Tuesday was Super Duper for Gay Americans

An Opinion

Timothy Kincaid

February 6th, 2008

At the conclusion of “America’s Primary”, the presidential primaries remain exciting. Senators Clinton and Obama are very close in delegate count and no one can know for certain whom will bear the Democrat banner.

Senator McCain is significantly ahead in delegate count and barring some unexpected event is likely to be the nominee. While there is still some life in the Republican primary and peculiar things do happen in politics, at the moment we will assume that McCain will be running against either Senator Clinton or Senator Obama.

But what does that mean to gay Americans?

Quite a bit, actually. Below I will explore where the candidates stand on a few issues that are of particular importance to our community.


None of the three support marriage equality. Yet none of the three candidates are in favor of a constitutional amendment barring states from instituting or recognizing marriage between gay couples.

Interestingly, John McCain may have the most invested in opposing such an amendment. Citing his federalist ideals, McCain argued passionately on the floor of the Senate against the passage of the amendment.

However, this does not mean that McCain is in favor of gay marriage. Although he has expressed in the past that he is in favor of some recognition of gay couples, he campaigned for a constitutional amendment banning both marriage and any other form of recognition in his own state. It lost.

But in any case, with McCain as the Republican nominee, this election cycle is unlikely to have banning gay marriage as any central theme.

It is uncertain to what extent any candidate would champion rights for gay couples.

Both Senators Clinton and Obama have expressed approval of overturning the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), or at least that portion of it that defines federal recognition of marriage as being only between a man and a woman.

Senator McCain is very much in favor of that part of DOMA that releases states from recognizing gay marriages performed in other states. Senator Clinton also seems to favor keeping that restriction in place. From a pragmatic point of view, I too want this upheld for some time as I think that without it a federal marriage ban would have much more support.

There is some question as to whether McCain could support the federal recognition of marriage as defined by the various states (overturning that half of DOMA), especially those which do so by means of positive legislative action. His federalist philosophy may well override his personal affinity to an opposite sex definition of marriage if the appropriate argument was presented.

Ultimately, the decision to overturn DOMA is up to Congress. And while a vote for Clinton or Obama could be argued to be a mandate to overturn the bill, a McCain election would probably not be construed to be a mandate to keep it in place.

The most significant impact that the new President will have on the lives of gay persons in relationships will be on appointments to Department heads. On that level, it is likely that gay couples will fare better overall under Democrats than Republicans. However, it is also likely that McCain’s appointments will be far more centrist and moderate than those of some other Republicans.


Both Clinton and Obama back non-discrimination in housing and employment.

It appears that McCain does not favor ENDA. It is unknown whether his opposition rises to the level of a veto should Congress pass the legislation.


Both Clinton and Obama have expressed interest in overturning DADT.

McCain has hedged his bets a bit. He claims that senior military officers claim that the policy is working. This leaves him open to change in policy should “senior military officers” tell him that the policy is no longer a necessity.

Judicial Nominees

This is a subject that is raised as being of paramount importance for the advancement of any faction’s social agenda. But it is also the least easy to predict.

Conservative Republicans have nominated judges for the bench, and even the Supreme Court that have championed causes that conservatives find abhorrent. And Democrats have appointed judges whose decisions were decidedly conservative.

Ironically, many of the decisions decried as the actions of “liberal activist judges” were made by conservative judges taking positions that were strictly constructed rather than simply parroting the platitudes of their political friends. It is my personal opinion that those judges who are most exact in their interpretation of law will eventually be those judges that establish equality for gay persons – and on such terms that their decisions will be difficult to fault. Equality under the law is, at its heart, a conservative ideal.

We can assume that to some extent Democrats will appoint judges that are somewhat more approachable on gay issues than will a Republican. But McCain is no usual Republican when it comes to judicial appointments.

In 2005, Senator McCain was part of the “gang of 14”, a group of moderate Senators of both parties that stood in the way of filibuster efforts to force controversial and highly partisan judges through approval. While McCain has promised to appoint “strict constructionist judges”, it is unlikely that he would make appointments based on partisan ideals or conservative ideology that did not have bipartisan respect. An adamantly anti-gay judge is unlikely to make McCain’s list.

Overall Comfort and Access

The candidate with the most comfort and ease with gay people, Rudy Giuliani, has been eliminated from the running. But all of the remaining credible candidates have demonstrated that they are more-or-less approachable to our community.

Hillary Clinton will probably continue in the vein of her husband and her Senate career. She will probably not be closely aligned to our community and will likely place us lower in priority if she needs to broker a deal, but she has been known to have some gay friends – at least in the past. She is likely to give access to gay groups and perhaps appoint a gay liaison.

Barack Obama is more difficult to measure. His religious community has a strong social justice history and is officially favorable to gay equality. But his campaign has shown insensitivity to the community by pushing forward some within the black community that have a history of homophobia and support for the ex-gay movement. However, he has strong gay support and has spoken out against homophobia. It is likely that Obama will provide access to gay groups.

John McCain is a social conservative, but this seems to be tempered by a federalist streak. Further, I have watched McCain for many years and have yet to see an overtly hostile attitude towards gay people. I recall many years ago when Lon Mabon’s anti-gay group, the Oregon Citizen Alliance, invited him to speak, McCain came and gave them a little lecture about being tolerant of others with whom they disagree.

Some have expressed alarm over robo-calls made by McCain’s campaign that discussed “special rights”, but the candidate did pull the calls immediately upon being informed of their content. It’s difficult to know to what extent McCain approved the calls, but the content seemed inconsistent with his history.

