America has made a lot of progress under President Barack Obama to improve the rights our LGBTQ community.
Last year marked the landmark Supreme Court ruling, which finally made marriage equality the law of the land in all 50 states.
This is a monumental achievement and it follows the growing acceptance of the LGBT community – something also signified by the fact that many straight allies and many companies have turned their social media icons ‘rainbow’ in support.
However, it’s not the be all and end all of the LGBT rights movements and much needs to be done.
For example, While President Obama did recently signed an executive order that banned federal agencies and contractors from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity, that doesn’t include everyone.
But there have been set back. The fight over transgender bathroom access is still on-going, employees can still be fired for being gay in 27 states, and last month’s tragic shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando showed the nation that the battle for equality is far from over.
Both presidential candidates have attempted to paint themselves as champions of the LGBTQ community.
But where do they actually stand on the issues?
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has been an outspoken advocate for LGBT rights for several years, and she has received the endorsement of the Human Rights Campaign, one of the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy groups.
As secretary of state, she fought for greater benefits for LGBTQ diplomats at the State Department and greater recognition of gay rights around the world.
During a 2011 speech in Geneva, Switzerland, to mark International Human Rights Day, Clinton said
Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.”
If elected, Clinton has already said she would support federal legislation to ban all discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, according to her campaign website.
She says she would also make it easier for people to change their gender on official documents, take measures to support LGBTQ elders and youth, and work to promote LGBTQ rights worldwide.
However, some gay-rights activists have criticized Clinton for coming around on the issue relatively late — neither she nor Obama fully supported same-sex marriage during the 2008 presidential campaign.
Others have questioned where Clinton stood on the issue when her husband, former President Bill Clinton, helped put two important anti-gay policies in place in the 1990s.
Her vice-presidential candidate, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, has had a long evolution on gay rights.
Like Obama and Clinton herself, Kaine long opposed same-sex marriage, preferring rights for same-sex couples that fell short of full marriage.
But he his views have changed, and one of his first executive actions as governor of Virginia banned workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation (that part of the non-discrimination policy was later repealed by his successor, Republican Bob McDonnell).
Sarah Kate Ellis, president of the LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD, explains,
We’ve seen our own family and friends evolve around us, so it’s not out of context to see a politician evolve as well.”
Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin also added;
Having proven time and time again that they have the experience, determination, and leadership needed to move equality forward for all Americans, we are confident Clinton and Kaine will tear down the walls of discrimination that hold all of us back. The stakes for LGBTQ people in this election couldn’t be higher, and the choice for pro-equality voters couldn’t be clearer.”
So now we move to Donald Trump – a man who is to the left of many Republicans on LGBTQ rights, but that doesn’t necessarily make him an ally of our community.
Since the horrific shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando last month, Trump has promoted himself as the LGBTQ community’s best hope in this election.
The shooter, 29-year-old Omar Mateen, who was born in the United States, had been investigated by the FBI for ties to terrorism and pledged allegiance to an Islamic terrorist group during the attack.
In his speech to the Republican National Convention earlier this month, Trump said,
As your President, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology, believe me.”
However, many of Trump’s policy positions tell a different story. He’s said that if elected president, he would consider appointing Supreme Court justices who would overturn marriage equality.
Trump’s position on transgender bathroom access has shifted at different times in the campaign.
And he has a history of making questionable comments about LGBTQ people.
That leaves many feeling that Trump’s record on LGBTQ rights is mixed, at best.
As for his running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, he signed anti-gay legislation that makes many kinds of discrimination legal across his state.
Full support there then – not really.