Democratic candidates’ positions on trans- and LBGTIQ issues

All the Democratic candidates have shown a willingness to discuss LBGTIQ issues, and there are some very clear litmus tests. The Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy mandating discrimination against gays in the military and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) restricting marriage to heterosexual couples are great lenses for discovering the candidates’ views on LGB issues, and last fall’s craven decision by Democratic leadership (endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign) to advance a non-inclusive version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act [ENDA] has added an equally good one on the trans front. So it’s unusually clear where they stand — and there are some significant differences.

There are some very clear distinctions on ENDA: Obama and Edwards support the trans-inclusive view, and unsurprisingly to me, given her husband’s advice to John Kerry in 2004 to throw the GLBT community under the bus on same-sex marriage, Hillary Clinton’s stance is “we have to move ENDA forward” — very often code “too bad for you trans folks, my definition of equality doesn’t include you”. ENDA was of course vetoed, and so didn’t move forward (and since everybody knew it already, there is absolutely no political value in confirming that Bush, his administration, and all the Congressional Republicans are homophobic).

By contrast, in a November guest post in The Billerico Project (!), Obama shows he understands the issues, commits to the right position, and has already done the right thing as a state legislator:

As President …. I will also place the weight of my administration behind the enactment of the Matthew Shepard Act to outlaw hate crimes and a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act to outlaw workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. I have supported fully inclusive protections since my days in the Illinois legislature, when I sponsored a bill to outlaw workplace discrimination that expressly included both sexual orientation and gender identity.

Autumn Sandeen’s post at Pam’s House Blend surveys various quotes by the candidates on these issues and makes the fascinating point: “The Task Force lists no statements where Clinton says the words transgender or gender identity in a statement supporting civil rights for the transgender community in the present tense.” About that definition of equality …

Distinctions are equally clear on DOMA, and as well as explaining why it matters, Terrence Heath’s The Doma Difference describes the candidates’ positions:

If no leading candidate is going to support marriage equality, then the very least we can ask and ought to ask of a candidate is that he or she support a full repeal of DOMA, which currently stands as the biggest legislative obstacle to marriage equality. Obama and Edwards, at the very least, support a full repeal of DOMA. Clinton, on the other hand, supports a partial repeal of DOMA that would leave an important section of the bill in place, which exempts states from recognizing any same-sex relationship that is “treated as a marriage” under the laws of any other state.

Stephen Clark’s blog post describes Obama’s reasoning behind his position in a little more detail.

By contrast, on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, all the candidates are against it — but alas, none take the next step and support universities who ban the military from recruiting as they would any other discriminatory employer. I’m not sure what their logic is for this (do they see this as an unpleasant but necessary tradeoff given the military’s difficulties in recruiting?); if there are any discussions, I’d love pointers. VisibleVote has a great page with video clips from the debate last August with the candidates speaking about this issue.