But for other lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues Gov. Romney has either remained silent or offered vague support for pro-equality laws and policies. To see if Gov. Romney has any clear policy positions that back up his claim of supporting gay rights, we would like the candidate to answer the following five questions.
First, which policies would Mitt Romney support to help workers with same-sex partners legally access the same benefits as workers who are married to someone of the opposite sex?
Workers with same-sex partners often do not have equal access to the same employment benefits (like health insurance) currently afforded to employees with different-sex spouses. For his part, Mitt Romney has on at least three occasions stated he supports extending certain benefits to workers with same-sex partners. Just this year, for example, Gov. Romney stated that his “view is that domestic partnership benefits, hospital visitation rights and the like are appropriate but that the others are not.”
He has not expanded on what “the like” and “the others” actually entail, however. Would he, for example, sign into law the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligation Act, which would extend equal workplace benefits to federal employees and their same-sex partners? Would he keep in place or would he rescind legally available benefits that have been extended to federal employees’ same-sex partners under the Obama administration? These questions continue to go unanswered.
Second, as president which policies (if any) would Gov. Romney support to help end workplace discrimination against LGBT workers?
Mitt Romney is on record as being opposed to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a bill in Congress that would make it illegal to discriminate in employment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. But he also had this to say about discrimination: “My record, my life, is a clear indication of my support and insistence on antidiscrimination and on efforts to assure equal rights for all.”
Does that mean a President Romney would issue an executive order to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity among federal contractors? Would he keep in place and actually enforce executive orders by President Obama and former President Clinton that require the federal government to not discriminate against its LGBT employees? Without specifics from the Romney campaign, it’s anyone’s guess.
Third, would a President Romney halt the Pentagon’s current efforts to extend benefits to members of the military with same-sex partners?
With respect to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Mitt Romney flip-flopped by initially offering support for the open service of gays and lesbians as a Senate candidate in 1994 and then supporting the ban on open service in the years leading up to his presidential race in 2008. Today, it looks like Mitt Romney has moved on, noting in 2011 that openly gay service “no longer presents [a] problem.”
But inequalities still abound for openly gay servicemembers. The Defense of Marriage Act and other policies, for example, prevent servicemembers from accessing a host of benefits currently afforded to servicemembers’ opposite-sex spouses. Senior officials at the Pentagon are conducting an ongoing review to determine which benefits it can legally extend to same-sex partners going forward, even with DOMA in effect. Would Mitt Romney allow that review to continue under his administration? Or would he instead halt it in its tracks?
Fourth, how would Mitt Romney use his power as president to help end the rampant bullying of LGBT youth in our country’s schools?
Under President Obama, the Departments of Education and Justice have taken steps to combat bullying under existing civil rights laws by investigating allegations of anti-LGBT harassment and bullying in school districts across the country. This has directly led school districts to undertake several initiatives to prevent bullying based on students’ sexual orientation. Would Mitt Romney follow suit? Or would he instead ignore the painful realities that many LGBT students face each day?
Similarly, would Mitt Romney support legislation such as the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act, which would offer a much-needed lifeline to LGBT victims of school violence? Or would he veto such a bill because they would help people who are “bisexual” and “transgender,” two words Mitt Romney thought were so inappropriate as governor that he blocked the publication of a state antibullying guide because it contained those words?
And fifth, would Mitt Romney continue Obama administration policies currently in place that promote the rights and equality of gay and transgender people internationally?
President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have taken major steps to help advance LGBT rights abroad, including by issuing a memorandum directing all federal agencies to ensure their foreign assistance programs “promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons.” These policies have already helped pressure countries like Malawi, which recently sentenced a gay couple to 14 years in jail for having sex, into rethinking their discriminatory laws.
Mitt Romney has not acknowledged the existence of – let alone the horrible conditions experienced by – LGBT people abroad. Would he continue Obama administration efforts to help improve and even save the lives of LGBT people around the globe?
Mitt Romney claims that he favors gay rights, even while vocally opposing marriage equality and a federal law barring LGBT workplace discrimination. But LGBT rights go well beyond these issues. It’s time for the candidate to either clearly state his support for specific policies related to these other issues, or to stop saying “I favor gay rights.” He shouldn’t be allowed to have it both ways.
Burns is a research associate and Jeff Krehely is the vice president for the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.