Presidential debates rarely shed new light on what a presidential candidate really believes. Set-piece statements and rehearsed position points are the order of the night – and the format of the debates rarely allows for reflection or back-and-forth discussion.
The October 3 debate – first in this season’s set of debates – is slated to focus on domestic policies. The Council for Global Equality believes that if the United States wishes to claim leadership in the struggle for human rights abroad, our country must pay more attention to LGBT inequalities here at home. We hope, and urge, that LGBT issues will be included in the mix – and that they not be limited to backward-looking topics such as whether repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was right for our country. (It was, let’s move on.)
We’d like to hear the candidates address, at a deeper level, why a country that professes a belief in equal rights, justice and the pursuit of happiness can fail to assure equality for all citizens, including those of us who happen to be LGBT. Some questions worth considering:
- Why should an employer be allowed to fire an employee who is gay or lesbian – or not to hire him/her – for that reason? How is that lack of protection consistent with any understanding of “fair” and “equal”?
- How do candidates understand the separation of church and state – not simply with respect to the rights of religious denominations, but with respect to the government’s rights and responsibilities to ensure equal rights for citizens from different religious faiths or, indeed, those who belong to no faith tradition?
- In that regard, why should government contracts (representing taxpayer funds) be given to organizations – whether religious or secular – that refuse to respect civil principles of fairness and equality for all employees, regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity?
- Why isn’t U.S. citizenship conferred on in vitro fertilized children that are conceived by gay and lesbian U.S. citizen couples abroad?
- And why shouldn’t immigration policy be amended to accommodate the families and partners of gay and lesbian citizens – in the same manner that families and partners of straight citizens are allowed to reunite with their loved ones?
There are many more LGBT policy questions to address, of course. But we hope the organizers of the October 3 domestic policy debate will help us arrive at a better understanding of to what degree the two candidates have internalized American values of fairness and equality and how, in consequence, they would propose to move our country beyond basic LGBT fairness issues that should have been resolved in the last century.