The jury is still out on McCain, but I don’t anticipate anti-gay activism to be a part of his campaign or his administration. Further, as the more homophobic elements of the Republican Party have been openly attacking him, McCain may not feel that he owes anything to them if elected. I am cautiously optimistic that McCain would give access and a fair hearing on gay issues.


Gay people should be encouraged with the current state of the elections.

While true gay champions such as Kucinich or Gravel have been eliminated as possible nominees, the two remaining Democrat candidates support gay equality, if to a somewhat lesser degree. While I personally don’t see much conviction in their support, we can be sure that gay people will not be treated with hostility by either administration.

Further, gay people should be overjoyed that Huckabee’s theocratic campaign has been all-but-eliminated from any chance of winning. A Huckabee administration would prioritize anti-gay discrimination as part of a Kingdom of God in America agenda.

In the upcoming national election I anticipate that the differences between the two candidates (whomever they turn out to be) on gay issues will have little resonance or impact on the election. We will not have to spend the rest of the year hearing about how marriage needs to be “protected”. Nor will we hear about “San Francisco Values” or an “attack on the family”.

And I anticipate that the next President, regardless of party, will not be overtly hostile to gay people or gay couples and may indeed be open to arguments about equality under the law.


February 6th, 2008

A good and thorough post. I’d been wondering McCain’s LGBT stance.

LGBT issues seem non-existent in this campaign in the mass media. As a trans Christian, I hear it LGBT spheres and Evangelical spheres, but no where else. I see that as good since people will have a clear mind without others shouting.

Ben in Oakland

February 6th, 2008

The huckster doesn’t really want to be President. Rather, he does, but it is unlikely he will be nominated and less likely that he will win.I think he will be quite happy as VP, with a hope that the presdient will make an early exit.

I still fear a theocratic america. Our country is in such a mess, and anyone with easy answers and security blanket will appeal to the people to whom theocracy is an answer.

“The handmaid’s Tale” is a definite possbility in my book.


February 6th, 2008

I am not as sanguine as TK and, in fact, think Ben is onto something. McCain’s people are busy talking about “reaching out” to Rush, Laura and the like. He has back-pedaled furiously from his “agents of intolerance” talk and seems to be gaining momentum in his rightward swing. Let’s see what sort of commitments he makes to earn Laura’s love. If McCain agrees to pick his judges from CPAC’s list, there are not going to be any Souters or Breyers or Anthony Kennedys to select. The direction of the Supreme Court for about two decades will be established in the next 4 years, and the SC is moving toward Scalia and his crusade to reverse the Lawrence decision. And let’s see who McCain picks to share the ticket (and take over in 4 short years if he steps aside as he has intimated he might); if it’s Huckabee (or any other fundamentalist theofascist), TK should think about trading in his Lincoln Logs for Legos.

Joe G.

February 7th, 2008

The candidate with the most comfort and ease with gay people, Rudy Giuliani, has been eliminated from the running.

What? What “comfort and ease” are you referring to? Maybe he did what he felt was politically expedient with the glbt community while mayor of NYC, but certainly not during his campaign.

As far as presidential candidates, those with the most comfort and ease with the glbt community would be the Democratic main candidates (Clinton, Obama, and Edwards when he was still running) and none of the Republicans.

Both Guiliani and Romney could have done so given their more positive, or at least more tolerant, positions when mayor/governor, but they blew that out of the water on the presidential campaign trail a long time ago.

Timothy Kincaid

February 7th, 2008


If you are familiar with Giuliani’s history you will know that he was personally comfortable around gay people. At the time of his last divorce, he moved in with a gay couple. He was known to have many gay friends and be comfortable in gay company.

While familiarity and ease does not always indicate a support for public policy, it does give a hint at future access and appointments.

Sadly, none of the remaining candidates seem to have a personal connection with gay people or, as best we know, any close gay friends.

Samantha Davis

February 7th, 2008

But what about trans people?

The way I see it, and the reason I support Obama, is that Obama has been the only candidate to step up and, in clear language, strongly support trans rights. Politically, a candidate who supports trans folk are much more likely to be supportive and comfortable with LGB folk after the election. It takes a measure of commitment to support a group that is as unpopular as we transfolk are.

Maybe Giuliani would be trans supportive considering he’s a known crossdresser. On the other hand I have known more than quite a few crossdressers who are transphobic (and homophobic).


February 7th, 2008

Ben in Oakland,

I think you’ve missed Jim’s lessons on the difference between theocracy and theonomy.


I would certainly hope that a President McCain (or any other president) wouldn’t select any Souters or Breyers for the courts as those two are lousy judges.

As for you concerns about Lawrence I have to assume it is rooted in that rulings results rather than in its reasoning because you offer no defense of it. Just what — legally speaking — makes Kennedy’s view right on this matter and Scalia’s view wrong


February 7th, 2008

There should be a question mark at the end of my last sentence above.


March 5th, 2008

I’m shocked and disappointed that Huckabee would take money from struggling, hard-working Americans in order to fund his campaign. He said in his drop-out speech that it was…”the sacrifices of a truck driver in Michigan, of a housewife who sold her wedding ring on eBay and gave the contribution to the campaign, a janitor in Alabama who has a wife in a wheelchair who gave $20, not out of his abundance, but out of his poverty, so that our campaign could stay on the track.” In a bad economy, why would someone running for President take their money to fund a campaign that was clearly going to be fruitless? What would become of the economy if selfish Huckabee were President?

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