This is the third story of an 11-article series leading up to the Nov. 6 presidential election that will break down the issues dominating political debates. Check back next Thursday for our segment on national security.
President Barack Obama’s website has a tab that lists eight issues in the November election, one of which is equal rights, focusing mainly in LGTB equality. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s website has a tab that lists 25 of those such issues, but equal rights is not one of them.
There are other topics on these lists that do not match up, such as women’s health, which appears on Obama’s list but not Romneys, or immigration, which is on Romney’s list but not Obama’s.
Mollie Blackburn, associate professor in the College of Education and Human Ecology and co-director of OSU’s Sexuality Studies program, said although neither candidate is ideal in his stance on lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual, or LGTB, rights, it’s hard to look at the issue from a nonpartisan standpoint because Romney “doesn’t have much to offer there.”
“If you’re just looking at equal rights its really hard to compare the candidates,” Blackburn said. “In terms of morale of LGTB people in the United States, I think it really meant a lot to some people.”
But Drew Stroemple, president of Ohio State’s College Republicans, said he doesn’t think LGTB rights is something that’s going to have a “serious impact on the election.”
“(Republicans) don’t think of people as, ‘Oh, you’re a gay man and you’re a straight man,’ or whatever … (In) our club it’s the same way … We have a wide range of opinion, but at the end of the day, we all treat everyone the same,” he said. “Gay people are just as unemployed as straight people and they’re going to be just as passionate as ever trying to get jobs.”
But Greg Mayer, a second-year in geographic informational sciences and member of the LGTB community, said equal rights is definitely a swaying issue for him.
“I actually remember one day (Obama) talked about this and it was all over YouTube and Facebook and stuff like that, and it really helped me feel more comfortable and I felt like there was gonna be a brighter future for the community in general and … Romney really hasn’t talked about it,” he said.
Jacob Manser, the LGTB vote director for Ohio for the Obama campaign, has a job dedicated to mobilizing the votes of the LGBT community and making people aware of measures Obama has taken during his first term to promote LGTB equality.
“I think that LGBT and any issues of equal rights in general are very important for people I talk to across the state, especially young people in college,” Manser said. “One of the things that’s really important to the campaign is really … making sure we leave no stones unturned.”
Manser said Obama has made several “huge strides forward” on the issues of LGTB equality during his time in office.
Obama repealed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which banned gay men and lesbian women from openly serving in the military, according to the U.S. Department of Defense’s website. The repeal took effect on midnight on Sept. 20, 2011.
In 2010, a provision to the Hate Crime Prevention Act of 2009 added such motives as sexual orientation and gender identity to what was constituted as a hate crime, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s website.
In April 2010, Obama mandated that almost all hospitals extend visitation rights to gay men and lesbian women’s partners, and that they respect who patients’ want to make health care decisions for them.
But through all of that, Obama never stated that he supported gay marriage. Until last May.
During the primary elections this spring, Obama publically said that he decided he supported gay marriage, a statement that many have argued was made months before the presidential election for political reasons.
“I think that for years President Obama has held the issue of fairness and equal treatment very closely to his heart,” Manser said. “It’s something that he struggled with for many years and what we saw earlier this year is those values for fairness come to fruition.”
First lady Michelle Obama said in a conference call with The Lantern Tuesday that her husband has proved that he has Americans’ backs, and now it’s time for them to have his.
“He’s also working hard every day that no matter where you come form what you look like or who you love, that you’re treated fairly in this country,” she said.
Others have argued that Romney has changed his stances on same-sex marriage since he becoming a candidate for president simply for political reasons. But in May, The New York Times reported that Romney said his beliefs have always been the same.
“My view is the same as it’s been from the beginning,” Romney said in Denver in May. “I don’t favor civil unions if it’s identical to marriage, and I don’t favor marriage between people of the same gender.”
Although Romney has said that he believes marriage should be between a man and a woman, he has also stated that he believes everyone should be treated fairly and not discriminated against based on sexual orientation.
Romney is a Morman, and the May New York Times article attributed Romney’s conservative marriage beliefs to his morals.
Even when Romney was governor of Massachusetts, he said the marriage should be between a man and a woman. However, The Boston Globe reported that in 2004, Romney instructed some Massachusetts clerks to issue same-sex marriage licenses.
A representative from the Romney campaign did not return requests for comment Wednesday.
Blackburn said that overall, neither candidate’s stance is ideal for LGTB rights.
“I value the kind of going back on the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, so I think those are concrete things that his administration has done on behalf of LGTB people, but I think it comes with so much caution because it’s such a contested kind of topic that people who are elected just express incredible reserve on the topic,” Blackburn said.
Blackburn said some of the movements the Obama administration had made toward helping LGTB people have been beneficial on a larger level, but if members of the LGTB community were allowed basic rights, everyone could spend their time on other issues within communities that are beyond the reach of big government.
“There are more pressing issues like LGTB communities than those that get political attention like racism within the community and just discrepancies within the communities like trans populations … and how their needs are not being met and could be met,” Blackburn said. “But I don’t think that mainstream government is in a place to be able to tackle that right now just because they have to be so moderate in order to get anything done.”
Kristen Mitchell contributed to this story.