Unenthusiastic in Pennsylvania

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With the race for the Democratic nomination for President still so tight, I now regularly hear news reports that Pennsylvania’s primary might actually count for something this year. Our primary is scheduled for April 22nd, and, until recently, most people thought that the race for the nomination would be decided long before that. Yet, notwithstanding the potential importance of this vote, I just can’t seem to get excited about either of the candidates running on the Democratic ticket in the same way that so many others have.

Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama generally say the right things when it comes to LBGT rights (which is not the only issue that I consider when voting:but, as a gay man, it is naturally a very important one for me). For example, they both support the Employment Non-discrimination Act, the expansion of bias crimes laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity, and the repeal of”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”(It is worth noting that their stances on same-sex marriage are the huge exception to this generalization:they both support creating a second-class, civil union status for same-sex couples.)

Despite the positive tone of their rhetoric on LGBT rights, I continue to be bothered by what I see as the potential for a significant disconnect between these words and their actions once they get into office.

With regard to Obama, the San Francisco Chronicle recently reported that, in 2004,

current Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is said to have declined to have his picture taken in San Francisco with [Mayor Gavin] Newsom, who was then at the center of a national uproar over his decision to allow same-sex marriage in San Francisco.

“I gave a fundraiser, at his (Obama’s) request at the Waterfront restaurant,”said former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.”And he said to me, he would really appreciate it if he didn’t get his photo taken with my mayor. He said he would really not like to have his picture taken with Gavin.”

Although Obama’s people have called this story”ridiculous,”the reporter did mention that a number of people clearly recollect these events. For me, this raises a serious question: If Obama had no qualms about making it clear that he didn’t want his photo taken with Newsom:who had done fundraisers for Obama:because Obama might be tainted by Newsom’s stance on same-sex marriage, what’s to say that Obama might not abandon his support of LGBT rights when it appears to be to his political advantage to put some space between himself and the LGBT community, whose support he is now courting?

With regard to Clinton, my problem is with how she associates herself with her husband’s administration. Bill Clinton was supposed to be a friend of the LGBT community. But, as President, Clinton abandoned his LGBT supporters when he signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) into law in order to blunt a potential issue in his 1996 re-election campaign. Compounding the damage, Clinton then used his support for DOMA, which his own spokesman had earlier labeled”gay baiting,”in an advertisement that was designed to garner votes from religious conservatives in that election. Later, when John Kerry was running for president, it was reported that Bill Clinton advised Kerry to announce his support for constitutional bans on same-sex marriage because it would help him to get elected. Given this history, I just wonder whether we might not see more of the same in a second Clinton Administration.

These concerns about the Clinton and Obama candidacies are really just part of a larger concern that I have that the Democrats have come to take the support of the LGBT community for granted. The big question for me is what, if anything, to do about these concerns. As I muddle through my concerns from now until April 22nd, I would be really interested in others’ thoughts about this.

-Anthony C. Infanti

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0 Responses to Unenthusiastic in Pennsylvania

  1. Historiann says:

    You’re right, Anthony–neither candidate is great on gay issues. My sense is that Obama has tacked a bit to the right on this, perhaps so as not to alienate conservative African American churchgoers (hence the love-in with Donnie McClurkin, which Ann cites above, and the werid request not to be photographed with Newsom). Understandable, perhaps, if not defensible–I don’t like people in Democratic primaries suggesting that equal rights are only for some, not all. That said, I don’t think it’s fair to use the DOMA issue against HRC. I agree with you that Bill Clinton should not have signed it, but he was dealing with an all-Republican congress in an election year, something that a President HRC would not be dealing with at least in 2009 and 2010 (and we hope for years after that!)

    Policy-wise they’re almost identical, so you’ll have to think of another tie-breaker if you want to vote in the primary.