www.ambiente.us OCTOBER / OCTUBRE 2008
A GAY VOTER’S QUANDRY SOLVED
By Stephen Gaskill
What’s a gay voter to do?
You weren't an Obama supporter, but you’re unsure of McCain. You’re angry Hillary isn't on the Democratic
ticket, and somewhat intrigued by Palin.
None of them is overtly addressing GLBT issues, yet for years we've all said we care about the same things
straight voters do.
None of them wants us to marry – using that word – so what’s the difference?
It seems every four years GLBT voters have this discussion, seeing no distinctions between the candidates
or the parties despite the very real differences that exist. In an age where it’s easier to find information on any
subject than at any time in history through the Internet, gay voters sit back and remain uninvolved or
uninterested, secure in the notion that policy decisions don’t matter and that someone else will handle it
I have a very close Republican friend who confidently votes the party line every election because he knows
that the Democrats in office will be able to pull back the most egregious anti-gay initiatives before they take
effect. That’s a cynical approach to politics that only serves to keep our community from truly moving forward.
I’m as stunned as anyone to realize that George W. Bush received about 23 percent of the GLBT vote in 2004,
roughly the same percentage he received in 2000. Gay voters who saw no difference between Bush and
John Kerry on gay issues after the first Bush term just had their heads in the sand. I like to think that even
Mary Cheney, the vice president’s openly lesbian daughter, pulls the Democratic lever when she’s in the
privacy of the voting booth, despite having to wave the Republican (but not Rainbow) flag in public.
When discussing Obama versus McCain on GLBT issues, those supporting the Arizona senator always
point to both candidates’ views on “gay marriage,” which, on the surface, can be called similar. Neither
wants to use the word “marriage” in recognition of GLBT relationships. But the similarity ends there.
Obama supports equal benefits for same-sex couples, and is opposed to Amendment 2, the Florida
Marriage Protection Amendment, which will be on the ballot in November. (He also opposes the California
initiative.) McCain opposes relationship recognition of any kind for same-sex couples, and, while he
opposes a Federal Marriage Amendment, supports similar state amendments, like Florida’s and California’
s. In 2006, McCain campaigned for the Arizona Marriage Protection Amendment, the only one in the nation
that failed to pass. In John McCain’s world, marriage is reserved for a man and a woman – in that quantity.
But it’s not only the marriage issue that separates the candidates. Take comprehensive hate crime
legislation that includes protection for gays and lesbians (Obama supports it; McCain voted against it three
times). Or ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (Obama wants to eliminate it; McCain thinks the military ban on gays
and lesbians is fine). Or the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA (Obama supports it, including
protection based on gender identity; McCain cast the deciding vote against it in the US Senate). There are
endless other issues on which these two candidates disagree. Unfortunately, our community hangs in the
Don’t underestimate the importance of a gay-friendly administration in the White House. As a political
appointee in both terms of the Clinton administration, I saw firsthand the benefits of having openly-gay
officials who represented our government, set policy, drafted and lobbied for legislation, and were an integral
part of the daily ebb and flow of official Washington. My colleagues and I were part of the most inclusive
government in American history, and our community benefited because of it. We may have had some
setbacks, but sometimes politics requires a step backwards in order to take two steps forward.
A McCain administration is just a step backward, period. GLBT voters aren't single-issue voters, and there
are many big issues on the table in 2008. But the decision we have to make is this: On the range of issues
impacting our equality, our relationships, and our place in society, do we consciously choose to take our
community backward, or do we acknowledge the differences between the candidates and decide we have to
keep moving forward?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stephen Gaskill is a senior communications strategist and political consultant with more
than 20 years of experience designing and implementing media outreach programs for
political candidates, government agencies, advocacy groups, major corporations,
trade associations and ad hoc coalitions.
Based in South Florida after a long career in Washington DC, Stephen is an independent
consultant with a variety of client interests, and has served as national spokesperson on
a wide range of issues and causes. He is a veteran of Democratic politics, and held
senior positions in the last four presidential campaigns
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