Adam Polaski

Q&A: Clarifying the 'Candidates' LGBT Stances' Chart

Filed By Adam Polaski | August 23, 2011 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Barack Obama, Buddy Roemer, candidate endorsements, DOMA repeal, LGBT stances, Marriage Equality USA, MEUSA

BuddyRoemer.jpegLast week, a table from Marriage Equality USA that graphically organized all of the LGBT-related stances and positions of each presidential candidate, circulated around the LGBT blogosphere. 13 candidates - 12 GOP nominee hopefuls and President Barack Obama - were included in the graph. Ned Flaherty from MEUSA has been working on compiling the chart, updating it as candidates' positions change or - or course - "evolve."

After closer reflection on the chart, some inconsistencies in the candidates' positions are clear, so it's important that the methodology and background of the table are fully understood. Most glaringly, GOP candidate Buddy Roemer (right) is listed as "maybe" supporting "full marriage" equality, although he is also listed as opposed to repealing the Defense of Marriage Act. Similarly, Roemer is listed as opposing open military service but supports LGBT-inclusive anti-discrimination measures and protections for federal civilian workers.

In order to understand where these contradictions are coming from, it's important to understand Flaherty's methodology, which is listed on the MEUSA website:

Starting in August 2011, a survey was delivered to the office of each active, formally announced candidate via e-mail, web mail, and/or facsimile, and also via certified U.S. mail for which a staff member signed a receipt confirming the delivery. Each candidate's survey showed his or her latest stand on each LGBT issue, based on speeches made, documents signed, and interviews given. All candidates were invited to notify MEUSA of updates to their positions as they occur, up through election day on 6 November 2012.

Some of the candidates - including Roemer (who updated his stances on August 16) - have contacted Flaherty to change their responses, but although all of the candidates have verified they have received the survey, not all of them - including Obama - have yet returned it.

The Bilerico Project spoke via email with Ned Flaherty, who created the chart for Marriage Equality USA, to clarify some other aspects of the table. It's clear that much of the confusion associated with the table is a product of the candidates' own inconsistent stances. The table is simply a combined, visual representation of what the politicians have claimed to support or oppose, and which they have waffled on. We spoke specifically with Flaherty about Buddy Roemer's inconsistencies, Obama's stances, and the continued methodology of the table. (A Q&A with Flaherty is after the jump.)

AP:To be clear, what does "maybe" mean?
NF: "Maybe" means that a candidate claims he envisions likely circumstances under which he would say "yes," as well as equally likely circumstances under which he would say "no."

AP: How do you explain Roemer's "maybe" position on "full marriage" rights, but his opposition to repeal of DOMA?
NF: Buddy Roemer reviewed all 12 of the original positions that we assigned to him, changed 3 of them, and chose to leave the other 9 unchanged. To be precise, it's incorrect to say merely that we "listed" him that way, because the fact is that he intentionally chose those 12 positions, in conjunction with his campaign staff, and they forwarded the results to me for continuous publication until further notice. While his positions may strike some as contradictory, they're his positions, he chose them, and he wants them published just as they are. Across the six "Same-Sex Marriage" issue columns, 7 of the 13 candidates have chosen positions that contain various contradictions. Roemer's not the only culprit. All 7 of those candidates deserve to be asked by journalists, voters, and other candidates exactly why they supports x but not y.

AP:Obama has stated that he is "evolving" on the issue of marriage equality, has said he would stop defending DOMA, and is in favor of civil unions and domestic partnerships for same-sex couples. Roemer, on the other hand, is opposed to DOMA repeal and many other LGBT protections. Are their "maybe" positions on full marriage equality really equal, and should they be viewed as the same?
NF: Multiple candidates can hold a position of "yes" or "no" or "maybe" on various issues, but for very different reasons, so it's not correct to equate Roemer's full-marriage "maybe" with Obama's full-marriage "maybe," unless both candidates themselves give you the exact same rationale.

AP: Obama has repeatedly stated that he believes marriage is between a man and a woman. Why, then, is he listed as "maybe" for full marriage equality?
NF: Yes, Obama is really "maybe" on full marriage - but only - and entirely - because he says so. There's no insinuation on anyone's part; Obama and his campaign staff chose that as their official, public position. It's understandable for people to challenge the intelligence of such a design; however, all explanation and justification have to come from the team that made the decision.

AP: Hasn't Obama stated that he supports the protections afforded by the Employee Non-Discrimination Act? Why, then, is he a "maybe" on the LGBT Job Discrimination categories?
NF: Obama did previously support ENDA, but when White House spokesperson Jay Carney was asked this spring whether Obama is open to issuing executive orders prohibiting LGBT discrimination for people working in private industry and working as civilians for the military, Carney was evasive, so that's one reason why Obama reverted to only a "maybe."

