By Lisa Keen – Keen News Service

Differences in Democratic candidates’ positions on gay and lesbian issues become more clear through responses to gay media

New differences on LGBT issues emerged between the two Democratic nominees during their primary state battles in Indiana and North Carolina. And given that the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination has not yet produced a nominee, those differences could become the focus for LGBT voters who appear to be increasingly split between the two candidates.

In Indiana, where Hillary Clinton squeaked out a 51-percent-to-49-percent win over Barack Obama in Tuesday’s primary, the LGBT community was apparently split, too. Rob Grayless, a publisher of Reality, a monthly LGBT magazine in Fort Wayne, said the LGBT community is "mirroring exactly the straight community."

Numbers from heavily gay precincts in Indiana were not yet available at deadline.

In North Carolina, where Obama took 56 percent of the vote to Clinton’s 42 percent, voters in one of the gayer precincts in Charlotte appeared to give Obama an edge — but by a much smaller margin than the rest of the city (by 21 points instead of 41). But in Durham, a gay precinct gave Obama a larger margin of victory than the city (80 points versus 52). Matt Comer, editor of that state’s largest LGBT publication, Q-Notes, said the community is split there, too.

Previously, the only concrete policy difference between Obama and Clinton on gay issues has been that Obama said he would seek repeal of the entire Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Clinton would repeal only part.

But in response to a question from six LGBT publications in Indiana this month, Obama elaborated, saying "We are going to have to have a national conversation" on the issue and must "ensure" the American public "that, as a matter of well-settled law, no state will be required to recognize another state’s marriage if DOMA is repealed."

Two prominent gay legal experts, Chai Feldblum and Evan Wolfson, were mixed on their assessment of whether that is, in fact, "well-settled law." Wolfson said "No, it is an open question as yet unresolved by the U.S. Supreme Court." Feldblum said she thinks it’s "well-settled enough" to persuade Congress that the states "don’t need a law like DOMA to shield states from having to do such recognition."

On the appointment of judges, Clinton said she would appoint people who share her view "that the constitution protects every American’s fundamental right to privacy and to equal protection under the law." Obama said he would nominate people "who have a demonstrated capacity to provide all Americans with a fair hearing."

Both candidates indicated they co-sponsor a bill to provide gay federal employees with the same benefits to their domestic partners as the spouses of straight employees now receive. Clinton added that, "As president, I will push to pass this into law."

And in responding to a question about what they would do concerning HIV, Clinton told gay publications in Indiana that she "will end the Bush administration’s abstinence-only policy" and Obama said, "Abstinence education should always be a core part of any strategy to curb sexually transmitted diseases."

Clinton also promised, in her responses to the Indiana publications, that "as president, I will use the bully pulpit to encourage the fair and equal treatment of all Americans no matter who they are or who they love."

But on the presidential campaign trail, Clinton has been virtually silent about LGBT issues and people in front of general audiences. Obama has included mention of and encouraged support for gay people on a number of occasions in front of general audiences.

©2008 Keen News Service

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 9, 2008.

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