conservatives invariably turn up the heat?
One of the first places voters and journalists go to learn a candidate’s position on any issue is the Internet, of course, and all three leading Democrats have put together pages on their campaign websites that outline some – though not necessarily all — of their gay rights views.
Keep in mind that even using a “LGBT” link to identify the page is hiding the ball a bit. As common as that acronym is to us, it’s uncommon to a general audience. The campaigns would argue labeling ease, but it’s also a convenient way to target the audience.
Assuming you’re “LGBT”-hip, then finding each campaign’s gay rights page can be a bit of an adventure. If you start on the home page of Hillary Clinton’s campaign website, it’s next to impossible. Under “issues,” she lists 10 general subjects, from “strengthening the middle class” to “a champion for women.” If for some reason you happen to click on “strengthening our democracy,” then there on the righthand side of the inside page is a link for “LGBT Community,” which takes you to her position page.
It’s more straightforward on John Edwards’ campaign home page, where if you click onto his “issues” page inside the site and scroll down about two-thirds of the way, there is a link for “LGBT.”
Only Barack Obama has his “LGBT” link on the home page itself, listed between “Latinos” and “People of Faith” under the header “People” at the top of the page. Even still, if you clicked under “issues” and saw the first link was to “civil rights,” you would find an inside page that deals exclusively with African American issues and includes no “LGBT” link.
When you get to the candidates’ actual position pages, the contrasts are even more striking.
John Edwards offers up his overall philosophy on LGBT like this and follows it up with a wide range of positions, including his support on hot buttons like a full repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, federal recognition of civil unions, and he is the only one of the three to mention immigration rights for gay binational couples and gay adoption, although the latter is not a federal issue.
Obama is almost as exhaustive in a fact sheet that the same issues Edwards does except for immigration rights, although that’s covered in another link to Obama’s questionnaire from the Human Rights Campaign. Most importantly, Obama states even more directly than Edwards that he backs “legislation that would ensure that the 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.”
Clinton’s LGBT page offers a very different picture. No mention is made at all of her support for half-repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, immigration rights or federal recognition of civil unions or domestic partnerships. She includes “gender identity” with regard to hate crimes but on employment non-discrimination says only that it should cover “who you are and who you love.” Edwards and Obama were trans-inclusive on both bills.
Both Obama and Edwards pages also include a series of statements released on gay issues during the course of the campaigns, while Clinton’s is the only one to include her actual record, as opposed to a statement of positions.
As it turns out, visiting the campaign websites can teach “LGBT” voters, donors and allies a lot about the leading Democrats, although what’s not there is at least as instructive as what is.

Campaign websites:

Hillary Clinton

Barack Obama

John Edwards

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.