Editors’ Note: Guest blogger Sean Cotter is a writer and activist from Manhattan, New York. His writing has appeared in the Washington Blade. Sean blogs at SeanRobertCotter.com.
Since Saturday, there has been a lot of back and forth on blogs and on Twitter over whether or not Paul Ryan is sufficiently “pro-gay”. Gay supporters of Ryan have cited the fact that Ryan voted for the Employee Non-Discrimination Act in 2007, during the 110th Congress, and they have pointed to positive remarks he has made about gay people in the past. Those who oppose Ryan have brought up his votes against anti-discrimination bills and bills repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act.
But does any of this talk about Ryan’s record on LGBT issues actually matter? Probably not. Over the next few years, it is going to primarily be Congress and the courts that participate in the coming congressional and legal battles over DOMA and ENDA. The Vice President (contrary to what Sarah Palin believed) has almost no role in influencing how Congress will deal with them. If we look back to the presidency of George W. Bush as a recent example, we find that Vice President Cheney’s personal beliefs about LGBT rights had little effect on his or his administration’s performance.
Still, Ryan’s detractors must admit that his record on gay rights is relatively positive, if only by comparison. Despite having voted against repealing DOMA and DADT, the fact that he voted in favor ENDA that one time in 2007 and has gone on the record saying positive things about gay people is enough to put him far ahead of a majority of the Republicans in Congress. Well over 100 Republican congressmen were given scores of zero by the Human Rights Campaign during the 110th Congress, when Ryan received a 10. In fact, unless Romney’s campaign had chosen someone like Susan Collins, they wouldn’t be likely to find many other more pro-LGBT Republican politicians to run on the ticket. But with Congress, the Supreme Court and President Romney’s pen playing the most significant roles should he win, the opinions of Vice President Ryan on LGBT rights would matter very little.