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    May 26, 2007

    Clinton, Obama come up short

    Posted by: Chris

    Clintonobamablog Not to be outdone by the release on Thursday by the Edwards' campaign of his HRC candidate questionnaire, the Clinton and Obama camps put out documents on Friday to the Washington Blade outlining their gay rights positions.

    The Blade reports** that like Edwards, both Clinton and Obama renewed their support for civil unions, repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" and support for ENDA and hate crimes bills.  Nothing new there, unfortunately, though in general terms both Clinton and Obama reaffirm their support "equal benefits" (Hillary) and "full rights" (Obama) for gay couples:

    “Hillary will work to ensure that all Americans in committed relationships have equal benefits — from health insurance and life insurance, property rights and more,” says a document from her campaign titled “Fighting for the LGBT Community.”

    “Barack Obama supports civil unions that give gay couples full rights, including the right to assist their loved ones in times of emergency, the right to equal health insurance and other employment benefits currently extended to traditional married couples and the same property rights as anyone else,” says a campaign document titled “Barack Obama’s Support for the Gay and Lesbian Community.”

    But the Clinton and Obama statements, which appear** to be reworked versions of their HRC candidate questionnaires, fall short of Edwards' positions in several key places:

    • Neither Clinton nor Obama addressed marriage equality; at least Edwards explained his continued opposition;
    • Clinton and Obama were silent on the Defense of Marriage Act; Edwards backed repealing the one-half of DOMA that blocks federal recognition of gay couples married by states;
    • Clinton and Obama were silent on the Uniting American Families Act, which extends to gay Americans the same rights straight citizens have to sponsor non-American spouses for residence and citizenship; Edwards for the first time pledged his support.

    Without seeing the actual Clinton and Obama documents,** it's also not clear whether either matched Edwards' specific commitment to extend to gay couples "all of the 1,100 other legal protections [the federal] government affords married couples." 

    I have asked several times in this blog how it is that Clinton and Obama could live up to their rhetoric on treating gay couples equally, even just at the federal level, without at least repealing that half of DOMA — the other half, which is likely unconstitutional, allows one state to refuse to recognize marriage licenses issued to gay couples by other states.  Whatever you think of Edwards, give him credit for confronting DOMA head-on and making his commitment on legal recognition specific.

    On UAFA, which has particular importance for me and thousands of other gay binational couples, it's long past time for Clinton and Obama to come clean on their position.  As noted, Edwards came out in support of the bill, which was reintroduced this month, in his HRC questionnaire. 

    Then came word yesterday (via Immigration Equality) that New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson signaled his support for UAFA in a yet-to-be-published interview with my pal Karen Ocamb at IN LA magazine. “I’m for that," Richardson told Ocamb. "Absolutely. I would push for that."

    By my count, that puts Edwards, Richardson, Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd and Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich (who backs full marriage equality) on record in support of UAFA.   Still to be heard from: Clinton, Obama and Delaware Sen. Joe Biden.

    Human Rights Campaign spokesperson Brad Luna told the Blade that the gay rights group will be releasing all the candidate questionnaires next week, along with a side-by-side comparison.  That's very encouraging news, but let's just hope the Clinton and Obama positions on DOMA, UAFA and specific federal recognition for gay couples aren't filled in with question marks — or worse.

    ** Sorry I can't provide more detail on the Clinton and Obama releases because they appear to have been released exclusively to the Washington Blade, but the links to download the actual documents from the three camps are all broken.  I searched the campaign websites for both Clinton and Obama in vain for any mention (or public acknowledgment) of their supposedly proud stands in support of gay rights.  To be fair, the Edwards site does not include his gay rights positions either, so far as I could find, and all of the top three update their sites in real-time to include their positions on dozens and dozens of issues.

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    1. Maureen on May 26, 2007 11:43:01 PM:

      Hi, Chris. I followed your link from Randy Thomas' blog, and I really have enjoyed reading your blog so far.

      I have a question about Clinton's and Obama's positions on civil unions vs. marriage. Aside from all their "support" language, what are their reasons for not just bluntly and directly supporting marriage between for gay people? If they truly support equal treatment of all people, why the hedging on marriage?

      In all fairness, I have to admit that I lean toward the government removing itself from all marriage issues, including any tax impact. (I do agree that deductions for children are proper under our current tax system.) It's none of their business whether I am married or not.


    1. Maureen on May 26, 2007 11:47:31 PM:

      Oops. I'm really not that dull...I realize that they haven't "come clean", but I was wondering if you've ever read anywhere where they did state their reasons. I apologize if I'm not being clear.

    1. Citizen Crain on May 27, 2007 11:37:33 AM:

      Hi Maureen: Thanks for reading and welcome aboard!

      To answer your questions, both Clinton and Obama in the past have been vague about their opposition to civil marriage. Like many otherwise gay-friendly politicians, they hint that the nation isn't ready, or they simply admit the institution of marriage is "traditional." (That's a bit of a laugh as applied to Hillary, since her husband's infidelity and her spoken or unspoken acceptance of it is anything but "traditional." I'm not judging, mind you; I'm asking for consistency.)

      As for the real reason why, it boils down to a judgment call that winning the presidency requires too many states that would never vote for someone who favors gay marriage. Of course, the conventional wisdom has also said, until the current election cycle, that a woman or a black candidate could not win either, and here we have two leading candidates.

      As for civil marriage and its attending 1,100 federal rights and responsibilities. I am not enough of a little 'l' libertarian to want the government out of the business of supporting families, like tax credits, Social Security survivor benefits, immigration rights, etc. But I do see justification for getting states getting out of the "marriage" business entirely, since the word is so loaded with religious connotations, and allowing gay and straight couples alike to enter into civil unions.

      I don't see that happening anytime soon, though. And some would argue, with some validity, that it would further destabilize marriage as an institution and usher us into an era like that in Europe now, where young straight couples are eschewing marriage and children. That's dangerous for their societies and our future, so I'm loath to mess with the current system anymore than is necessary than to achieve our equality.

    1. Maureen on May 27, 2007 12:10:46 PM:

      I'm not judging, mind you; I'm asking for consistency.

      *smile* I think this is why I often am at odds with almost everyone on issues. The defenders and attackers can be so inconsistent.

      Thank you for your reply. If you don't mind a bit of instruction, why do you believe that the destabilization of marriage as an institution has affected European straight couples, married or not, regarding children? People for decades have been having children without being married, and people have been getting married without ever having children. Is it because European governments do not provide additional benefits for couples with children? As an amateur, armchair sociologist, I find that interesting.

      Thanks for the warm welcome, also, C.

    1. Citizen Crain on May 27, 2007 3:27:50 PM:

      It's a bit simplistic to note simply that some unmarried couples have children and some married couples don't. The birthrate in Europe has declined fairly dramatically, along with the marriage rate. What's more, I fully accept the idea that marriage as an institution fosters more stable relationships, stable families and a better environment for children.

      I don't see the fight for marriage as a simply a fight for equality. It's a battle to bring to our relationships, our family, our children, the stability and support that comes from marriage as an institution.

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