GA Voice - - Front Page - Anal­y­sis and en­dorse­ment By Laura Dou­glas-Brown, GA Voice Ed­i­tor



“It’s the econ­omy, stupid.” Cam­paign strate­gist James Carville’s tagline for Bill Clin­ton’s 1992 pres­i­den­tial race has been a po­lit­i­cal catch­phrase ever since. “It’s about the em­pa­thy, stupid.” That’s the head­line Slate.com writer Dalia Lith­wick used to sum up the im­por­tance of Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s May 2012 an­nounce­ment that he had come to per­son­ally sup­port same-sex mar­riage. “It’s our equal­ity, stupid.” Given all that Obama has ac­com­plished on LGBT rights in his first term, that may be the best way to ex­plain why LGBT vot­ers need to turn out to vote for Obama on Nov. 6 — even in red states like Ge­or­gia that are likely to go for Repub­li­can chal­lenger Mitt Rom­ney.

“Pres­i­dent Obama has im­proved the lives of LGBT Amer­i­cans more than any pres­i­dent in his­tory,” the Hu­man Rights Cam­paign, the na­tion’s largest LGBT po­lit­i­cal group, said in its en­dorse­ment of Obama. “In 2008 we were promised change and pro­found change is what we got.”

In­deed, the list of Obama’s ac­com­plish­ments on LGBT is­sues would have been unimag­in­able for any other pres­i­dent. The pres­i­dent pushed for and signed into law two ma­jor items on the na­tional gay po­lit­i­cal agenda: the LGBT-in­clu­sive Matthew Shep­ard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Preven­tion Act, and re­peal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

He in­structed the Jus­tice De­part­ment to stop de­fend­ing court chal­lenges against the De­fense of Mar­riage Act, which bans fed­eral recog­ni­tion of same-sex mar­riage, and in May per­son­ally came out for mar­riage equal­ity.

He also made ma­jor strides on LGBT is­sues that didn’t earn as many main­stream head­lines, from re­quir­ing hospi­tal visi­ta­tion for LGBT part­ners to cre­at­ing guide­lines to pro­tect trans­gen­der fed­eral em­ploy­ees from job dis­crim­i­na­tion.

No LGBT rea­son to vote for Rom­ney

That’s not to say some gay Repub­li­cans won’t vote for Rom­ney: In 2008, 27 per­cent of self-iden­ti­fied gay vot­ers told exit poll­sters they voted for GOP pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee John McCain, though skep­tics note the small sam­ple size had a rel­a­tively large mar­gin of er­ror.

But in this elec­tion, even the gay Repub­li­cans who back Rom­ney aren’t us­ing LGBT is­sues to ex­plain their sup­port.

In­stead, Jimmy LaSalvia, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of gay con­ser­va­tive group GOProud, ar­gues Rom­ney has a bet­ter eco­nomic plan.

“Many gay Amer­i­cans sim­ply do not have the lux­ury to make gay mar­riage their num­ber one is­sue. Many gay Amer­i­cans — like their straight coun­ter­parts — sim­ply can­not af­ford four more years of Barack Obama,” LaSalvia said in an Oct. 16 press re­lease.

The Log Cabin Repub­li­cans, the other na­tional gay GOP or­ga­ni­za­tion, is­sued a be­lated en­dorse­ment of Rom­ney Oct. 23, while ac­tu­ally ac­knowl­edg­ing that Obama is the bet­ter can­di­date on gay is­sues.

“If LGBT is­sues are a voter’s high­est or only pri­or­ity, then Gov. Rom­ney may not be that voter’s choice. How­ever, Log Cabin Repub­li­cans is an or­ga­ni­za­tion rep­re­sent­ing mul­ti­fac­eted in­di­vid­u­als with di­verse pri­or­i­ties,” the en­dorse­ment states.

Log Cabin lead­ers said they be­lieve they can work with Rom­ney on ENDA (per­haps be­cause he was for it be­fore he was against it: run­ning for U.S. Se­nate in 1994, he told LCR’s Mas­sachusetts chap­ter he would co-spon­sor ENDA, then changed his stance in later races).

