Washington, D.C. -- Citing strong language on AIDS, support for ending discrimination against gay men and lesbians, and opposition to the scapegoating of immigrants, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) has praised the proposed 1996 Democratic National Platform.
At the same time, NGLTF criticized the serious shortcomings of the platform, including its exclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender relationships and families, failure to address the continued witch hunts of gay people in the military, and attacks on welfare recipients.
"We applaud the Democratic platform's language of inclusivity for gay and lesbian people and people with AIDS," said Melinda Paras, NGLTF executive director. "Especially when you compare it to the GOP platform, which gave all of 16 words to AIDS and opposed the 'distortion' of civil rights laws to include sexual orientation."
The Good News
NGLTF cited several positive planks of the platform. These include:
-- Health and AIDS: The platform contains strong and explicit support for AIDS research, prevention and treatment, and a commitment to "finding a cure for AIDS, combating HIV-related discrimination, supporting HOPWA (Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS Act) funding...and working to ensure that all Americans living with AIDS have access to new and potentially lifesaving drugs." Also of importance to people with HIV and AIDS is the strong stand on holding "the line against Republicans' mean-spirited Medicare and Medicaid cuts...."
The GOP platform's statement on AIDS, while positive, was seriously lacking in terms of support of funding for research and care. The GOP language on AIDS in its entirety is: "We remain committed to, and place a high priority on, finding a cure for HIV disease." The next sentence of the GOP platform went on to call for "increased funding for research targeted at conditions that touch the families of most [emphasis added] Americans, like Alzheimer's, breast cancer, prostate cancer and diabetes." Paras questioned the GOP's "commitment" to finding a cure for HIV when the Republican's Congressional record emphasizes cuts in funding and punitive AIDS laws.
-- Discrimination and Inclusion: NGLTF saluted the platform's inclusion of sexual orientation in a list of those needing protection against discrimination. "We continue to lead the fight to end discrimination on the basis of race, gender, religion, age, ethnicity, disability, and sexual orientation," stated the platform. The document also calls for the vigorous enforcement of the Americans with Disability Act, which includes PWAs.
The platform goes further by supporting federal protections against discrimination for gay and lesbian people and the inclusion of gay people in society. It states, "We support continued efforts, like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, to end discrimination against gay men and lesbians and further their full inclusion in the life of the nation."
The GOP platform says, "...we oppose discrimination based on sex, race, age, creed, or national origin, and will vigorously enforce anti-discrimination statutes. We reject the distortion of those laws to cover sexual preference...."
NGLTF also praised the platform's appeal to stop the scapegoating of immigrants and opposition to ending affirmative action. "We deplore those who blame immigrants for economic and social problems," stated the platform. While calling for an end to illegal immigration, the platform urges all Americans "to avoid the temptation to use this issue to divide people... " and "...as a pretext for discrimination." The platform opposes barring children of "illegal immigrants" from schools, and that such efforts are "mean spirited and short-sighted." NGLTF agreed with the platform in "oppos[ing] Sen. Dole's promise to end affirmative action."
The Bad News
The Task Force strongly criticized the platform's lack of attention to two critical issues affecting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans: our families and relationships, and our right to serve our country in the military. NGLTF also objected to language on welfare reform.
-- Same-Gender Marriage and Families: "There is no recognition in the platform of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender families, including our loving relationships, and the importance of ending discrimination against our families," said NGLTF's Melinda Paras. "Same-gender marriage and our right to keep or adopt children all are key issues for us. The platform spends considerable space talking about strong heterosexual families, but ignores the loving, caring, but vulnerable families we as gay people foster."
The GOP platform is openly hostile to gay families, in particular on same-gender marriages. It "endorse[s] the Defense of Marriage Act to prevent states from being forced to recognize same-sex unions." President Clinton has also opposed same-gender marriage and said he will sign DOMA if passed.
-- Gays in the Military: Paras also criticized the lack of mention in the platform of the continued witch hunts by the U.S. military of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender service members. Paras commended the Administration's strong fight against Rep. Bob Dornan's attempt to oust HIV-positive service members. At the same time she said the lack of inclusion of gays and lesbians in the military was an insult to their brave and courageous contributions, despite the "don't ask, don't tell" policy -- which many experts say has actually resulted in more hardships for gays in the armed forces.
While the Democratic platform is silent on gays in the military, the GOP platform states, "We oppose Bill Clinton's assault on the culture and traditions of the Armed Forces, especially his attempt to lift the ban on homosexuals in the military. We affirm that homosexuality is incompatible with military service."
-- Welfare Reform: While the Task Force agrees with the importance of providing job opportunities as stated in the platform, it is critical of both the GOP and Democratic platforms and attacks on the poor. "We are very concerned that welfare families will be left with no safety net of support as they are taken off of welfare," said Paras. "The President and both platforms all approach this issue by cutting off assistance first and then hoping recipients get jobs so they can buy health care and other critical needs."
"Ultimately, both the Democratic and GOP platforms should be rated on the basis that they reflect the actual records of the Clinton Administration and of the Gingrich-Dole Republican Congress," concluded Paras. "Despite attempts by the Republicans to downplay the importance of their platform, it remains the foundation of the party's ideology and was clearly dominated by the Hard Right in San Diego. At the same time, the Democratic platform, while clearly more positive, has much room for improvement."