By: The Rainbow Times’ Editorial Team–
LGBT voters across Massachusetts face an embarrassment of riches come Election Day. And there is good reason for gay voters, our families, friends, and allies to turn out on Nov. 6 in full force, voting to re-elect President Barack Obama, who certainly deserves four more years.
No president in history has delivered so much progress for our community as the social-justice cause of LGBT rights and full equality advanced significantly on his watch.
For example, the president signed federal hate crimes protections into law. He brought an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” an odious ban on openly gay military service that lasted for more than15 years. The Justice Department no longer defends the Defense of Marriage Act. And Obama has come out for same-sex civil marriage rights, completing a slow but deliberate evolution.
Equally impressive are other regulatory and policy advances. The president has used power of federal government through cabinet offices — including the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Department of Education, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and State Department, among others — to chip away at discrimination and inequality.
Through HHS, for example, Obama ended the ban on HIV-positive visitors and immigrants. Through HUD, the Obama administration recognized LGBT families for federal housing programs, prohibited discrimination in accessing federally-insured mortgage loans, and required HUD grantees to abide by state and local anti-discrimination laws. Through a presidential memorandum Obama directed HHS to require all hospitals receiving Medicaid and Medicare to prohibit discrimination in visitation against LGBT people. This list goes on and on.
GOP contender Mitt Romney holds few core passionate convictions, but one of them, we know from his tenure as governor, is disdain for our community, a contempt sharply manifested in a full-throttled effort to derail marriage equality ushered into Massachusetts under the Supreme Judicial Court’s historic 2003 Goodridge decision.
We can only imagine how a “President Romney,” with Tea Partiers egging him on, would roll back LGBT equality achieved under President Obama.
Just as the choice between Obama and Romney is stark, so is the difference between incumbent Republican Senator Scott Brown and his Democratic challenger, Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Warren. To his credit, Brown eventually voted to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” But on other issues of importance to our community, Brown is missing in action.
Not so with Warren. Last March, she called on the president to come out for same-sex marriage; and early on, Warren voiced support for the Democratic Party platform to endorse marriage equality. That platform, by the way, is the most comprehensive embrace of LGBT equality in this nation’s history.
Warren not only favors repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), but also promises to champion gay rights in the Senate. Recently at the Boston HRC fundraiser and gala, she pledged to be a “loud voice,” a true leader.
There, in brief remarks, Warren spoke directly to millennial generation youth, “who face additional challenges, maybe because they’re LGBT, or they don’t fit in, or they don’t fit some gender norm. Kids who see others facing a bright future, but don’t see themselves fitting into that picture frame,” she said.
“I nearly always meet kids—and they are kids—sometimes 15, 16, 17 years old—who say to me, ‘I’m gay and I’m counting on you,’” said Warren. “I always smile, but I take this very seriously.”
In fact, Warren takes us and our community’s issues seriously on a host of topics from marriage equality to employment non-discrimination to bullying and safe schools. Brown does not, referring to LGBT equality as a “pet project.”
While Brown says gay marriage is “settled law” in Massachusetts and he opposes a federal amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman, his views on DOMA are not clear.
However, as state lawmaker, Brown voted repeatedly during Constitutional Conventions to put same-sex marriage rights on the ballot. At the same time, he made derogatory remarks about gay and lesbian parents, calling into question their suitability as gay dads and lesbian mothers.
The Massachusetts U.S. Senate race is one of the most watched, if not the most watched in the country. Polls show the candidates running neck to neck. For LGBT voters, electing Warren may well be a matter of the Democrats retaining control of the Senate. On that score, Warren, if elected, would be voting on appointees to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the final fate of DOMA resides. For that reason alone, Warren deserves enthusiastic LGBT support.
Three congressional races are also of importance to gay voters across the Commonwealth.
In the 4th Congressional District, Joe Kennedy is running for a seat left vacant by the departure of U.S. Representative and LGBT icon Barney Frank, who is retiring. LGBT voters in that district, which stretches from Brookline and Newton to Wrentham to Plainville to North Attleborough to Attleboro and all the way south to Fall River, have a strong advocate of — and strong leader for — gay rights from the grandson of the late U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of the late Massachusetts U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy.
In his early thirties, this is Joe Kennedy’s first run for elective office. And yet, the website of the former prosecutor, a Middlesex assistant district attorney, offers one of the most thoughtful and comprehensive endorsements this political season, advocating a full range of LGBT equality measures. (http://tinyurl.com/9j3gnn8).
