According to a report released Wednesday by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute, the 2004 Democratic presidential candidates, as a group, hold the most pro-gay positions ever taken by a field of candidates for president. But the majority are not leading but reflecting public opinion. "Contrary to assertions of conservative pundits, it's clear that the Democratic candidates cannot be accused of 'pandering' to the gay community," said Matt Foreman, NGLTF executive director. "By and large, their positions aren't leading the fight for equal rights; they simply reflect the overwhelming opinion of the American public. Frankly, given the crowded field and the importance of the GLBT vote in Democratic primary contests, you'd expect all the candidates to be much more out there on our issues."
The NGLTF report concludes that the openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual vote has emerged as a sizable, discrete voting bloc of 4% to 5% of the vote in national congressional and presidential elections and close to 10% in Democratic primaries. The report also analyzed the positions of the nine declared Democratic candidates in 11 issue areas, including sexual orientation and gender identity nondiscrimination laws, civil unions, marriage, the military ban on gays, and gay-supportive education policies. The most supportive candidate, it says, is former U.S. senator and ambassador Carol Moseley Braun, who has taken supportive positions in all 11 issue areas. The next most supportive candidate is former Vermont governor Howard Dean, who has taken positive positions in all the issue areas except equal access to marriage. The least supportive is U.S. senator Bob Graham of Florida, who has taken pro-gay positions in only four of the 11 issue areas.
Three of the front-runners have relatively solid records: U.S. senator John Kerry of Massachusetts has been a leader on nondiscrimination and HIV/AIDS prevention; U.S. representative Dick Gephardt of Missouri is also a strong advocate on AIDS issues; and U.S. senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut has supported gay rights laws for more than 25 years.