Frequently asked questions about President Obama LGBT positions and actions for full equality and rights for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders.
By Tobias B. Wolff | Contact
Tobias Barrington Wolff is the Co-Chair, National LGBT Policy Committee, Obama for America '08 and Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
He writes and teaches in the fields of Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, and Conflict of Laws.
He began his teaching career at the University of California, Davis Law School and has been a visiting professor at Stanford and Northwestern Law Schools.
Before entering academia, Wolff was a litigator at the firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in New York and served as a judicial clerk for Judges Betty Binns Fletcher and William Norris, both of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Professor Wolff has also worked as a civil rights attorney for ten years and has participated in gay rights cases around the country, including marriage and relationship rights litigation in Alaska, California, Hawai'i and Iowa and litigation over the U.S. military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy in the First and Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeals.
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Q: WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES IN POSITIONS ON LGBT ISSUES BETWEEN SENATORS OBAMA AND McCAIN?
The contrast between the two presidential candidates could not be more stark. Senator Obama supports Hate Crimes legislation, the Employment Non Discrimination Act, the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act in its entirety, lifting the ban on gays and lesbians in the military, and recognition of civil marriages, civil unions, and domestic partnerships by the federal government. Senator McCain opposes all of them. Check this:
> Table comparing the LGBT positions of Senators Obama and McCain
> Senator Obama quotes and positions on LGBT equality
> Senator McCain quotes and positions on LGBT equality
Q: ARE LGBT ISSUES DISCUSSED IN THE OFFICIAL WEBSITE OF THE CANDIDATES?
Senator Obama has a whole section of the official campaign website dedicated exclusively to LGBT issues and includes a blog and his official platform on LGBT rights (download this one page pdf).
Senator McCain does not mention our rights except his dedication to preserve traditional marriage.
Q: WHAT HAS SENATOR OBAMA ACTUALLY DONE FOR LGBT PEOPLE?
- He worked for seven years on enacting fully inclusive antidiscrimination protections in Illinois, cosponsoring the legislation as a freshman legislator, serving as chief cosponsor of three successive versions, and lobbying his colleagues for the successful enactment of that law, and he has repeatedly called for the enactment of a fully inclusive ENDA and advocates fully inclusive protections for federal workers and contractors.
- He led the successful bipartisan effort to enact the Illinois Gender Violence Act, which provides broad protections from sexual and domestic violence, and he participated in the effort (ultimately unsuccessful) to make the protection of LGBT individuals under the Act explicit.
- He was a champion in Illinois for the enactment of progressive, results-based HIV/AIDS policies, like a regulated needle exchange program and public awareness and education efforts.
- In the U.S. Senate, he was an early voice in calling for lifting the ban on federal funding of regulated needle exchange, and he has been a champion and cosponsor of comprehensive federal AIDS reform (domestic funding, prevention, education, treatment, services, research, global initiatives).
- He came back to Washington last fall from the campaign trail to cast the necessary 60th vote to pass the fully inclusive Matthew Shepherd hate crimes law out of the Senate.
- He voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment, went on record while still a candidate for U.S. Senate supporting a complete repeal of DOMA, advocates fully equal treatment of all same-sex relationships at the federal level, and has vocally opposed the divisive and discrimatory proposed amendments in California and Florida.
- He has given the message of LGBT equality, and the need to reject homophobia and scapegoating, greater visibility before general audiences than has ever been the case in a race for President.
The list goes on. Advocates may disagree with how the Senator has dealt with particular issues -- it is hard to imagine a public official who would never provoke such disagreement -- but the Senator's record of advocacy and accomplishment for our community is clear, and it is superb.
Q: HAVE SENATORS OBAMA AND McCAIN SPOKEN UP ABOUT MARRIAGE IN CALIFORNIA?
> Senator Obama opposes the constitutional amendment in California that will take away the right of same sex couples to get married in that state. He also opposes similar amendments on the ballot this November in Florida and Arizona.
> Senator McCain supports the amendment to the California constitution to ban LGBT people from getting married there. He also supports similar amendments on the ballot this year in Florida and Arizona. The amendment in Arizona was defeated in 2006 (McCain was featured in ads supporting the constitutional amendment there).
Q: HAVE THE WIFES OF THE CANDIDATES SPOKEN IN SUPPORT OF LGBT RIGHTS?
> Michelle Obama gave this speech in support of LGBT rights at the annual dinner of the DNC's Gay and Lesbian Leadership Council.
> No public statements are known from Cindy McCain in support of our rights.
Q: ARE THE RUMORS ON OBAMA TRUE?
> Please check this site with the facts on Barack Obama and help refute the lies.
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