“Marriage equality,” Kennedy writes, “isn’t simply a ‘settled issue.’ It is a landmark to be celebrated and defended, a reflection of the values that define this country and the future we imagine for the next generation.”
Accordingly, Kennedy supports the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal DOMA, adding, “I cheered the First Circuit’s recent decision in the Gill case, which found DOMA unconstitutional because it denies same-sex couples the same federal benefits available to opposite sex couples.”
Kennedy also supports legislation — the Uniting American Families Act — that would enable foreign partners of same-sex couples to obtain residency in the U.S.
And he favors a measure — the Every Child Deserves a Family Act — that would prohibit discrimination in adoption or foster care placements based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status of any prospective parent or the sexual orientation or gender identity of a child.
As one ardent supporter in the district put it, “Joe Kennedy’s support for full equality is hard-wired into his DNA — and it shows,” she said. “Our GLBT community can rely on his dependable and authentic support for the issues that are important to our lives and the lives of our families.”
In another race, LGBT voters in Massachusetts 5th Congressional district have a strong ally in Niki Tsongas, who also deserves LGBT support. The district spans three nearly 30 cities and towns across the counties Middlesex, Essex, and Worcester.
Since her election to the U.S. House of Representatives in a 2007 special election, she has been a visible and vocal advocate of LGBT equality on everything from repeal of DADT to marriage equality, from hate crimes to employment non-discrimination, and a whole lot more.
Tsongas serves on the Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee. In 2008, during the first congressional hearings since 1993 on DADT, she called for an end to the ban on openly gay service.
“This flawed and unworkable policy,” said Tsongas at the time, “threatens the readiness of our military by discharging hundreds of vital military personnel critical to our national security and shutting the door to thousands more.”
Employment non-discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity are also a core conviction of Tsongas. Her late husband, Paul Tsongas, was the first U.S. senator to introduce legislation banning job bias. For her part, in recent efforts to gut the Employment Non-discrimination Act (ENDA) of transgender inclusive provisions, Tsongas stood firm in advocating that the language of gender identity and expression be retained. “We need to have the most comprehensive protections possible,” she said. As one of only seven Democrats in the House, she also opposed an ENDA amendment that would have exempted religious institutions.
Congresswoman Tsongas is one of the original, founding members of the Congressional Equality Caucus for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Americans, a 103 member caucus that advocates the extension of equal rights, the repeal of discriminatory laws, the elimination of hate-motivated violence, and the improved health and well-being for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
Consequently, Tsongas supports repealing DOMA, the Uniting American Families Act and Every Child Deserves a Family Act, among other pro-LGBT measures introduced in Congress.
In the 6th Congressional District on the North Shore, Democratic incumbent U.S. Representative John Tierney faces a serious challenge from openly gay Republican Richard Tisei, a former state lawmaker and candidate for lieutenant governor.
Tisei enjoys backing from the non-partisan, Washington, D.C.-based Victory Fund, an organization that seeks “to make sure authentic LGBT voices are at the table on both sides of the aisle,” according to Denis Dison, the organization’s vice president of communications.
A socially progressive Republican, who is not a Tea Partier, Tisei certainly fits that bill, voicing support for LGBT equality across the board, much along the same lines as Tierney.
On Beacon Hill, Tisei supported marriage equality during Constitutional Conventions and backed transgender rights even as his running mate for governor did not.
On balance, there is little difference between the two candidates on gay rights. Even Tisei acknowledges as much.
To that point, Tierney’s proven gay-rights track record in Capitol Hill is impressive, which may well explain why Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBT organization, has endorsed Tierney.
Since he began serving in Congress in 1997, Tierney has earned a 99 percent HRC scorecard average.
In support of equal marriage rights for same-sex couples, Tierney voted twice against a discriminatory federal marriage amendment. He favors repeal of DOMA.
His understanding of LGBT family equality issues includes co-sponsorship of the Uniting American Families Act. Tierney voted to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and in favor of hate crimes protections. And in advocating HIV/AIDS funding, Tierney has co-sponsored the Early Treatment for HIV Act, which would assist persons in great need with medical assistance.
If elected, and the GOP retains control of the House, is there any doubt that Tisei would not vote to reinstate Speaker John Boehner, thereby enabling the Republican Party’s Young Guns and Tea Party extremists to advance their emphatically hostile anti-gay agenda?
Congressman Tierney is a longtime, proven and dependable ally, an ardent backer of gay rights and full equality, who has earned LGBT support. He has been there for us on more than one occasion. This time, he needs us to be there for him on Election Day.