Writing from the US for Pinknews.co.uk on the eve of Election Day, Laurence Watts makes the case that a Mitt Romney presidency would be a disaster for LGBT rights.
Although Barack Obama appears to have an edge in the swing states that will decide America’s next president, there is a real chance Mitt Romney could cause an upset tomorrow by winning the White House for the Republicans. This, to put it bluntly, would be a catastrophe for LGBT Americans.
The difference between the two candidates on LGBT issues could not be greater. While Obama made headlines the world over in May, when he became the first sitting president to declare his support for same-sex marriage, Mitt Romney came out firmly against LGBT equality in November 2011, in the midst of the Republican primary contest, when he signed a formal pledge declaring his opposition to same-sex marriage. The document he put his name to did more than just state his opposition to equality however; it laid out actions he would undertake should he win office.
Romney’s pledge was written and organised by America’s so-called National Organisation for Marriage, a group founded in 2007 to work against the legalisation of same-sex marriage throughout the United States. By lending his support to their campaign, Romney committed himself to: supporting a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being only between a man and a woman; defending the Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court; only appointing Supreme Court judges and an Attorney General who do not believe America’s constitution guarantees same-sex couples the right to be married; to set up a Presidential Commission to investigate ‘harassment’ of ‘traditional marriage’ supporters and; to support congressional legislation that would, to practical purposes, reverse the introduction of same-sex marriage in Washington DC, which passed the district’s legislature in 2009.
Put simply, the progress LGBT Americans have made under Obama’s administration, which includes the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the signing into law of the Matthew Shepherd and James Byrd Jr Hate Crimes Prevention Act, would cease and a gradual reversal of recent LGBT victories would occur.
The stakes can be fully appreciated by looking at just one of the promises Romney has made: to only appoint Supreme Court judges who oppose same-sex marriage. As I pointed out in a piece I wrote for the Huffington Post a year ago, potentially as many as three US Supreme Court judges, out of a total of nine, could retire or die in the next presidential term. Their replacements will be decided by whoever wins tomorrow. Thus whoever becomes America’s next president will be in a position to shape America’s legal landscape for decades to come and this would happen just as landmark LGBT civil rights cases, like those challenging California’s Proposition 8 and Arizona’s Diaz vs Brewer, begin arriving at the Supreme Court’s door.
Of equal importance is that we have an LGBT-friendly president in charge of the US government’s executive branch when DOMA is struck down next year, as it undoubtedly will be. At that moment, whoever is president will be free to instruct the federal government to recognise same-sex marriages in those states where it has been legalised. This would mean that more than 1,000 rights and benefits currently denied to legally-married LGBT Americans would finally be permitted, rights that include the husbands and wives of gay military personnel receiving spousal benefits, the rights of LGBT Americans to sponsor their spouses for immigration purposes and the right to be taxed equally by the IRS as other legally-married Americans. This will be a huge step forward for LGBT Americans and one that will only happen if Obama is president.
Moreover having an LGBT-friendly African-American in the White House has done wonders for promoting LGBT rights within the US’s African-American community, a cross-section of society that has typically resisted seeing LGBT rights as civil rights because of entrenched religious beliefs. When President Obama came out in favour of same-sex marriage, giants such as Jay-Z, Fifty Cent and Will Smith likewise declared their support. Approval of same-sex marriage in the black community increased by 10% overnight and that progress would be undone if Obama loses office six months after declaring his support for LGBT equality.
In summary then, you’d think every LGBT American will be voting for Obama, right? Well, you’d be wrong. There are those within America’s LGBT community who will be voting for Romney because they are not ‘single-issue voters’, political speak for gays who don’t believe the furtherance of gay rights is the most important factor to consider when voting. Instead, they argue that having a strong military, a strong economy, minimal regulation on guns or being pro-life are more important issues. This is why I want to quickly address Obama’s presidency more widely before I close.
The most pressing issue for Americans in this election, like elsewhere in the world, is the economy, and to my mind Obama’s achievement on this front hasn’t been trumpeted loudly enough. Although the stimulus package that Obama orchestrated and the quantitative easing the Federal Reserve put in place are finally having an effect on the economy, America’s unemployment level remains too high by national standards. Obama’s critics argue he hasn’t done enough for the US economy. This is rubbish. When one compares the US’s response to the 2008 financial crisis and the subsequent recession to that of Britain or Europe more widely, Obama has done an amazing job.
America has avoided a double dip recession (unlike Britain) and is growing at a rate that makes European nations green with envy. Yes, America’s ongoing incurrence of debt is too high and unsustainable, but the kind of stimulus Obama has put in place isn’t meant to be sustainable; it’s meant to carry the economy through until the time that private sector spending takes its place. That is happening as business confidence slowly recovers. At that point the federal government can reduce spending and pay down its debt.
Moreover, as Commander-in-Chief, Obama has been responsible for the killing of Osama Bin Laden and for “winning a war” in Libya without committing ground troops. This “smart power” strategy, a term coined by Hillary Clinton, replaced the “hard power” policies of George W Bush, and I’m hoping we haven’t all forgotten where that got us.
Adding to this Obama saved the Detroit motor industry from certain and permanent bankruptcy, turned a $12bn (£7.5bn) profit on the bailout of Citigroup, an $18bn (£11.2bn) profit on the bailout of AIG and, most importantly through Obamacare, expanded healthcare coverage to more than 50 million previously uninsured Americans – something even Bill Clinton was unable to do as president.
Romney has an impressive record to counter Obama’s but it is a record of self-enrichment rather than the job creation he has been more prone of. Romney argues that because of his private sector experience he is the expert when it comes to creating jobs. So far as I’m aware however, Bain Capital, the company he founded and once ran, wasn’t so much about creating jobs as making money: vulture capitalism not venture capitalism was the name of the game and it was a game he played very well with the help of Swiss bank accounts, Bermudan holding companies and Cayman Islands trusts.
There are some who believe Romney might govern more moderately than he has campaigned and that consequently he might not be that bad a president. This is not a risk LGBT Americans can afford to take. While campaigning, Romney has looked like a man that would say anything you wanted to hear to win your vote, regardless of whether it was true or whether he believed what he was saying. Realistically he would be likely to govern as he has lived – fully in compliance with the teachings of the Mormon Church, the same Mormon Church that funded Proposition 8 in 2008, outlawing same-sex marriage in California.
My advice to LGBT Americans is this: get out tomorrow and vote… and make sure you vote for Obama.
Laurence Watts is a features writer for Pinknews.co.uk