When discussing politics in light of the debates, a fellow gay confided that there wasn’t a difference between Bush and Kerry on GLBT issues. My chin is still bruised from the sudden impact with the floor. Perplexed and preoccupied, I pondered what might’ve possessed him to think that. Then it hit me. Gay marriage. It’s not only a wedge issue between social traditionalists and progressives; it’s wedging the gays contemplating a vote for Kerry. How is Kerry any better if he doesn’t support gay marriage? I’d like to preface my response by saying that Kerry is no Howard Dean on the gay issue. (Or on any issue, for that matter.)
In 1985, gay men were dying of this strange disease that the Reagan administration discovered in 1981 (it wouldn’t be until 1987 when Reagan actually said AIDS publicly), and it was illegal to be gay in over half of the U.S. due to sodomy laws. It wasn’t the easiest time to be gay in the good ol’ U. S. of A. Yet, it was Kerry’s freshman year in the Senate, and he wrote the Civil Rights Act of 1985, which would add sexual orientation to the non-discrimination act. In this anti-gay climate of the mid-’80s, Kerry made extending civil rights to gays a top priority.
In 1996, Congress overwhelming passed the Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA]. Kerry was one of only 14 senators (the only one up for reelection) who voted against the bill. With an election two months away, Kerry stood up on the Senate floor and decried the bill as gay bashing, which indeed it was. DOMA violates the full faith and credit clause, which is why they are now trying to pass the Federal Marriage Amendment [FMA].
The FMA is yet another election year ploy to scare people into voting Republican, but the politics of the bill doesn’t scare Kerry. He and John Edwards vowed to fly back to Washington for the sole purpose of voting against this bill-not because the bill had a prayer of passing but because Kerry was willing to take a stand, just like eight years ago, for you and me. Because it wasn’t brought up for a vote because of a procedural motion, the good senator didn’t have the opportunity to cast his “nay” vote.
Kerry is a loud voice for increased HIV/AIDS funding, and he supports federal jurisdiction over hate crimes based on sexual orientation. He even testified before the Armed Services Committee against Clinton’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on gays in the military. Time after time, Kerry has consistently stuck out his neck for the community, and he’s still doing it. Hell, he even boasts a perfect lifetime score from the Human Rights Campaign in the Senate.
Unfortunately, this pristine record on GLBT issues is tarnished by Kerry’s pro-civil union opposition to gay marriage, but is that really enough to say that he has the same GLBT positions as Bush?
Pin on that rainbow Kerry/Edwards button and vote proudly because if “gay” is your issue, the clear choice for equal(er) rights is John Kerry.
Chris Fisher can be contacted at email@example.com.