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Washington Blade: LGBTQ News, Politics, LGBTQ Rights, Gay News: Is being LGBTQ enough to earn your vote?

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My answer to the question: “Is being LGBTQ enough to earn your vote?” is no. It’s the same answer I would give on whether just being Generation X, a millennial, a woman, or other minority, is enough to get my vote. We need to know in detail what a candidate stands for, what they have done prior to running for the office they are seeking, and what they will do better than their opponents. I often ask a candidate looking for my support, “What are the first three bills you will introduce if you win?” Then I ask what they think they can accomplish better than their opponents. Voters should look at the entire field to decide who gets their vote.

I am talking about a Democratic primary. In the general election, any Democrat is better than today’s Republicans. Ranked choice voting, which I oppose, can also complicate your choices.

Once I know a candidate’s record of accomplishments, and thoughts on issues of importance to me, I then compare that to their opponent’s record and thoughts. Too often today candidates run without telling us what they will do once elected. As a policy wonk I want to know this prior to endorsing someone. I do recognize for many voters, it doesn’t matter.

I remember when Barney Frank once used this quote speaking to the LGBTQ community, “If we aren’t at the table we will be on the menu.” In some ways, and in some situations, that is still true. In others, we have moved beyond that. In the United States Congress today, there are 13 members of the LGBTQ community, 11 in the House and two in the Senate. There are approximately 200 members of the Equality Caucus representing members who support the LGBTQ community. On June 21, 2023, they reintroduced the Equality Act, first introduced by Congresswoman Bella S. Abzug (D-N.Y.), who I worked for, in 1974. She was one of the leading allies fighting for then LGBT rights. I am not convinced one more member of the LGBTQ community in Congress would make a difference.

In the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries we had a very smart openly gay candidate, Pete Buttigieg. While I didn’t think he was ready to be president, I co-chaired fundraisers for him fervently believing he represented the community well, and needed to be heard. I differentiated wanting him to be heard, and voting for him. Thankfully, we have some great organizations, like Victory Fund, whose mission is to both endorse, and raise funds, for LGBTQ candidates. While I strongly support their work, I don’t necessarily support each candidate they endorse. In today’s complex world I need to know more before I endorse a candidate.

Because we have in many ways moved the needle forward, despite some recent court decisions, there can be Democratic primaries today where an LGBTQ candidate is running against another LGBTQ candidate, or an African American, a Latino, an Asian, a person with a disability, or a woman. We know each community may have a stake in electing their person. So as informed voters, we need to move beyond ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or sexual identity, to determine whom we will support.

We need to look at records and platforms. For me, a gay man, if all candidates support the Equality Act, full inclusion, and the full panoply of the LGBTQ community’s rights, along with having a record of speaking out on these issues, I will look at all of them equally. I want to know where they are on climate change, education, public safety, immigration, and a host of other issues that will make a difference in our world. If they are running for national office today, what do they think about support for Ukraine, and their views on our military readiness? At all levels of government what are their positions on voting rights, and a woman’s right to choose? Do they believe in, and will they stand up for, the separation of church and state? Others may make their decisions on a different set of issues.

So, deciding whom to vote for today is complicated. I will endorse and vote for the person I think can make the most progress on the issues I care about.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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