Friday, October 3, 2008

A Change of Pace on Same-Sex Families?

Even just twenty years ago, a candidate's thoughts on legal protections and rights for LGBT Americans would have barely made a blip on the political radar. Those seeking public office - especially at the top of a major party ticket - were rarely asked to weigh in about our families, and were rarely willing to do so voluntarily.

In the past decade, however, all that has changed . . . and it shows just how far we've come.

Last night, PBS's Gwen Ifill, moderator of the first (and only) 2008 vice presidential debate, posed the question to Democratic candidate Joe Biden and GOP VP nominee Sarah Palin.

"Do you support, as they do in Alaska, granting same-sex benefits to couples?," Ifill asked.

"Absolutely," Senator Biden responded. "Do I support granting same-sex benefits? Absolutely positively. Look, in an Obama-Biden administration, there will be absolutely no distinction from a constitutional standpoint or a legal standpoint between a same-sex and a heterosexual couple."

"The fact of the matter is that under the Constitution we should be granted -- same-sex couples should be able to have visitation rights in the hospitals, joint ownership of property, life insurance policies, et cetera," he said. "That's only fair. It's what the Constitution calls for. And so we do support it. We do support making sure that committed couples in a same-sex marriage are guaranteed the same constitutional benefits as it relates to their property rights, their rights of visitation, their rights to insurance, their rights of ownership as heterosexual couples do."

And in a surprise response, Governor Palin backed away from her earlier position, when she opposed granting those rights to Alaskans, saying that "no one would ever propose, not in a McCain-Palin administration, to do anything to prohibit, say, visitations in a hospital or contracts being signed, negotiated between parties."

That's a change of pace for Governor Palin, who said she disagreed, but would comply, with a state Supreme Court ruling granting the benefits Ifill asked about. Following that ruling, however, Palin also pushed a costly ballot measure to roll back those rights. Last night, she appeared to step back from that position and endorse at least some limited rights for same-sex couples.

If true, that's a change of pace (and perhaps change of heart?) for the Governor. Now, she should continue to speak out for basic rights such as hospital visitation. All families, including those with LGBT partners and loved ones, deserve to know where both candidates stand on issues important to them.

As Senator Biden concluded last night, "I'm glad to hear the governor, I take her at her word, obviously, that she thinks there should be no civil rights distinction, none whatsoever, between a committed gay couple and a committed heterosexual couple."

If that's what Governor Palin believes, she (and Senator Biden) should reiterate as much again and again.

To see the full video of last night's exchange, click here.

No comments: