Will LGBT Rights be at the Forefront of Tonight’s Vice President Debate?

There should be no surprise that the two Vice Presidential nominees Tim Kaine and Indiana Governor Mike Pence couldn’t be politically more polarized—especially when it comes to the issue of gay rights. Pence earned wide criticism last year for signing a discriminatory anti-LGBTQ law in Indiana that harmed Hoosiers and cost his state millions. But Pence’s “license to discriminate” bill wasn’t the first time Mike Pence has targeted LGBTQ people with political attacks. Well before his shameful anti-LGBTQ legislation last year that cost Indiana more than $60 million, Pence had established a track record that included opposing hate crimes legislation and the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ backing anti-LGBTQ activists. He even supported offsetting funding for HIV prevention with funding for the abusive practice of so-called “conversion therapy.” Meanwhile, Tim Kaine has advanced LGBTQ equality as Governor, Senator and now as a vice presidential candidate pushing the most aggressive platform for LGBTQ equality in U.S. history.

The contrast on display tonight will be crucial to the 9.4 million LGBTQ voters who will play a pivotal role in deciding this election. The Human Rights Campaign has launched a nationwide #turnOUT GOTV campaign to mobilize LGBTQ voters and pro-equality allies in key states where the equality vote will be crucial to a Clinton-Kaine victory. In battleground states like Florida, North Carolina and Ohio, the LGBTQ vote is more than double the margin of victory in the last three presidential elections. In Virginia, where tomorrow night’s debate will take place and President Obama’s 2012 margin of victory was only 150,000 votes, there are at least 190,000 LGBTQ voters.

HRC is set to launch a “tweet-up” tonight called #AskTheGays. The hashtag first gained attention after Donald Trump bizarrely pandered to LGBTQ voters and challenged those skeptical over his anti-LGBTQ record to “ask the gays” about him.

How different are the two on LGBT issues? HRC (Human Rights Campaign not Hillary Rodham Clinton) has come up with an awesome comparison:

On Marriage Equality

Pence: Pence opposed the Supreme Court’s nationwide marriage equality ruling. After the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which barred legally married same-sex couple from having their marriages recognized by the federal government, was ruled unconstitutional, he urged amending the state of Indiana’s constitution to outlaw marriage equality.

Kaine: Kaine  discussed his support of marriage equality at HRC’s national dinner in September. Coming out in favor of marriage equality in 2013, Kaine said: “I believe all people, regardless of sexual orientation, should be guaranteed the full rights to the legal benefits and responsibilities of marriage under the Constitution….I hope the Supreme Court will affirm that principle.”

On Non-Discrimination Protections

Pence: While in Congress, Pence voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. As governor, his “right to discriminate” bill could have allowed businesses to discriminate and deny service to LGBTQ people because of who they are or whom they love. He opposed the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” by saying it would turn the military into “a backdrop for social experimentation.”

Kaine: Kaine is an original co-sponsor of the Equality Act — federal legislation that would finally guarantee explicit, permanent protections for LGBTQ people under our existing civil rights laws. One of Kaine’s first actions as Virginia Governor in 2006 was to sign an executive order adding sexual orientation protections to the non-discrimination policy for state workers. He has voted in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA).

On Transgender Equality

Pence: Opposed guidance from the Department of Education that clarifies that transgender students have a right under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 to access restrooms consistent with their gender identity, saying, “The federal government has no business getting involved in issues of this nature.”

Kaine: Kaine called for the repeal of North Carolina’s dangerous and vile HB2. He recently signed onto an amicus brief in the 2nd Circuit case, Christiansen v Omnicom Group Inc., arguing that sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination are prohibited under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Kaine also expressed support for the Obama Administration’s decision to drop the outdated ban on transgender troops serving openly in the military.

On Hate Crimes

Pence: He voted against the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, calling it a “radical social agenda.” Under Pence’s leadership, Indiana still lacks a hate crimes law that covers LGBTQ people.

Kaine: As Governor, Kaine told the Roanoke Times that, “…crimes against gays should be added to the list of hate crimes as long as the statute is on the book…”

HIV and AIDS and Conversion Therapy

Pence: Opposed funding to treat HIV unless it was offset by cuts to programs that he
claimed “…celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus.” Pence instead preferred funding harmful conversion therapy programs that would seek to change “sexual behavior.” Last year, Pence dragged his feet on supporting a needle exchange program in Indiana to combat an HIV outbreak related to needle-sharing among opioid drug users that was later deemed “preventable” due to his moral opposition to needle-exchange programs.

Kaine: In a speech at HRC’s 2016 National Dinner, Kaine pledged to “take on drug companies and cap out-of-pocket expenses so that people with HIV can get medication they need at a price they can afford.” He also committed to address “any stigmatization of HIV criminalization laws that still exist here and around the world.” Last week, HRC’s Noël Gordon released a powerful OpEd about how Hillary Clinton is the only choice in November, particularly since only Clinton has a plan to help combat the HIV crisis facing gay black men. Gordon noted how Pence’s failed leadership in Indiana failed to contain an HIV outbreak.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer equality. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work, and in every community.

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