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On Civil Rights And Gay Rights, McCain Flunks The Test


Despite all the talk of the economy, there are other issues of concern in this presidential race. Let's take a side-by-side look at where Obama and McCain stand on gay rights, Identity-based hate crimes, civil unions, and the like.

McCain on Hate Crime Legislation:

While in the US Senate, McCain voted NO on expanding the definition of hate crimes to include crimes based on sexual orientation, and voted NO on prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. The bill would have caused the definition of "hate crime" to encompass acts committed because of a victim's disability or sexual orientation and would have permitted the federal government to assist in state prosecutions of hate crimes.

Obama on Hate Crime Legislation:

In "In His Own Words, " author Lisa Rogak notes that Obama shows his support for the Employment Non Discrimination Act, and added that hate crime legislation SHOULD be expanded to include sexual orientation, and even that the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy of the US military should be repealed.

McCain on Same-Sex Marriage:

Senator McCain supports California Proposition 8 (CA Prop. 8), a one-man-one-woman marriage ballot measure, about which he said "I support the efforts of the people of California to recognize marriage as a unique institution between a man and a woman, just as we did in my home state of Arizona" (Los Angeles Times Jul 2, 2008).

McCain voted YES on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which argued that even if one state authorizes same-sex marriage, that marriage need not be recognized by any other state. It was designed to make clear that the federal government sees marriage as man-woman only.

Obama on Same-Sex Marriage:

Obama called California's Prop 8 "divisive and discriminatory," and praised the idea that all Americans, irrespective of their relationships, should be fully recognized and protected under the law (Los Angeles Times Jul 2, 2008).

Obama has not yet endorsed gay marriage, arguing rather that civil unions are sufficient to protect partner and family rights. He has advocated separating the terms "marriage" and "union" to reflect the difference between religious and state ceremonies.

He voted NO on the constitutional same-sex marriage ban, indicating that it was essentially discriminatory.

Because of these two disparate stances, the candidates have been rated quite differently by two key organizations. The ACLU gives Obama an 80% rating, indicating a pro-civil rights voting record, while McCain's rating currently stands at a mere 17%.
The NAACP, which bases their scorecard rating on whether a candidate is pro- or anti-affirmative action, lists Obama's rating at 100%, McCain's at 7%.

If we translate these numbers into something more palatable, using the gold-standard teacher's averages translated into grades, we have this:

When it comes to gay rights, civil rights, and equal rights for humans of all types:

McCain earns a 12%, a giant "F" from the teacher.
Obama earns a 90%, or a base-line "A."

I think it's safe to say that even the economists fretting over the de-value of the dollar, calculating the latest trends and bailout figures, could reasonably interpret these numbers to find the fairest, most pro-human guy for the job.


This week OffTheBus is publishing a variety of stories that cover the policy differences between Senators John McCain and Barack Obama. If you have a policy expertise and would like to participate, please see Calling All Policy Gurus.