A commentary and resource on Law and Sexuality by Professor Chris Ashford and guests
Excitement is building as we count down the final hours to America deciding the next President of the United States. Like many liberals, my preference for Obama is perhaps to be expected. I have however – as I’ve often noted on this blog – found him to be something of a disappointment. On national issues, he has been far too slow in taking the lead on key issues. He used his political capital on healthcare reform but could have implemented better, clearer, more thought-through proposals than those he did. LGBT campaigners are now rallying to his cause, but I’ve not forgotten the number of American LGBT lawyers and activists who have repeatedly grumbled about his inaction over the last four years. Yes, DADT has gone (and that took long enough), but there the Defense of Marriage still sits, and Obama has done little to stick his neck out on LGBT issues.
Of course, this view is not shared by all. The Human Rights Campaign describes him as ‘the most pro-LGBT President in American history’ which is probably true, but he wasn’t up against much competition.
Anyway, the late polls suggest he will squeak on in, and I suspect they’re right, although it’s been a while since I was over there to get a sense of the mood. I would expect the Senate and House to end up more or less as they are now, with no change in control. All of which means ‘more of the same’ for the next four years.
Beyond the Presidency
Whilst it is this national race which attracts most of the attention outside of the US, we should also consider a number of other races and votes that are taking place. The first openly LGBT member of the Senate could be elected on Tuesday night with Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin. The Democrat candidate has served in the House since 1999 so fingers crossed she has the profile to make the move to the Senate.
Questions of marriage equality will be on the ballot in Maryland, Maine and Washington and a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage is up for the vote in Minnesota.
These ballot measures (kind of like several referenda at once) are an alien concept to Brits, but they involve significant amounts of money. Take the State of California where the subject of ending the death penalty is up (Proposition 34). $7,635,861 (around £4,700,000) has been raised by supporters of the repeal and $416,555 by opponents (we can therefore perhaps guess which way the vote will go). To put that in some perspective, the Labour Party spent a total of just over £8 million at the last General election (and the Conservatives double that).
Another measure on the ballot in California (at least for those in LA County) is an additional measure (Measure B). This measure will require that porn performers have to wear condoms in LA County during a shoot (and inevitably lead to the creation of ‘condom Police’ to inspect sets to make sure the law is being adhered to). Here’s the full wording:
‘Shall an ordinance be adopted requiring producers of adult films to obtain a County public health permit, to require adult film performers to use condoms while engaged in sex acts, to provide proof of blood borne pathogen training course, to post permit and notices to performers, and making violations of the ordinance subject to civil fines and criminal charges?’
You can read more about the measure here. The LA Times has been giving a lot of publicity to this measure, and seemingly seems to support the law-reform, at least based on their coverage and commentaries. However, they’ve also recommended that people vote ‘no’ – suggesting that the reform is well meaning but ultimately un-enforcable (read their full explanation here).
The National Record: Obama
Nonetheless, it’s the national record that remains the focus. As much as I might find Obama’s record disappointing, his campaign website details a pretty comprehensive list of achievements during his four years:
STANDING UP FOR ALL FAMILIES
Affirmed his personal support for same-sex marriage
Opposed the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act and endorsed the Respect for Marriage Act, a legislative effort to repeal DOMA
EDUCATION AND YOUTH
Hosted the first-ever White House conference on bullying in schools to provide information from various government agencies on how kids, teens, young adults, parents, educators, and others in the community can prevent or stop bullying
Created the Inter-Agency Task Force on Bullying to tackle bullying in our schools, including bullying of LGBT youth
Recorded an “It Gets Better” video in support of LGBT youth facing bullying at school
Signed the Affordable Care Act into law, expanding access to health care and critical preventive services
Extended hospital visitation and medical decision-making rights to LGBT patients and their partners Awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal to Janice Langbehn, a lesbian mother and activist whose story paved the way for the extending hospital visitation rights
Affirmed the administration’s commitment to creating an AIDS-free generation Included specific data on health needs of lesbian and bisexual women in the Health Resources and Services Administration’s “Women’s Health USA 2011” report for the first time Promoted equal access to quality health care by enabling searches for health plans with same-sex partner benefits on Healthcare.gov
Included proposals to improve LGBT Americans’ access to health care and provisions to continue the fight against HIV/AIDS in the administration’s 2013 federal budget proposal
Created a National Resource Center for LGBT seniors and awarded a grant to SAGE (Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders), supporting the first community center for LGBT seniors
JOBS AND THE ECONOMY
The administration worked to protect federal LGBT employees from workplace discrimination by adopting an equal-opportunity employment policy that includes both sexual orientation and gender identity
Ordered the federal government to extend key benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees Clarified the Family and Medical Leave Act to ensure family leave for LGBT employees who need to care for their children.
