Basic human rights and a stern policy against all forms of discrimination – that’s what you’d expect from the leader of one of the world’s most advanced nations, right?
And yet, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz sat around and encouraged one pastor and one reality TV star’s call for gay genocide. His own reaction to marriage equality was this: “We are seeing today profound threats to religious liberty in America, I think the greatest threats we’ve ever seen.”
After Cruz’s terrifying demand for conversion therapy,his immediate competitor Donald Trump’s comments about LGBT+ people seem rather impressive. As in, they leave an impression on you. In the way that a 9000 pound monster truck going 70 mph at a brick wall might leave an impression.
Judging from his speech he seems to be caught between his own burning homophobia, and the need to be a ‘popular’ candidate. One time he compared gay people to golf clubs, saying, “A lot of people are switching to these really long putters, very unattractive. It’s weird. You see these great players with these really long putters, because they can’t sink three-footers anymore. And, I hate it. I am a traditionalist. I have so many fabulous friends who happen to be gay, but I am a traditionalist.”
But the Donald’s stance hasn’t changed between 1999, when he hadn’t formed an intelligent opinion on the issue, till today, where he (unsurprisingly) still doesn’t have an intelligent opinion. But we gotta hand it to him for being consistent.
You know who else has been pretty consistent? Current U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who’s been fighting for LGBT+ rights since he was the Mayor of Burlington in 1983, a time when the AIDS crisis had gay men suffering at the hands of both indifferent health care, and a society that branded ‘dangerous’.
His immediate competition, Hillary Clinton, also has some progressive views– “I’m running for president to stand up for the fundamental rights of LGBT Americans.” Clinton’s campaign will include steps to end all discrimination against LGBT+ people, whether by schools, adoption agencies, or the army.
But this is clearly an evolution in her own politics. Cue the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Passed by her husband Bill Clinton in 1996, Section Three of DOMA prohibited marriage between same-sex partners. Even in her last presidential campaign in 2008, she didn’t have anything particularly ground-breaking to say about it. It was only after the SCOTUS ruling that she changed her tune.
For someone who “did not grow up even imagining gay marriage,” taking two decades to support that marriage equality isn’t so much of an issue. Why shouldn’t we welcome and encourage those who have evolved their ideas? But what Conor Friedersdorf wrote in The Atlantic, back in 2014, really rings true:“No one doubts she will be a strong supporter of gay equality if elected president, now that all the political incentives to take that position are aligned.”
Even more recently, actor Susan Sarandon has commented on precisely this aspect of Clinton’s campaign, saying “It is one thing to be for gay rights and gay marriage once everybody else is for it. That’s not difficult […] It’s great that she came around, but wouldn’t it be great to be a leader instead of a follower, especially if you’re going to hold the highest office in the land?”
Some have observed her newfound respect for LGBT+ people no more than a political strategy, and why not? Public opinion has done a near 180 in a relatively short span of time; opposition for marriage equality was at 57% in 2001, and support for it rose to 60% last year. As a politician, Clinton has to play to the crowd.
So how sincere are her promises to the LGBT community? Political pressure may have slackened after the Supreme Court ruled in favour of same-sex marriage last year, because most folk forget that marriage equality is not the end-game. Prejudices in the workplace, persecution by religious groups, being refused service (medical or otherwise), street violence and murders – there are all still very real concerns that the right to marry does not eliminate.
It’s hard to say whether Clinton will actually institute those policy changes. I mean, so few politicians actually deliver. But hey, if I had to put my money on anybody, it’s probably going to be the guy who’s been pro-LGBT+ rights since the ’80s.