On one level, this is understandable. The choice for those who actually care at all about LGBT equality is clear: Barack Obama. Full stop.
But on another level, considering the extraordinary progress that has been made of late, the topic of LGBT rights deserves to be examined, precisely because it has been a big part of the story of the last four years.
And voters deserve to know the priorities of these two men who wish to lead the country. Consider how much time Speaker Boehner's Republican House has spent passing bills regulating women's lady parts and micro-managing gay people's lives since midterms. Stacks and stacks of bills, because gay people getting married on military bases is the most pressing issue Republicans can think to address today.
Moreover, how the country proceeds in the recognition of marriage rights for LGBT citizens is not some ethereal, academic hypothetical. It's now. It's happening. It is coming squarely down the pike. There are a handful of cases at this very moment being considered by the Supreme Court, and a Constitutional challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act is almost certainly going to be heard in the high court next year.
However the Supreme Court rules, the decision is going to crash into the first year of next administration with the force of a cultural freight train just about June 2013. And whoever is in charge is going to be called upon to react.
This week, Paul Ryan spoke with virulently homophobic Focus on the Family president Jim Daly and according to Right Wing Watch, "reassured the anti-gay group that a Romney-Ryan administration will fiercely oppose gay rights."
There's no debate, LGBT progress will be greatly stymied under President Romney. But preventing progress isn't enough for his base, they "want their country back" and not just from the black people, from the rainbow people too. The question is, how far is Romney willing to go to turn back the clock for gays? How many of the administrative changes that Obama has implemented will he revoke? And which ones, specifically?
Romney has pretty much promised to undo everything else Obama has accomplished over the last four years. And even people who don't care too much one way or the other about LGBT progress (which might possibly even represent a majority), deserve to know how much time and energy the Romney administration would task to undoing the collective progress. The collateral damage will be their president piddling away his political capital to extend the last throes of the right wing's failing culture war.
LGBT rights is also another area to push Romney to be specific—something he tries desperately to avoid on all topics. In the political discourse the effective result of not asking him to get specific on LGBT policies is Mitt Romney getting a free pass to promise crazy things to crazy people and no one really thinks twice about the crazy implications. Take, for example, his promise to amend the United States Constitution.
After the fold, a host of very specific questions candidate Romney might be asked at the next debate on issues of importance to the LGBT community and their families in 2012.
Both candidates have clearly articulated positions on federal same-sex marriage rights. Obama has expressed his support that LGBT couples should be allowed to legally marry. Moreover, he has articulated a goal. He has called for the repeal of so-called the Defense of Marriage act, many times dating back to the 2008 primaries, which would allow for federal recognition of state's marriages.
Romney too has a goal. He has pledged to the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), and the entire right wing of his party, that he will amend the Constitution of the United States to specifically ban gay marriage.
How long will the right wing keep pushing this rejected idea?
Sure, Obama's desire to pass DOMA repeal is ambitious. The bill for repeal, the Respect for Marriage Act currently has 33 sponsors in the Senate. But unlike Mitt Romney's plan to amend the Constitution, it's not completely divorced from reality.
So, let's talk about what Mitt Romney's plan to amend the Constitution might look like.
Does Mitt Romney have a specific plan for getting the bill through both the House and the Senate with the necessary two-thirds majority? How can he expect to succeed when Bush failed twice? If there wasn't the political will to pass it 10 years ago, is it realistic to think there will be now? Does he have some new ideas?
What priority will President Mitt Romney place on this endeavor?
How many hours of administration time will he task to getting the bill through Congress? Will this be a first year pursuit in 2013?
Presuming passage, is there a strategy map for getting the amendment ratified through 38 states? Will administration expend time and resources to shepherding the legislation through that process?
Maybe that could be a vice-presidential project. In his chat with Focus on the Family, Ryan bragged of his work passing the Wisconsin state amendment: "[Y]ou know where I come from we had one of those amendments in Wisconsin, I was a big supporter of it and we passed it like you say, where it’s put on the ballot it passes... A Romney administration will protect traditional marriage..."
