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October 24, 2008

McCain and the Future of GLBT Rights

As we've already mentioned, October is GLBT History Month. Now, knowing the history is important... but we can't forget the present and future either. I think it's important, during this election season, to remember how bad John McCain will be for gay rights. A lot of people mistakenly think that McCain is pro-gay rights or at least tolerant of gay rights. Nope. Not true. I can understand why people believe this, but they're wrong.

There has only ever been one thing that John McCain has done that indirectly benefited the GLBT community: He refused to support a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Now in the short version, that might seem like something good for the GLBT community (and obviously defeating a federal ban on same-sex marriage is a good thing). However, this one good thing does not mean that McCain supports the GLBT community. He wasn't against the ban because he thought it was discriminatory or wrong (it was). And he wasn't against the ban because he thinks same-sex marriage should be legal (he doesn't).

The only reason he was against the federal ban was because he thinks that issue should be decided at the state level (and he did vote for the Defense of Marriage Act). That's not pro-gay. Pro-gay would be supporting a federal amendment legalizing same-sex marriage (which he would never do). He believes that marriage should only be between one man and one woman and he completely supports and encourages each state's efforts to deny marriage rights to same-sex couples. Just like he supported Arizona's Proposition 107, which would have banned both gay marriage and civil unions back in 2006. He also opposes same-sex civil unions.

Oh and let's not forget that even though he was opposed to the Federal Marriage Amendment then, he did admit that he is leaving the door open to support it:
"If the Supreme Court of the United States rejects the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional; if state legislatures are frustrated by the decisions of jurists in more states than one, and if state remedies to such judicial activism fail; and finally, if a large majority of Americans come to perceive that their communities’ values are being ignored and other standards concerning marriage are being imposed on them against their will, and that elections and state legislatures can provide no remedy, then, and only then, should we consider, quite appropriately, amending the Constitution of the United States."
So yeah, he still sucks. The rest of McCain's history on GLBT issues has been equally suckish, if not more so. He has been rated 33% by the Human Rights Campaign (indicating a low-mixed record on gay rights) and 0% by the ACLU (indicating an anti-civil rights voting record).

McCain voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would have protected against employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. McCain has been quoted as supporting the "concept" of non-discrimination in hiring for gay and lesbian people, but he won't actually support any legislation that would ensure that "concept" becomes a reality.
"I support the concept of non-discrimination in hiring for gay and lesbian people. However, we need to make sure legislation doesn't lead to a flood of frivolous lawsuits or infringe on religious institutions."
There he goes again protecting bigoted corporations from "frivolous lawsuits". Because silly things like discrimination, equal opportunity, and equal pay are just silly, petty, stupid issues that we shouldn't worry our little heads about! This past year a version of ENDA finally passed through the House, but we'll see if it ever makes it through the Senate as more than just a "concept".

Another "concept" that McCain claims to agree with, but does nothing to support is the protection of GLBT Americans from bias-motivated attacks. According to the FBI's statistics on hate crimes, 1 in 6 bias crimes are due to the victim's sexual orientation. Currently, federal hate crimes law does not specifically protect victims from crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity, but McCain voted three times against expanding the law to include sexual orientation. He said he found the addition "unnecessary".

McCain opposes adoption by same-sex couples because he doesn't "believe it's appropriate". He has been quoted as saying, "we've proven that both parents are important in the success of a family so, no I don't believe in gay adoption". He's proven it? Really? Hm... because almost every child welfare organization in the country disagrees. The Child Welfare League of America, an association of nearly 800 public and private nonprofit agencies that assist over 3.5 million abused and neglected children and their families each year, disagrees with McCain. They believe that lesbian, gay, and bisexual parents are "as well suited to raise children as their heterosexual counterparts" and cite social science research to support this claim:
"A growing body of scientific evidence demonstrates that children who grow up with one or two parents who are gay or lesbian fare as well in emotional, cognitive, social, and sexual functioning as do children whose parents are heterosexual. Evidence shows that children's optimal development is influenced more by the nature of the relationships and interactions within the family unit than by its particular structural form".

The CWLA isn't alone. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association, and the National Adoption Center all agree that homosexuals are just as qualified to be parents as heterosexuals. But you know, McCain thinks it's not appropriate, and he knows best, right? Obviously McCain's position not only hurts the GLBT community (and single parents of any orientation) but it seriously hurts all of the children in orphanages and foster care that might never be placed for adoption due to discrimination.

McCain is against allowing homosexuals to openly serve in the military and thinks that the antiquated "don't ask, don't tell" policy is "working". He's been quoted as saying that gay troops pose an intolerable risk to national security:

"I believe polarization of personnel and breakdown of unit effectiveness is too high a price to pay for well-intentioned but misguided efforts to elevate the interests of a minority of homosexual service members above those of their units.

