As part of questionnaire sent to all of the campaigns for president, President Obama provided a statement that lists his accomplishments on LGBT rights but points to Congress as among the major hold-ups.
Obama did not come out in support of same-sex marriage; he's said in the past that his thoughts on the issue are "evolving."
"I believe that Section 3 of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional and should be repealed," he said instead. "I have instructed the Department of Justice to no longer defend it in court, and the Department has already filed multiple briefs supporting individuals challenging the law in court."
Obama ticked off a long list of changes his administration has managed to make without the help of Congress. "A lot of work remains, and we cannot wait for Congress to act," he said, echoing a complaint about congressional inaction that he's made in other policy areas. His goal is "the more perfect union in which LGBT Americans have the same legal rights and responsibilities as every American."
Now that the leading Republican candidates have been campaigning for the presidential nomination for the past year, we're getting to the point in the primary campaign where one of the remaining candidates could become the nominee.
In honor of Super Tuesday, The Advocate set about to examine all of the candidates' stances on LGBT rights. In creating this primary scorecard, we sought answers directly from each campaign. Though none of the leading Republican candidates decided to provide answers, the campaigns of Obama, Libertarian hopeful Gary Johnson, and and gay GOP aspirant Fred Karger each supplied answers to The Advocate's questionnaire.
Be sure to read President Obama's full statement, which is available on the fifth page.
Barack Obama: No: Obama was a supporter of repealing the ban on gays in the military, and signed the bill into law.
Mitt Romney: No: “I was not comfortable making the change during a period of conflict, due to the complicating features of a new program in the middle of two wars going on, but those wars are winding down, and moving in that direction at this stage no longer presents that problem.”
Rick Santorum: Yes: At a GOP debate, Santorum said lifting the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military was "playing social experimentation.” He has pledged to reinstate the policy.
Newt Gingrich: Yes: He has promised to launch a review of whether DADT should be reinstated and contends that generals have been hiding their opposition to the repeal out of deference to President Obama.
Ron Paul: No: Paul voted in favor of repealing "don't ask, don't tell" in 2010, and said, "Everybody has the same rights as everybody else, so homosexuals in the military isn't a problem. It's only if they're doing things they shouldn't be, if they're disruptive. But there's ... men and women getting into trouble with each other too. And there's a lot more heterosexuals in the military, so logically they're causing more trouble than gays. So yes, you just have the same rules for everybody and treat them all the same."
Fred Karger: No
Gary Johnson: No
Do you support age-appropriate, LGBT-inclusive sexual education in schools?
Barack Obama: Endorsed age-appropriate sexual education in schools in 2007.
Mitt Romney: Attacked Obama in 2007 for advocating age-appropriate sexual education, but told Planned Parenthood that he supported such lesson plans in 2002.
Rick Santorum: No: Supports faith-based initiatives to encourage abstinence and marriage, and has condemned President Obama's support of comprehensive sexual education.
Newt Gingrich: No: In his 1994 Contract With America, Gingrich endorsed funding abstinence-only education.
Ron Paul: No: Paul said he supports abstinence-only education at a 2007 Values Voter Presidential Debate.
Fred Karger: Yes. He's also indicated that public schools should have no religious influences.
Gary Johnson: No: “While basic constitutional protections must of course be enforced in public schools, I fundamentally oppose placing federal mandates on states and local education authorities. Illegal practices and behaviors are illegal — whether they occur in a school or elsewhere. Unfortunately, when the federal government attempts to reclassify or ‘recriminalize’ behaviors that are already illegal, the result is too often unintended, and counterproductive, consequences.”
Do you support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which ensures equal treatment in job placement and retention?
Barack Obama: Yes
Mitt Romney: Unclear: Romney told the Log Cabin Republicans, in 1994, that he would sponsor ENDA if elected to the U.S. Senate. Recently, however, he said ENDA would “open a litigation floodgate and unfairly penalize employers at the hands of activist judges.”
Rick Santorum: Unclear: Santorum introduced a bipartisan Workplace Religious Freedom Act, which would have required employers to make accommodations for an employee's religious practices. The American Civil Liberties Union condemned the act.
Newt Gingrich: Unclear, but Gingrich has said gay people should be allowed to teach in schools.
Ron Paul: Paul has not cosponsored any version of the bill during his time in Congress. When the House of Representatives passed the bill in 2007, Paul did not vote.
Gary Johnson: Yes
Should same-sex couples be legally allowed to adopt children?
Barack Obama: Yes
Mitt Romney: No: In 2006, Romney said same-sex couples have “a legitimate interest in being able to receive adoptive services.” Earlier this year, he said two gay parents are not “ideal,” compared to a mother and father. Lately, he's bragged about supporting the Catholic Church's prerogative to discriminate in adoptions in Massachusetts.
Rick Santorum: No: Santorum said a state allowing children to live with gay foster parents “is not doing a service to the child and to society by not putting that child in a home where there is a mother and a father.” He's said a federal marriage ban, which he supports, would have the effect of banning all adoptions by same-sex couples.
Newt Gingrich: Unclear: Gingrich said marriage equality hurts children because several Catholic organizations ended their adoption and foster care services when it became clear the law would no longer allow them to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples while receiving state funds in places such as Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. Still, it is not quite clear if Gingrich completely condemns the idea of gay and lesbian couples adopting children.
