Obama vs. Romney 101: 4 ways they differ on gay issues

Barack Obama made history on May 9 when he became the first sitting US president to declare support for same-sex marriage. Mitt Romney has said he is against it. But gay issues extend beyond same-sex marriage. Here are the positions taken by the two candidates on gay marriage, gay adoption, HIV/AIDS research and prevention, and antidiscrimination legislation. 

1. Same-sex marriage

Carolyn Kaster/AP/File
President Obama is seen on a White House television in Washington during an interview with ABC News on May 9, 2012, in which he said he supports gay marriage.

On May 9, Mr. Obama became the first US president to back same-sex marriage when he told ABC News, “I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” and the Democrats have included this position in their national party platform.

In contrast, Mr. Romney signed a National Organization for Marriage pledge a year ago in favor of a federal constitutional amendment to define marriage solely as between one man and one woman. Further, the former Massachusetts governor does not support civil unions.

As for whose campaign will benefit more from this social issue, it is worth noting that Obama’s campaign raised $1.5 million within 90 minutes of the broadcast announcement. And at a fundraiser held shortly afterwards at the Los Angeles home of actor George Clooney, the campaign took in some $15 million.

“Hollywood is overwhelmingly progressive when it comes to gay rights issues,” says Michael Federici, a political analyst at Mercyhurst University in Pennsylvania.

Beyond that, at least 33 – or nearly 1 in 16 – of Obama’s top fundraisers, known as bundlers, are openly gay, according to a CNN analysis. The Washington Post estimates that the ratio is actually 1 in 6, while the gay issues publication The Advocate puts the figure at 1 of every 5. Between January and March, they collectively raised at least $8 million.

On the other hand, hot-button issues such as same-sex marriage galvanize conservatives, says Republican strategist David Johnson, who consulted on Sen. Robert Dole’s 1988 presidential campaign. “These issues tend to get social conservatives to open up their donor lists,” he adds.

Perhaps surprisingly, Romney has some powerful fundraising muscle from supporters of gay rights. One of his largest bundlers is billionaire hedge-fund manager Paul Singer, who helped him raise $5 million at one event in May. Mr. Singer has also given $10 million to gay-rights advocacy and pledged $1 million to launch a political-action committee called American Unity to encourage GOP candidates to support same-sex marriage.

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