VP candidates: A record of difference on LGBT issues

While Tuesday’s vice presidential debate did not illustrate to its national television audience the difference between the two vice presidential candidates on LGBT issues, the records of Republican Governor Mike Pence and Democratic U.S. Senator Kaine are both stark and pretty well documented for the LGBT community. Here’s a quick survey of the differences:

Records in Congress

Pence: For five Congressional sessions in a row, then U.S. Rep. Pence’s voting record on matters of interest to the LGBT community earned him the lowest rating possible (zero) from the Human Rights Campaign. He twice voted for the “Federal Marriage Amendment,” that sought to amend the U.S. constitution to ban marriage for same-sex couples nationwide. He voted against expanding the federal hate crimes prevention law to include crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity. He voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). He voted against repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on gays in the military.

As a candidate for Congress, Pence’s positions included opposition to “any effort to recognize homosexuals as a ‘discreet and insular minority’ entitled to the protection of anti-discrimination laws similar to those extended to women and ethnic minorities.” It also included opposition to “any effort to put gay and lesbian relationships on an equal legal status with heterosexual marriage,” and supported federal HIV funds to a program only after an audit could “ensure that federal dollars were no longer being given to organizations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus.”

Kaine: During his one session in the U.S. Senate, Kaine earned a score of 90 (on a scale of 0 to 100) from HRC. He co-sponsored and voted for ENDA, and voted against striking sexual orientation and gender identity from the Violence Against Women Act’s reauthorization bill. He voted to force a vote on three openly LGBT Obama nominees (Chai Feldblum to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and two judges to federal district court appointments). He co-sponsored a bill to “ensure the federal government respects lawful marriages between same-sex couples.” And he co-sponsored bills to stop discrimination and bullying of students based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Kaine is a chief sponsor of Equal Dignity for Married Taxpayers Act, seeking to provide for equal treatment of LGBT citizens under federal tax codes. He is a co-sponsor of the Equality Act, which seeks a federal law to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace and housing. He urged President Obama to issue an executive order banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity by contractors doing business with the federal government.

Following the attack on an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Kaine joined U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) and 22 other senators in a letter to urge the Food and Drug Administration to end its “discriminatory blood donation policy for men who have sex with men.” He was also among 40 senators to ask the Department of Education to provide guidance to schools on how to best provide for the “protection of LGBT students.”

And Kaine signed onto a friend-of-the-court brief in a case in the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, arguing that Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act already prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Kaine invited a lesbian couple who were plaintiffs in a lawsuit Bostic v. Rainey that successfully challenged Virginia’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples to be among his guests in Farmville, Virginia, for Tuesday night’s vice presidential debate. The couple, Carol Schall and Mary Townley, and their daughter were in the audience on the campus of Longwood College where the debate was staged.

Records as governor

Pence: As governor of Indiana, Pence last year signed the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which provided people and businesses with a defense for violating non-discrimination laws by claiming their actions are religiously motivated. The law was largely seen as an effort to enable discrimination against LGBT people. The national reaction against the bill was so fierce that Pence quickly found himself trying to stave off the political and economic damage the measure was wreaking. He held a press conference to say that, while he was “proud” to sign the “Religious Freedom” bill the week before, “clearly, there has been misunderstanding, and confusion, and mischaracterization” about what the new law was to do. He said the law was intended to protect religious liberty, not discriminate against any one group of citizens.

“This law does not give anyone a license to discriminate” or “a right to deny services to gays or lesbians or anyone else in this state. And it certainly was not my intent,” said Pence. He said that, because there was a “perception” by many people nationwide that the bill was intended to discriminate against gays and lesbians, he said he asked the legislature to act on a new bill this week “to make it clear that this law does not give businesses the right to deny services to anyone.”

In his state of the state address this year, Pence said, “I believe that no one should be harassed or mistreated because of who they are, who they love, or what they believe.” The context was “whether to extend full civil rights protections to Hoosiers on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.” He added that “Hoosiers do not tolerate discrimination against anybody, and Hoosiers cherish faith and the freedoms enshrined in our constitution.” To that, he added, “No one should ever fear persecution because of their deeply-held religious beliefs.”

“I will not support any bill that diminishes the religious freedom of Hoosiers or that interferes with the Constitutional rights of our citizens to live out their beliefs in worship, service or work.”

Kaine: Kaine began elective office in 1994 as a member of the city council of Richmond, Virginia; then as mayor. He next served as lieutenant governor and governor of Virginia and is currently a U.S. Senator from Virginia. As governor, Kaine banned discrimination based on sexual orientation for state employees. Although he was for giving same-sex couples the same rights as straight couples in marriage, he initially referred only to giving same-sex couples “relationship equality,” which many took to mean he preferred civil unions or domestic partnerships. But he campaigned against an effort to amend the state constitution to explicitly ban marriage for same-sex couples and, by the time he reached the U.S. Senate, he became a co-sponsor of a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

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