October 18, 2012 at 7:27 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
HRC scorecard shows drop in support for LGBT rights in Congress
Congress, gay news, Washington Blade

HRC’s troubling statistics show Congress is less supportive of LGBT issues than in 2010. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Support for LGBT equality declined significantly in Congress during the past two years compared to the previous two-year period, according to a Congressional Scorecard for the 112th Congress released on Thursday by the Human Rights Campaign.

The scorecard, which HRC has compiled for each two-year session of Congress since 1989, shows that the average score for members of the House of Representatives on LGBT issues dropped from 50.8 percent in the 111th Congress to 40 percent in the current Congress.

For the Senate, the HRC Scorecard shows a drop in support from 57.3 percent in the 111th Congress to 35 percent in the current 112th Congress.

“While we continue to make advancements towards equality in Washington, the 112th Congress has more anti-equality members set on halting our progress,” said HRC President Chad Griffin.

“Still, we continued pushing the envelope and made history with the first ever hearing and Senate Judiciary Committee approval of the Respect for Marriage Act, legislation repealing the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act,” Griffin said.

The HRC Scorecard evaluates all 435 House members and 100 senators based on a rating scale of 0 to 100 on a wide range of LGBT issues, including members’ co-sponsorship of pro-LGBT bills and their votes on bills or amendments deemed LGBT supportive or hostile to LGBT rights.

Similar to its Scorecard ratings of past years, the latest HRC Scorecard shows a breakdown of its ratings along party lines, with a majority of Democrats receiving the highest scores and most Republicans receiving low scores.

In the House, 115 members– all Democrats — received a perfect score of 100. Of the House members that received a “0” score, 211 are Republicans and four are Democrats.

In the Senate, 22 members received a 100 percent score – all Democrats. Of the Senators receiving a “0” score, 14 are Republicans and none are Democrats.

In a statement released Thursday, HRC said the Scorecard for the 112th Congress for the first time asked members of Congress whether they support the legal recognition of civil marriage for same-sex couples.

According to the Scorecard, 144 House members and 26 senators said they support civil marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples. Of the House members expressing support for marriage equality, 143 are Democrats. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) was the only Republican House member to express support for same-sex marriage equality.

Of the 26 senators stating they support same-sex marriage equality, all are Democrats.

“While marriage-related issues can arise in Congress, the baseline question about where a senator or representative stands on this issue is of great importance to all fair-minded Americans,” HRC said in its statement accompanying the Scorecard.

However, HRC spokesperson Paul Guequierre told the Washington Blade that the answers lawmakers gave to the question on whether they support legalizing same-sex civil marriage was not included in the calculation of the scores assigned to House and Senate members.

Among House members representing D.C. area districts, Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) received a score of 100.

Reps. Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen, all Democrats from Maryland, each received a 100 rating and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) received a 95 rating. Maryland Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Benjamin Cardin, both Democrats, each received a 100 rating.

In Virginia, Democratic U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Jim Webb each received a 76 rating. Among Virginia’s D.C. area House members, Democrats Jim Moran and Gerald Connolly received a 100. Republican Frank Wolf received a rating of 15.

“LGBT equality was prominent in the 112th Congress, giving us great cause for optimism despite the fact that opponents of equality gained seats halting our progress,” said Allison Herwitt, HRC’s legislative director. “Yet while the American people move forward on these issues, the majority of Congress – particularly the House –continues to be out of touch.”

Among the legislation and votes HRC used to rate Senators and House members on its Congressional Scorecard were the following:

  • The Senate votes to confirm openly gay U.S. District Court judge nominee J. Paul Oetken and lesbian U.S. District Court judge nominee Alison Nathan.
  • Co-sponsorship of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, which would ban private sector employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Co-sponsorship of the Respect for Marriage Act, which calls for repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA that bans federal recognition of same-sex marriage.
  • Co-sponsorship of the Uniting American Families Act, which would provide equal immigration rights to foreign born same-sex partners of American citizens.
  • Co-sponsorship of the Domestic Partnership Benefits & Obligation Act, which would provide spousal health care and other benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees.
  • Senate vote on the Hutchinson Amendment to the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, which eliminated provisions from the bill that would have given domestic violence related protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • Interesting. HRC adds support for marriage rights as part of their overall scoring for the first time, support for LGBT rights in general drops dramatically. What a coincidence, huh? While certainly the addition of anti-gay members in the 112th Congress was a factor, what I'd like to know is how big of a drop in support for LGBT would there have been if support for same-marriage wasn't a factor in the scoring? Call it a hunch, but I strongly suspect the drop wouldn't have been anywhere near as steep.

    • They asked them about marriage equality, but it was not factored into the score. As it says above, "HRC spokesperson Paul Guequierre told the Washington Blade that the answers lawmakers gave to the question on whether they support legalizing same-sex civil marriage was not included in the calculation of the scores assigned to House and Senate members."

    • Perhaps not mathematically, but this is politics and that means that when you start asking politicians about issues they're not comfortable supporting, especially something as controversial as same-sex marriage, they run for the exits, even when they may be willing to support more popular issues like workplace rights.

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