If Romney is willing to rewrite the Constitution to thwart LGBT progress, the question is, how far will this ticket go to fight the gay menace?
Investigating the gays
Another part of NOM's pledge that is particularly extraordinary, and frankly chilling to LGBT activists, is the promise to
"establish a presidential commission on religious liberty to investigate and document reports of Americans who have been harassed or threatened for exercising key civil rights to organize, to speak, to donate or vote for marriage…"I wonder if Gov. Romney might be able to provide an instance where such harassment has occurred? Surely, he can think of one example. It is after all a matter of such great importance it requires the special attention of a presidential commission, and can't be trusted to ordinary resources of local police or the FBI.
I'm also curious if he might be able to name anyone he might appoint to this presidential commission? Where will the presidential commission fall in the executive branch reporting structure? What sort of budget will it draw? From where?
Romney's hostility goes much further than objecting to marriage, however; Romney has expressed his opposition to civil unions that were "identical to marriage." It's said there are 1,138 individual rights inherently associated with marriage. It isn't at all clear which a la carte rights he feels LGBT couples are deserving of and which ones they should be denied.
Perhaps he should be asked to articulate a marital right he feels it would inappropriate for the government to extend to LGBT couples?
On that front, Romney's pledge of allegiance to the National Organization for Marriage is quite worrisome.
Because National Organization for Marriage's name is a misnomer, and not only because they aren't promoting marriage (they are merely seeking to deny it to some people). But also because it isn't only marriage rights NOM opposes but virtually every form of legal LGBT relationship recognition that any governments have attempted to create.
Civil unions, domestic partnerships and registries are all gateways to gay marriage according to NOM, so they not only oppose them, but often actively have engaged in efforts to defeat them, as they did in Washington state in 2009, and last year in Illinois.
How would the Romney administration handle the situation of Edie Windsor, who was forced by the IRS to pay $350,000 in federal estate taxes because she was, after 40 years, widowed by a woman, and not a man? Would Gov. Romney say justice was served by Windsor's triumph in Second Circuit Federal Court? Or is this an occasion where he's in favor of higher taxation?
A great deal of the progress that has been made federally on LGBT rights is, in all actuality, quite vulnerable to being walked back coldly and swiftly by the Romney presidency.
Is Romney prepared to honor the legacy of the previous administration or sweep it away? Is the wrecking ball aimed for Obamacare and Wall Street reform also aimed at the gay community?
Below, a sample of accomplishments that the executive branch would have at least some power to wipe away unilaterally and a handful of pledges I'd love to see someone at least try to extract from candidate Romney.
Hospital visitation rights
One of the first LGBT headlines to come out of the Obama administration was the 2010 Health and Human Services order affirming LGBT couples' right nationwide to hospital visitation.
Is Romney prepared to pledge that his administration will not to revoke this order?
HUD Non-Discrimination order
In January 2012, the Department of Housing and Urban Development implemented a regulation forbidding discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in HUD affiliated programs. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops considers this regulation an affront to their religious liberty.
Does revoking this rule fall under Romney's promise to protect religious liberty?
Transgender employment discrimination
In May, the transgender community received perhaps one of their greatest breakthroughs to date. The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission ruled that employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity violated the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Does Romney agree with the ruling? And if not, will he use the presidency to appoint EEOC commissioners that ignore it, or work to undermine it?
Will Romney pledge to oppose any efforts to vote to overturn this decision?
Gays in the miltary
A year after death, and no discernable problems, but still the far right can't let this one go. The Republican House has passed over a half-dozen bills attempting to micro-manage this issue for the Pentagon (thank you Leader Harry Reid, for trusting our military commanders to handle this).
