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

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Transgender activist and prominent AIDS leader Diego Sanchez worked to add transgender-inclusive hate crimes to the 2009 Employment Non-Discrimination Act in 2009. (

J. Scott Applewhite/AP/File

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4. Antidiscrimination legislation

Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, expanding federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity. According to Democrats.org, Obama also formed the Interagency Council on Bullying Prevention and convened the first White House Conference on Bullying Prevention. In addition, he launched Stopbullying.gov, a website with resources designed to assist bullied youths and their advocates, including specific information on bullying against the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community.

In 2003, Romney vetoed a bill funding hate-crimes prevention in Massachusetts. Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, also voted against the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act when it passed through the House in 2009.

Obama also supports the inclusion of gays and lesbians in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA. According to The Advocate, Romney told the Log Cabin Republicans – a GOP coalition of gay and lesbian activists – that he would sponsor ENDA if elected to the Senate in 1994. In 2006, he told the National Journal that ENDA would “open a litigation floodgate and unfairly penalize employers at the hands of activist judges.”

He added, "I don’t see the need for new or special legislation."

It is worth noting that the upcoming US Supreme Court session faces a record number of legal cases involving gay and lesbian issues, from challenges to the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to California’s Proposition 8, which would ban same-sex marriage.

This unprecedented number of potential cases before the Supreme Court during an election cycle throws into high relief the role of a president in appointing the nation’s top judges, says David Fleischer, who runs the Vote for Equality program at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center.

“The direction the court heads will be very much affected by the next person elected president,” he says. “In that indirect way, the issue of same-sex marriage might increase the fervor in both sides base to get active in the campaign.”

For a full list of stories about how Romney and Obama differ on the issues, click here.

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