Issues affecting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people are playing a more prominent role than ever before in the year 2000 presidential campaign.
Thats one finding of a groundbreaking report, "Whats at Stake in the 2000 Presidential Elections for the Gay, Lesbian Bisexual and Transgendered Community," released Wednesday by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. The 56-page report places the year 2000 election in recent historical context, documents the emerging GLBT voting block, discusses American public opinion on GLBT equality and tracks the dramatic increase in GLBT-rights legislation at the state and local level. The report also documents the major candidates statements and votes on six key issues hate violence, discrimination, parenting, partnerships and marriage, health care, and military serviceand provides data and research to provide a factual context for these policy debates.
"Across the United States, a consensus is emerging for equality," said Virginia M. Apuzzo, NGLTF spokeswoman and holder of the Virginia Apuzzo Chair for Leadership in Public Policy at the Policy Institute of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "Whether the issue is serving in the military, banning discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people, or providing domestic partner benefits, respected public opinion surveys show a fundamental shift in support of fairness."
Apuzzo, who until last spring was the highest ranking gay or lesbian official serving in the White House, said that in the past two decades, the GLBT electorate has gone from being a minor player in presidential politics to a voting block that is not to be overlooked. "We have progressed from an issue on the margins to a constituency merging into the political mainstreamand we are a constituency whose votes are aggressively pursued, at least by some candidates," Apuzzo said. "What happened in a nutshell is that the politicians have learned how to count."
Apuzzo noted that the country has changed significantly over the past decade. Today 103 million people, or 38 percent of the American public, live in cites, counties or states with laws banning sexual orientation discrimination; in 1990 less than 20 million people lived under such laws. 70 percent of the U.S. public supports the right of gays and lesbians to serve in the military, according to a 1999 Gallup poll, up from 55 percent in 1992. Half of Republicans support anti-discrimination laws according to a 1996 National Election Study survey, while two-thirds of independents and three-fourths of Democrats also support such laws. So in opposing basic civil rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, the Republican presidential candidates are not only out of touch with middle America, they are also out of touch with their own partys rank and file.