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Eight Issues Of '08 LGBT Rights

This story was written by Traci Kasperbauer, Iowa State Daily

Information from Sen. Barack Obamas, D-Ill., campaign Web site indicates that he hopes to expand the rights of same-sex couples Sen. John McCains, R-Ariz., site holds little information at all about his stance on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.

Both candidates voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have prevented marriage rights from extending to same-sex and other unmarried couples. Both candidates have also defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman, but offer differing views on remaining LGBT issues.

Zach Ford, graduate student in educational leadership and policy studies and spokesperson for the LGBT student services advisory board, said same-sex marriage is an important issue, but one that America might not agree on in the immediate future.

In the case of same-sex marriage, its divisive because it gets into religious values, but the approach should be from a strictly governmental point of view and in the eyes of the government, peoples religious faith shouldnt have to be a factor, Ford said. It should be equal opportunities for all people.

Paul Vidmar, junior in civil engineering and vice chair of the Iowa State University College Republicans, disagreed.

I do have a problem with essentially calling it marriage. It kind of gives it that religious meaning and takes away the religious aspect of it when it pertains to same-sex marriage, Vidmar said.

While McCain voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, Obama hopes to repeal the act.

The Defense of Marriage Act states that no State, territory, or possession of the United States or Indian tribe shall be required to give effect to any marriage between persons of the same sex under the laws of any other such jurisdiction, meaning that even if a same-sex marriage is recognized in one state, other states are not required to recognize it.

One of the important things to consider is the federal government doesnt recognize those unions, and many other states dont recognize those unions, particularly because of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, Ford said.

The act also establishes a federal definition of marriage as only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.

According to Obamas campaign Web site, he supports the complete repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Federal law should not discriminate in any way against gay and lesbian couples, which is precisely what DOMA does.

As far as the same-sex marriage, Im not really sure how that would come into play with [McCain] being in office. If anything, it would have to be a congressional amendment to the Constitution to define marriage, to really prohibit it, Vidmar said.

Ford said preventing hate crimes, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the dont ask, dont tell military policy, HIV treatment, sex education and same-sex adoptions are all important LGBT issues.

McCain has said the decision to allow civil unions for same-sex couples should be left to state and local legislators.

According to McCains campaign Web site, the basic responsibility for preserving and strengthening the family should reside at the level of government closest to the people.

Vidmar explained why this decision should be left to the states.

It is the states that give out marriage licenses. The more local level you can get with government, the better, Vidmar said. Theyre going to be the ones who know their own constituents a lot better than, say, the federal government just casting a broad blanket over everyone.

Obamas Web site said he supports full civil unions that give same-sex cuples equal legal rights and privileges as married couples.

While McCains Web site doesnt mention civil unions, he said in an interview with George Stephanopoulos on Nov. 19, 2006, that he doesnt believe same-sex marriage should be legal, but he believes that people ought to be able to enter into contracts, exchange powers of attorney, other ways that people who have relationships can enter into.

Ford said civil unions are not sufficient as a marriage alternative.

There is that idea of separate but equal, that we will create a separate status for this group of people that has some of the same rights, but its still not all of them, Ford said. One of the important things to consider is the federal government doesnt recognize those unions, and many other states dont recognize those unions, particularly because of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.

According to Obamas campaign Web site, he believes that the dont ask, dont tell military policy needs to be repealed.

According to Obamas Web site he believes, the key test for military service should be patriotism, a sense of duty, and a willingness to serve. Discrimination should be prohibited. The U.S. government has spent millions of dollars replacing troops kicked out of the military because of their sexual orientation.

Ford said a persons sexual orientation shouldnt matter when considering qualifications for military service.

It often leads to discrimination in terms of their ability to serve, Ford said. Dont ask, dont tell sort of allows the stereotypes of gay people as predatory and the homophobia thats rooted in that to continue. We need to repeal dont ask, dont tell because people who are LGBT are just as qualified to serve in our military and just as dedicated to protecting our country. Just because some people struggle with understanding different identities doesnt mean that the LGBT people should have to hide.

McCain has said he believes repealing the dont ask, dont tell policy would be illogical because right now weve got the best military weve ever had.

McCain also believes that decisions regarding adoptions by same-sex couples should be left to the states. According to McCains campaign Web site, he is seeking ways to promote adoption, but believes only the union between a man and a woman sufficiently recognizes the vital and unique role played by mothers and fathers in the raising of children.

Obama believes that children benefit from healthy, loving homes, regardless of the adopting couples sexual orientation, according to the campaign Web site.

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