Set a precedent in hiring LGBT employees by appointing more openly LGBT administration officials than any other president in U.S. history Continues to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act
Ended the Social Security Administration’s gender “no-match” letters and ensured that transgender Americans can receive passports that accurately reflect their gender identity
Established guidelines to help protect transgender federal employees from discrimination in the workplace
Established policy regarding the respectful delivery of health care to transgender veterans
Announced HUD’s new rule protecting against housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity
Released America’s first comprehensive plan to prevent homelessness, including homelessness among LGBT youth Awarded a grant to the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Community Center to work with LGBT foster youth
Ended “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” so gay and lesbian Americans can serve the country they love without hiding who they are Permitted military chaplains to officiate same-sex marriages where legal
INTERNATIONAL AND LGBT CITIZENS ABROAD
Ended the ban that prohibited people with HIV/AIDS from entering the United States Created the first-ever U.S. government strategy dedicated to combating human rights abuses against LGBT persons abroad
Made it clear the United States will use all the tools of American diplomacy to promote LGBT rights abroad
Fought for the rights of LGBT persons worldwide by co-sponsoring the first UN resolution focused solely on LGBT rights
Directed agencies working abroad to combat the criminalization of LGBT status
Directed the Departments of State and Homeland Security to ensure LGBT refugees and asylum-seekers have equal access to protection and assistance
Prevented the removal of sexual orientation from a UN resolution condemning extrajudicial killings Implemented a U.S. Agency for International Development policy to encourage contractors to implement and enforce non-discrimination policies for sexual orientation and gender identity
So, that pretty much puts me in my place – but he’s not holding anything back from this list -recording a video message, saying overseas agencies should ‘work’ against LGBT criminalisation are not ‘big’ policies (would a British national leader feel the need to record he’d made such a video?), but nor can they be dismissed.
The National Record: Romney
I also took a look at the Romney campaign website. He has a grid of all his ‘sub-groups’. In the interests of fairness, here they are:
AMERICANS OF FAITH FOR ROMNEY
ASIAN AMERICANS & PACIFIC ISLANDERS FOR ROMNEY
BLACK LEADERSHIP COUNCIL
CATHOLICS FOR ROMNEY
EDUCATORS FOR ROMNEY
ENERGY VOTERS FOR ROMNEY
FARMERS & RANCHERS FOR ROMNEY
FORMER OBAMA SUPPORTERS FOR ROMNEY
HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS FOR ROMNEY
JEWISH AMERICANS FOR ROMNEY
JUNTOS CON ROMNEY LAWYERS FOR ROMNEY
POLISH AMERICANS FOR ROMNEY
PUBLIC SAFETY PROFESSIONALS FOR ROMNEY ROMNEY
VOTERS FOR FREE ENTERPRISE SPORTSMEN FOR ROMNEY
VETERANS & MILITARY FAMILIES FOR ROMNEY
WOMEN FOR MITT
YOUNG AMERICANS FOR ROMNEY
Yep, I’m afraid there’s no LGBT group for Romney. So, I took a look at the sight to make sure there wasn’t a section outlining some specific policies targeted at the LGBT population. Nope, not one.
I’ll be live tweeting my way through the election results. If you’re not already following me, you can find me at @lawandsexuality