In his speech before the United Nations on September 21, President Obama made clear that human rights are universal, including with respect to individuals who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. We salute him for having made that point so clearly, and in such an important international venue.
To date, we’ve heard little from any of the Republican presidential candidate front-runners about their understanding of, or commitment to, human and civil rights. Perhaps the next debate, scheduled for October 11 in Dartmouth, New Hampshire, would be an opportune time to seek clarity.
Our most intriguing questions are triggered by some of the candidates’ past statements. In August, Rick Santorum used the stage in Ames to express worry about the plight of gay Iranians, for instance. Can he talk at greater length about how that concern squares with his decades-long opposition to fair laws and policies toward LGBT Americans?
For his part, Rick Perry has equated, in a loose way, our nation’s struggle for racial equality with his policy agenda of cutting taxes. Surely Americans deserve to have a better understanding of his support for civil rights policies and, indeed, his understanding of what “fairness” means in a policy sense.
And if Mitt Romney believes that “corporations are people,” we’d like to hear him extend his thoughts to the responsibilities that corporations have to protect and advance the equal rights of their real-human workers, including those who happen to be LGBT, in this country and overseas.
More fundamentally, it’s time for all Republican candidates to explain to voters what they really believe about the rights of LGBT people, at home and abroad. We note, in that regard, that many of the candidates have signed a range of pledges – e.g., to oppose tax increases, stand against abortion, or fight marriage equality for gays. Which among them would be bold enough to make the following five-point pledge:
- All Americans – including those who are LGBT – are entitled to full legal equality and respect.
- Equal treatment for all people, including minorities, is central to the concept of democracy that America stands for, and should be included in any diplomatic efforts to advance democracy abroad.
- The human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people neither differ from, nor are any less important than, those of straight people.
- The United Nations and other multinational structures should give human rights, including those of LGBT people, higher priority.
- American corporations should offer LGBT employees and their families the same benefits, obligations, training, and opportunities as those accorded to straight employees and their families, including in their overseas operations.
We believe the debates must shed light on how the Republican presidential candidates would fulfill their obligations to respect and advance equality in this country and abroad. We hope that Dartmouth will provide a better window into their thinking.