AP: Has the Obama administration responded to your survey?
NF: Obama and his campaign staff have this table on their desks, and they decided to leave all 12 positions as first published one week ago. On behalf of MEUSA, I placed 3 phone calls to President Obama's campaign staff about his positions on these 12 issues during the first 2 weeks of August 2011. The staff confirmed that all 3 calls had been logged and delivered to the correct people, but none of those calls were ever returned, and his staff would not say when - or even whether - any calls would be returned.

(Continued) Obama Campaign Manager Jim Messina also has on his desk a certified letter from me on behalf of MEUSA, which his staff signed for, notifying him of what's being reported to the public, and inviting him to update the president's positions whenever they change. Mr. Messina knows these positions are being re-published weekly across the nation for use by 31 million LGBT voters, and he knows that a Republican candidate currently outperforms President Obama, on both the civilian worker issue and the full marriage issue. So far, Mr. Messina has decided not to change any of the 12 reported positions. He was invited to do that via phone, e-mail, postal mail, and/or facsimile, whichever is most convenient. If you want to call Rollins yourself, you can ask him when -- or whether -- he plans to reply to U.S. certified mail letter 7010-3090-0001-9867-3284, signed for at 10:58 this morning.

See the full chart below. The chart is being updated as or if candidates respond with changes. The last update is from August 17.


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To be fair, Ron Paul has stated that his personal view opposes same sex marriage, but he also feels that its not the government's job to dictate who marries who. I'm no expert on the guy, but he seems to be inclined toward general fairness and liberty without the government poking its nose (or anything else) into our bedrooms.

This is indeed true.
I was following Paul closely when he first hit the scene in the 2008 season, right up to the primaries.
While yes, his political stance is to get the federal government out of people's bedrooms and personal lives, his stance is also apathetic and unhelpful to LGBT objectives.

On the plus side, the stance cripples nationwide anti-GBTL legislation (or at least the enforcement thereof); on the other hand it also cripples pro-BTLG groups from Washington-based action and any further legislation. I feel that could fragment the political power (lol) of TLGB orgs, as activists' efforts disperse to their respective states.

So anyway, the fact that he wishes the federal government to abstain from any involvement in these matters, I feel, justifies marking him as "No."

Ned Flaherty | August 23, 2011 10:27 PM

Marriage Equality USA sent each presidential candidate a survey form with 100% of the answers already inserted, so that a candidate would need to return a survey form only if a position on some issue had changed.

The 13 candidates chose to keep 98% of their 156 positions exactly the same as we first reported them, which means that Marriage Equality USA’s original assessments were nearly perfect — a rare feat in any political season.

In only one week, this table got applauded and re-posted on about 40 other sites. But it took Bilerico’s Adam Polaski to start doing the hard-hitting analysis that these candidates deserve. Voters and political organizations should not be shy about telling their most favorite (and least favorite!) candidates exactly what they think.

Ned Flaherty
Marriage Equality USA - Election 2012 project

Thanks for looking into this, Adam. I saw some of these odd juxtapositions as well. While I can understand some of Mr. Flaherty's decision making here, I'm not sure I agree with 100% of the choices. I don't think it's giving the public an accurate view of the candidates' positions to allow those candidates to choose where they fall on the yes/no/maybe scale when some of the positions in the chart are mutually exclusive - like the Buddy Roemer examples you state.

Regardless of what the candidate wants, they should not be allowed to have a "maybe" for full marriage equality if they do not support the overturn of DOMA. It is utterly impossible to have full marriage equality with DOMA in place, therefore, it is a veritable lie to let the candidate claim a maybe on marriage if they don't support repeal of DOMA.

The same goes for reinstating DADT. You can't have a position that you'd offer equal benefits for military spoused if you're willing to throw out any military personnel who try to claim those benefits.

To me, that's a major flaw in the rubric.

I'd also quibble strongly with giving Obama a "maybe" on private employment non-discrimination protections based on what Mr. Flaherty says. Being evasive on an executive order - which Obama has eschewed repeatedly as a method of advancing LGBT rights - is not a "maybe" stance. Obama fully supports the passage of ENDA and fully opposes employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in all employment, public and private. To say otherwise is simply a severe twisting of the reality of Obama's position.

This doesn't really give me any more confidence in the chart - in fact, it just confirms for me that it's not really a good tool to gauge the candidates accurately at all.