As for Rom­ney’s nox­ious pledge to sup­port a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment ban­ning gay mar­riage, Log Cabin lead­ers es­sen­tially said they don’t think he will fol­low through, not­ing, “there is a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence be­tween a valid threat and an empty prom­ise made to a vo­cal but shrink­ing con­stituency.”

It’s the econ­omy, too

GA Voice doesn’t pre­sume to an­a­lyze each can­di­date’s eco­nomic plans; our ex­per­tise is LGBT is­sues. But it is worth not­ing that many of the LGBT rights ini­tia­tives backed by Obama and op­posed by Rom­ney have a di­rect eco­nomic im­pact for LGBT Amer­i­cans.

Mil­i­tary ser­vice of­fers a path to skilled job train­ing and a col­lege ed­u­ca­tion for thou­sands of mid­dle class and lower-in­come Amer­i­cans; re­peal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” means gay peo­ple can take ad­van­tage of this eco­nomic ben­e­fit.

The Em­ploy­ment Non-Dis­crim­i­na­tion Act, which Obama sup­ports and Rom­ney op­poses, would pro­tect LGBT work­ers from fac­ing eco­nomic dis­as­ter due to a big­oted em­ployer.

Like­wise, the stark con­trast be­tween Obama and Rom­ney on gay mar­riage rep­re­sents a huge dif­fer­ence on both equal­ity and eco­nom­ics, as be­ing able to legally marry would have dra­matic eco­nomic ben­e­fits for same-sex cou­ples.

The list in­cludes be­ing able to in­herit a spouse’s prop­erty with­out ad­di­tional tax­a­tion, be­ing able to cover a spouse on health ben­e­fits with­out ex­tra tax­a­tion, be­ing able to re­ceive So­cial Se­cu­rity sur­vivor ben­e­fits, avoid­ing le­gal fees to try to recre­ate a por­tion of the ben­e­fits that come with an in­ex­pen­sive mar­riage li­cense, and many more.

Your vote counts

The win­ner of the pop­u­lar vote gets all 15 of Ge­or­gia’s elec­toral col­lege votes, which really elect the pres­i­dent, and it’s all but cer­tain that Rom­ney will win the Peach State.

A poll con­ducted Oct. 8-12 by Abt SRBI Inc. for the At­lanta Jour­nal-Con­sti­tu­tion found that of 706 likely vot­ers, 51 per­cent planned to cast their bal­lots for Rom­ney, while 43 per­cent sup­ported Obama.

But with 5 per­cent un­de­cided and a mar­gin of er­ror of 5.3 per­cent, it is still pos­si­ble that the race could be close. And even though Ge­or­gia’s elec­toral col­lege votes are awarded all-or-noth­ing, the spread still mat­ters.

The Wil­liams In­sti­tute, a think tank, ex­trap­o­lates from the 2010 Cen­sus to es­ti­mate Ge­or­gia’s LGBT pop­u­la­tion at 340,000, ac­cord­ing to Ge­or­gia Equal­ity’s Jeff Gra­ham.

To put that in per­spec­tive, in the 2008 pres­i­den­tial race, John McCain won Ge­or­gia with 52.2 per­cent of the vote, gain­ing 204,792 more votes than Obama.

If LGBT vot­ers turn out to help fuel a strong show­ing for Obama in Ge­or­gia, we can send a pow­er­ful mes­sage even if he doesn’t win the state: We show that can­di­dates who sup­port LGBT equal­ity can still be vi­able here, and we prove that LGBT ci­ti­zens can be a vot­ing block wor­thy of at­ten­tion from can­di­dates from the top of the bal­lot on down.

So re­gard­less of who gets Ge­or­gia’s elec­toral col­lege votes, your bal­lot mat­ters.

If LGBT equal­ity mat­ters to you, cast it for Pres­i­dent Obama on Nov. 6.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama will likely lose Ge­or­gia to Repub­li­can Mitt Rom­ney, but cast­ing your vote for the man Newsweek dubbed Amer­ica’s ‘first gay pres­i­dent’ still mat­ters. (Obama of­fi­cial por­trait, Rom­ney pub­licty photo by Gage Skid­more)

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