Most importantly, the national security of the United States, not to mention the lives of our men and women in uniform, are put at grave risk by policies detrimental to the good order and discipline which so distinguish America's armed services."

This law has led to the departure or discharge of more than 11,000 service members and there are currently more than 65,000 lesbian and gay service members on duty. But yeah, we wouldn't want to put the interests of those 65,000 service members above the interests of their heterosexual peers who aren't being discriminated against or being asked to live a lie. They can put their lives on the line for their country, but still have to live in fear of being discharged based on something that is not illegal. But it's working right, so who cares if it's fair? But wait... is it really working? McCain has based his stance that it's "working" on the alleged opinion of military leaders:

"Almost unanimously, they tell me that this present policy is working, that we have the best military in history, that we have the bravest, most professional, best prepared, and that this policy ought to be continued because it's working."

Actually, not everyone believes it's working. General John Shalikashvili, former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman (1993-1997) originally supported the policy, but now thinks it should be given "serious reconsideration". He believes that people's attitudes have evolved and cites evidence to support the claim that gays and lesbians in the military are now be accepted by the majority of their peers and therefore able to serve just as effectively. A Zogby poll shows that 73% of military members say they are comfortable around lesbians and gays. Former Secretary of Defense William Cohen told CNN last year, that it's time to revisit the ban, which he describes as "a policy of discrimination". West Point Superintendent Daniel Chrstiman, retired Army Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy, and retired Navy Rear Admiral John Hutson have also expressed support for revisiting the law.

Military leaders in many other countries have already adopted less discriminatory practices. The Netherlands has one of the most tolerant stances on homosexuality in the military. France has no official policy, however they will allow a homosexual individual to be exempt from service if he feels threatened. In Great Britain, a ban similar to that of the U.S. ban was lifted in 1999 following a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. General Sir Richard Dannatt, chief of the general staff of the British Army, recently gave a speech at a gay rights conference, saying that GLBT officers were welcome to serve in the Army and that respect for these soldiers was now vital for "operational effectiveness".

Sharra Greer, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network's director of law and policy, feels that McCain's position is "out of step with the overwhelming majority of the American people and out of touch with the best interests of our armed forces." Barack Obama believes that the policy should be repealed because allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would not undermine the military's efficacy. He believes that no one should be prevented from "serving his or her country because of what they do in private".
"I do believe that at a time when we are short-handed, that everybody who is willing to lay down their lives on behalf of the United States, and can do so effectively, can perform critical functions, should have the opportunity to do so."

Although the issue of HIV/AIDS is not exclusively a GLBT issue, it most certainly is an important issue to the GLBT community. McCain supported a discriminatory strategy from Jesse Helms to cut off-funding for prevention efforts aimed at the gay community. He also supported the barring of people infected with HIV from visiting or immigrating to the U.S. and supports more emphasis on abstinence programs (because those work so well)..

In 2000, John McCain said he wasn't sure whether or not condoms helped prevent the transmission of HIV:
Q: "Do you think contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV?”

McCain: (Long pause) “You’ve stumped me.”

Q: “I mean, I think you’d probably agree it probably does help stop it?”

McCain: (Laughs) “Are we on the Straight Talk express? I’m not informed enough on it. Let me find out. You know, I’m sure I’ve taken a position on it on the past. I have to find out what my position was.”
Barack Obama has been quoted as believing the U.S. needs a "more effective AIDS policy" which would coincide with his plans for universal health care legislation, sex education, and promotion of STD testing in minority communities.

John McCain has promised (both recently and during his Presidential campaign in 1999) to only appoint Supreme Court judges who were strictly faithful to the Constitution and did not participate in judicial activism. (Which can be roughly translated to mean judicial decisions that support GLBT rights, choice, or the separation of church and state). He strongly supported John Roberts and Samuel Alito - who have both been strongly opposed by GLBT rights groups - and he would likely seek other ultra-conservative judicial appointees like them.

He has also accepted endorsements from people who have a similar history of anti-gay policies, such as Mike Huckabee, President George W. Bush, and Gary Bauer of the Family Research Council.

As if all that wasn't enough... McCain has been proven himself to be less gay friendly than you'd hope, on more than one occasion. He apparently didn't even know what the abbreviation "LGBT" stood for until last year. He has admitted to not really caring much about "social issues and during his 2000 campaign for President, McCain told reports that he could spot colleagues who were gay by "behavior and attitudes".
"I think that it's clear to some of us when people have that lifestyle."

And I think it's clear to some of us when a candidate is a bad choice for the future of GLBT history.

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