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Barack Obama Versus John McCain on Lesbian and Gay Issues

Obama and McCain on LGBT Issues


Barack Obama

Barack Obama

© David Lienemann/Getty Images
Updated October 21, 2008
Where do the presidential candidates stand on issues of importance to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans community? Here is a brief comparison of John McCain and Barack Obama on LGBT issues.

Employment Non-Discrimination

Currently there is no federal protection for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender workers. In most states, people can still be fired for being gay.
  • Barack Obama supports ending employment discrimination against the LGBT community.
  • John McCain does NOT support ending employment discrimination, in fact, he voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in 2007.

Gays in the Military

Currently openly gay and lesbian people are not allowed to serve in the military. Enacted in 1993, Don't Ask, Don't Tell prohibits military personnel from asking a service person if he or she is gay or lesbian. However, if a person discloses that he or she is gay, they will be discharged.
  • Barack Obama opposes "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and supports the rights of gay and lesbian soldiers to serve openly.
  • John McCain believes that gays and lesbians should not be in the military. He supports "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Gay Marriage

Currently only California, Massachusetts and Connecticut allow gay marriage. Several other states allow civil unions and domestic partnerships.
  • Barack Obama has said that he supports civil unions, but he is against gay marriage.
  • John McCain does not support gay marriage and campaigned for a state amendment that would have banned civil unions and domestic partnerships.

Defense of Marriage (DOMA) Law

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) does two things. First it says that no state shall be required to recognize the laws of another state in regard to same-sex marriage. Second, it defines the words "marriage" and "spouse" in Federal Law.
  • Barack Obama is against DOMA and supports the repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
  • John McCain voted for and supports the Defense of Marriage Act.

Hate Crimes Law

A Federal Hate Crimes law would help local law enforcement officials in investigating crimes against someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Barack Obama supports a hate crimes bill that will protect the LGBT community from bias-motivated violence.
  • John McCain has voted against hate crimes legislation three times.


The Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act (CARE) is the largest sources of federal funds for primary health care and support services for HIV/AIDS.
  • Barack Obama supports the Ryan White CARE Act and supports comprehensive sex education aimed at preventing disease.
  • John McCain voted for a Jesse Helms strategy to remove funding aimed at protecting the LGBT community from HIV/AIDS. He supports abstinence-only education.

Gay and Lesbian Adoption

  • Barack Obama supports adoption by LGBT people.
  • John McCain opposes adoption by LGBT people.

In Depth

Sources: Human Rights Campaign

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