Sophie Zavaglia: Are Democrats ignoring gays?

It seems like no matter where I go or what I do, I keep hearing the same old campaign slogans – Barack Obama’s “Yes, we can!” and Hillary Clinton’s recent “Make History!” Both Clinton and Obama are certainly right – history is being made in this country. As candidates, both Obama and Clinton represent hundreds, if not thousands, of years of fighting for total equality. We currently have two candidates who stand for social change and the fight for equality. right?

Being a Democrat, I was initially overjoyed with both these candidates when they declared their intentions to run for president, because I felt confident that either candidate’s presidency would bring about crucial changes on significant political issues.

But after all the speeches I’ve heard them give, I found Obama and Clinton relatively quiet on the issue of gay rights. This was especially surprising considering their penchant for public speaking. I couldn’t accept that these candidates who based their entire campaigns on the idea of equality and social justice had said relatively little about the need for equality for homosexuals.

Just to be fair, I dove right into the candidates’ platforms, looking for their stance on the issue of gay rights.

Clinton’s Web site touts her status as a “Champion for Women” and her push for universal health care. But, it fails to acknowledge gay rights in any way.

Obama’s Web site yielded the same result. As I browsed through Obama’s “Issues,” I found sections on “Civil Rights,” “Education” and “Economy,” but not a word on the rights of homosexuals. I thought that maybe I could find Obama’s defense on gay rights under a section curiously titled “Additional Issues.” It seems that Mr. Obama has something to say about art and sportsmen, but not about ensuring the rights of homosexuals.

Conversely, both Obama and Hillary have recently made statements assuring gay, lesbian and bisexual voters that they are supporters of the fight to ensure equal rights for the LGBT community. Notably, Obama dedicated an open letter to the LGBT community assuring them of his fight for “equality for all.” Interestingly enough, according to a recent study by The Williams Institute, both Texas and Ohio are on the list of the top ten states that have the largest gay, lesbian and bisexual populations, ranking fourth and sixth respectively. Is it a coincidence that this letter came out shortly before Tuesday’s primary? I think not. The sad truth is that Obama and Cliton aren’t “reaching out” to the LGBT community – they are pandering to it.

Despite all their rhetoric about breaking the mold of “politics-as-usual” and challenging the status quo, both Obama and Clinton have fallen back into typical political behavior by addressing the issue of gay rights in such a glib manner. To be clear, I’m not saying they are against gay rights. One need only look at their records to highlight that they have voted in a fairly consistent way in support of the gay community.

However, in this election, they both remained remarkably quiet on the issue of gay rights until it was politically advantageous for them to speak out. Both Obama and Clinton are treating the “gay vote” as a momentary prize to be won. Instead, they should be making gay rights a permanent issue, voicing support for the fight for gay rights even when it is not popular. In ignoring this critical issue until recently, both candidates are denying the significance of this issue in the same way that equal rights have been historically denied to both blacks and women. Spouting off that we “can” change society accomplishes nothing. Senators Clinton and Obama must openly address gay rights at all times if they value true equality and social justice, not just when it’s going to guarantee them a vote.

The writer is a sophomore majoring in political science.

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