Obama getting better, McCain getting worse on LGBT issues

Posted on 30 Jan 2008 at 8:09pm
By John Wright – News Editor

HRC’s Congressional Scorecard shows the Democratic candidate upping his score to 94, while the Republican’s score has dropped to 0


Bernice Johnson

The gulf has widened on LGBT issues between Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama and Republican opponent John McCain, according to the Human Rights Campaign’s 2008 Congressional Scorecard.

Obama received a score of 94 percent, up from 89 percent in 2006, on the  biannual scorecard that rates members of Congress according to votes and co-sponsorship of legislation related to LGBT equality. McCain’s score, meanwhile, dropped from 33 percent in 2006 to 0 percent for the most recent two-year session of Congress, according to the scorecard released Oct. 22.

David Stacy, a senior public policy advocate for HRC, called the scorecard a "snapshot" and cautioned that it is only one measure of support for the group’s issues. Nevertheless, Stacy said he believes the scores of Obama and McCain are reflective of where they generally stand on LGBT equality.

HRC has endorsed Obama in the presidential race.

"There’s a very stark difference," Stacy said. "Obama has consistently been a strong supporter. McCain has consistently been a very nonsupportive member of Congress."

U.S. senators received points for their votes or co-sponsorship on seven legislative items.

Obama sided with HRC on five of the seven items and did not vote on another.  Obama lost points for failing to co-sponsor the Uniting American Families Act, which would grant U.S. citizenship to same-sex partners from overseas. Obama supports UAFA but hasn’t signed on as a co-sponsor.

McCain sided against HRC on five of the seven items and did not vote on the other two.

Stacy said McCain received a score of 33 percent in 2006 for opposing the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would impose a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. McCain has said he believes marriage should be left up to the states, and he supported a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in his home state of Arizona.

Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden received a score of 95 percent in 2008, up from 78 percent in 2006. Like Obama, Biden lost points for failing to co-sponsor UAFA. Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin did not receive a score because she is not a member of Congress.

New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, who lost the Democratical presidential primary to Obama, also received a score of 95 percent after losing points for failing to co-sponsor UAFA.

Meanwhile, among lawmakers from Texas, Congresswomen Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas and Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston continued to lead the way.

Johnson and Lee were the only two members of Texas’ 34-person delegation in Washington, D.C., to receive a perfect score of 100 percent this year. Johnson and Lee also scored 100 percent on each of the two previous Congressional Scorecards.

"I think both of them have been strong leaders on LGBT issues," Stacy said. "They’re both willing to speak out and take a leadership role."

The average score for Texas’ 32 representatives in the U.S. House was 31 percent. The average for members of the U.S. House nationally was 48 percent, up from 41 percent two years ago. House members received points according to their positions on 11 legislative items.

The average score for members of the U.S. Senate went from 41.7 percent in 2006 to 55.4 percent in 2008, according to HRC. Texas’ two U.S. senators, Republicans John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, each received a score of 0 percent for the third consecutive time.

After Lee and Johson, Democratic Reps. Charlie Gonzalez of San Antonio and Lloyd Doggett of Austin tied for the next-highest score from Texas, at 85 percent.

Stacy said that in general, any score of 80 percent or above should be considered excellent.

Other Texas representatives received scores of 80 percent or above were Reps. Al Green, Ruben Hinojosa and Silvestre Reyes, who all received a score of 80 percent.

All 19 Republican members of the House from Texas — except for former presidential candidate Ron Paul and Dallas’ Pete Sessions — received scores of 0 percent. Paul, from Lake Jackson, received a score 44 percent, while Sessions received a score of 6 percent.

Sessions, who received a score of 0 percent on each of the two previous Congressional Scorecards, earned points this time for supporting the Early Treatment for HIV Act, which would allow states to provide Medicaid coverage to certain people with HIV.

Democratic Rep. Chet Edwards of Waco, once rumored as a possible vice presidential pick for Sen. Barack Obama, improved his score from 25 percent in 2006 to 60 percent this year. But Edwards remained the second-lowest-scoring member of his party from Texas.

Rep. Nick Lampson, a Democrat from Houston, scored a 0.

To view the full scorecard, go to www.hrc.org/11424.htm.

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