Ron Paul: Unclear: In 1999, Paul voted against federal funding to boost adoption services for same-sex couples in Washington, D.C., but it could be argued he voted that way because he advocates limited federal funding in general.
Fred Karger: Yes
Gary Johnson: Yes
Do you believe homosexuality is a sin?
Barack Obama: No: Obama has issued presidential proclamations declaring June as Gay Pride Month. "The story of America's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community is the story of our fathers and sons, our mothers and daughters, and our friends and neighbors who continue the task of making our country a more perfect Union. It is a story about the struggle to realize the great American promise that all people can live with dignity and fairness under the law. Each June, we commemorate the courageous individuals who have fought to achieve this promise for LGBT Americans, and we rededicate ourselves to the pursuit of equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity."
Mitt Romney: Won’t Answer: When CNN’s Piers Morgan asked whether he thought homosexuality was a sin, Romney replied, “Nice try ... I separate quite distinctly matters of personal faith from the leadership that one has in a political sense.”
Rick Santorum: Won’t Answer: “There are a lot of things in society that are, quote, ‘sins’ or moral wrongs that we don't make illegal. Just because something is immoral or something that is wrong doesn't mean that it should be illegal, and that the federal government or any level of government should involve themselves in.”
Newt Gingrich: Yes: “But I also believe that all of us are sinners.”
Ron Paul: No: "The government has no business in your private life, you know, so if one person is allowed to do something, so should everyone else."
Fred Karger: No: Karger has also condemned former Republican candidate Michele Bachmann and her husband, Marcus Bachmann, for their apparent endorsement of "ex-gay" therapy.
Gary Johnson: N/A: “A president’s opinions or beliefs regarding whether homosexuality is an innate trait, can be ‘treated’ through counseling, or even whether it is a ‘sin’ are not appropriate factors in terms of the policies he or she should pursue.”
Do you support full federal marriage equality?
Barack Obama: No, but: “I believe that Section 3 of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional and should be repealed. I have instructed the Department of Justice to no longer defend it in court, and the Department has already filed multiple briefs supporting individuals challenging the law in court.”
Mitt Romney: No: Romney, who was governor when the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled for marriage equality, unveiled his three-tier plan for marriage and partner recognition in December to keep marriage rights for straight couples, allow already-married gay couples to remain wed, but prohibit future same-sex marriages.
Rick Santorum: No: Santorum has compared same-sex marriage to many things, but in 2003, he famously said, “In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be.” His proposed plan, if he is elected president, would be to annul all marriages between same-sex couples.
Newt Gingrich: No: "As President, I will vigorously enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, which was enacted under my leadership as Speaker of the House, and ensure compliance with its provisions, especially in the military.”
Ron Paul: Unclear: Paul has said, "The whole gay marriage issue is a private affair and the federal government has no say." However, Paul said earlier this year that DOMA was an appropriate way to establish states' rights when governing marriage.
Fred Karger: Yes: “Gay marriage sends a very loud and clear message to LGBT youth that they are equal.”
Gary Johnson: Yes: Upon extensive review of the implications of civil unions and other ‘half-measures,’ I simply do not believe it is practical to create a new form of relationship (civil union) and somehow comport that relationship with thousands of federal laws, which involve the recognition of a legal marriage.”
Statement to The Advocate from President Barack Obama
Our country grows stronger when all Americans have access to opportunity and are able to participate fully in our economy. Too many Americans are still denied their basic rights. But we can also be proud of the progress we have made.
Together we have repealed the discriminatory Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy that prohibited gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans from serving openly in the military. We passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Protection Act, adding the words sexual orientation and gender identity to federal civil rights protections for the first time. And through the Affordable Care Act, we’re making sure that all Americans have access to affordable health care and that insurers will no longer be able to deny coverage based on preexisting conditions, including HIV/AIDS.
I believe that Section 3 of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional and should be repealed. I have instructed the Department of Justice to no longer defend it in court, and the Department has already filed multiple briefs supporting individuals challenging the law in court. I also support an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
But a lot of work remains, and we cannot wait for Congress to act. My administration developed and is executing the first comprehensive national strategy on HIV/AIDS to reduce HIV incidence, increase access to care, and reduce disparities. I hosted the first White House conference on bullying prevention and many in my Administration, including myself and Vice President Biden, participated in the It Gets Better Project that gives hope to young people who are victims of bullying or harassment because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Department of Health and Human Services is now requiring hospitals receiving federal Medicare and Medicaid funding to honor LGBT patients’ wishes regarding hospital visitation and medical decision-making rights, and is beginning to collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity, including new information on health disparities affecting the LGBT population. The Department of State ended the ban on travel by HIV-positive individuals and is working to ensure that the human rights of LGBT people are a U.S. priority around the world. The Department of Homeland Security has prioritized the deportation of certain undocumented immigrants, including those who pose a threat to national safety and public safety, while putting a lower priority on the cases of undocumented immigrants with family members, including same-sex partners, in the United States. The Department of Housing and Urban Development is working to making housing discrimination against LGBT Americans a thing of the past. Finally, my Administration has brought on more qualified LGBT appointees, and confirmed more LGBT federal judges, than any other Administration.
My Administration will continue to seek out avenues for progress. Together we can continue to build the more perfect union in which LGBT Americans have the same legal rights and responsibilities as every American.