Candidates Face Off

By Emmet Sullivan

Originally published on Advocate.com October 07 2008 11:00 PM ET

Halfway through
his acceptance speech August 28 at the Democratic
National Convention, presidential nominee Barack Obama
called for unity despite Americans’
disagreements over hot-button social issues. “I know
there are differences on same-sex marriage,” he said,
“but surely we can agree that our gay and
lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the
person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of
discrimination.”

What a difference
an election cycle makes. In 2004 the issue of gay
marriage was largely ignored by Democrats and embraced as a
call to arms by the GOP. This year both Obama and
Republican nominee John McCain have gay friends and
coworkers, and both oppose a Federal Marriage Amendment
that would write a definition of marriage as a union of one
man and one woman into the U.S. Constitution (although
neither is sold on the idea of marriage equality).

But that’s
the big picture. On issues like “don’t ask,
don’t tell” or the federal Employment
Non-Discrimination Act, the two White House contenders
are very different. Haven’t decided whom to vote for
on November 4? Take a look at where they stand on the
issues.

GAY MARRIAGEObama Supports civil unions and voted against
the Federal Marriage Amendment. Supports repealing the
Defense of Marriage Act. Opposes Proposition 8, a
ballot initiative that would amend California’s
constitution to undo marriage equality.

McCain Voted for DOMA in 1996. Believes
“marriage is a union between one man and one
woman,” but opposed the FMA, saying marriage
laws should be left up to the states. Supports
Proposition 8 and Proposition 102, which would amend
Arizona’s constitution to limit marriage to
opposite-sex couples.

EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATIONObama Cosponsored a bill in Illinois to
prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual
orientation and gender identity. Supports a
transgender-inclusive federal ENDA.

McCain Voted against ENDA in 1996; it failed by
one vote in the Senate. Originally said, “I
don’t believe that [gay people] belong in a
special category.” In a later interview with the
Washington Blade, he changed his stance, saying,
"Gay and lesbian people should not face discrimination
in the workplace. I’ve always practiced that in
my hiring. I select the best people, regardless of
their sexual orientation. I support the concept of
non-discrimination in hiring for gay and lesbian
people."

ADOPTIONObama Supports equal adoption rights and said
that he will work to “extend equal treatment in our
family and adoption laws.”

McCain Told The New York Times he
doesn’t believe gay people should be allowed to adopt
children and later said he supports adoption by two-parent,
“traditional” families.

“DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL”Obama Wrote on his website that we should
“repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t
tell’ and demonstrate that the most effective
and professional military in the world is open to all
Americans.” Recently said he would work with
military leaders to repeal the ban by consensus.

McCain Believes “don’t ask,
don’t tell” is working and has said in
the past, “It would be a terrific mistake to even
reopen the issue.” He adjusted that stance in an
interview with ABC News and later in the Washington
Blade
interview, saying, "I promise to give full
consideration to any legislation that reaches my desk.
On 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,' I’m going
to defer to our military commanders. So far they have
told me it’s working. I’m willing to have
the policy reviewed to make sure that’s the case, but
at the end of the day, I’m going to rely on the
commanders who will be impacted by a change in the
law."

HATE CRIMESObama Cosponsored the Matthew Shepard Local Law
Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which would add
crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity
to those covered under the federal hate-crimes law.

McCain Opposed expanding hate-crimes
legislation to include sexual orientation in 2000, 2002, and
2004. Wasn’t present for the 2007 vote.

IMMIGRATIONObama Supports the Uniting American Families
Act to allow U.S. citizens or permanent residents to sponsor
their same-sex foreign partners for immigration to the
U.S.

McCain Opposes the UAFA.

HIV/AIDSObama Supports the Ryan White Act, the
President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and
comprehensive sex education that includes information
about HIV and AIDS.

McCain Supports PEPFAR and has consistently
backed the Ryan White Act but in 1995 voted for an amendment
to prohibit funding from being used for
“encouragement of homosexuality or intravenous
drug use.” Supports abstinence-only sex
education