Prior to passage of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" legislation in 1993, President Dwight D Eisenhower's Executive Order 10450 of 1953 served as the basis for expelling many gays and lesbians from military service. Nothing in the Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal legislation passed in 2010 would prevent President Romney from issuing an similar executive order banning gays and lesbians from serving (New York Times). Such an act could have serious implications for national security. Is he prepared to pledge he will not do so?
In July, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced "nearly $80 million in grants to increase access to HIV/AIDS care across the United States. The funding will ensure that low-income people living with HIV/AIDS continue to have access to life-saving health care and medications." This move effectively ended the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) waiting lists. As of September, the list had shrunk from thousands nationwide to 88 people in six states. For years the uninsured and economically disadvantaged would wait hoping to get access to drugs that could save their lives and maintain their health, and hoping they could get into the program in time.
Will Romney commit to ensuring that ADAP waiting lists remain a thing of the past? Or will the program be threatened by deficit reduction? The same could be asked of PEPFAR, funding for global HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention.
In June, Reps. Jim Himes (CT-4) and Barbara Lee (CA-9) introduced the Cure for AIDS Act. The bill establishes a $100 million research program within the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program managed by the Department of Defense that will fund research targeted directly toward discovering a cure for HIV/AIDS. Would President Romney support this bill?
And for that matter, are current National Institute of Health funding levels for HIV vaccination and cure research safe, or at risk?
The Obama administration Department of Education has done extensive work with a variety of groups including GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network in improving learning environments for all kids, this includes education summits and campaigns. Romney's friends at Focus on the Family say GLSEN promotes “sexual anarchy” and “sexual chaos.” Will Romney continue to work with GLSEN to create safer learning environments where kids can thrive?
Will the Romney Department of Education and Justice work to affirm students' undisputed constitutional right to form Gay/Straight Alliance clubs, rights which are currently under attack or denied, in many states?
Studies show as high as 20 and 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ, mostly due to high levels of family rejection (thrown away kids). Obama's administration has been very proactively addressing this problem, working with local grassroots programs such as Detroit's Ruth Ellis house, a shelter specifically for LGBTQ homeless youth.
In June, U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services' Administration on Children, Youth and Families sent out a memo (pdf) helping affiliates to "develop procedures that ascertain that young people in foster care who are LGBTQ are physically safe from harm and bullying whether they are placed in a foster family home or congregate care setting with other children."
Can we expect this work to continue? Will the Romney administration facilitate safe sensitive and pragmatic solutions for the LGBTQ homeless youth epidemic that plagues the nation?
at the Human Rights Campaign gala in 2009.
Will he pledge to keep the lines of dialogue open between LGBT community and his administration hearing their concerns, as Obama has done, or will they be shut out as President Reagan turned a deaf ear to the community at the height of the AIDS crisis?
Undoing all this progress could be quite an onerous and time consuming task filling the first year of the Romney administration. The reality-based community knows the answers to all these questions, but that shouldn't relieve Gov. Romney of the responsibility to go on the record with his answers.
The LGBT community will not stand by quietly while the Romney administration sets about undoing all the good work that has been done.
And this isn't an agenda that most Americans want to sign on for, these battles have been fought already to a resolution. In truth, only a noisy minority really care about kicking gays out of the military or their partner's hospital rooms, and can anyone be said to be in favor of forsaking homeless youth, or intimidation in the schools?
It is unfortunate however that the noisy minority that most adamantly opposes all this have consistently been the same people that candidate Romney has shown himself most concerned with pleasing. Asking Romney these questions will place him, once again, in the uncomfortable spot of having to choose between what is decent, what is now largely accepted as mainstream values and what he is expected to say by his aggressively regressive base. A base which is constantly on the lookout for cracks in the veneer of Romney's "true conservatism." Many of these questions are political traps for Romney.
Regardless, the public deserves to know specifics of how far Mitt Romney is plotting to go to undo this all progress. We all know President Romney would be a disaster on LGBT rights. But even heterosexual Americans have a right know exactly how how much time and energy a Romney administration might spend ushering in that disaster.