This election season, it seems there are more apathetic and disillusioned voters than there should be. Those who shrug at the idea of casting a ballot are often fed up with the two primary parties, saying there's no real difference between the Democrats and Republicans. For those in the LGBT community, this couldn't be a more dangerous mindset.
Incumbent Barack Obama and GOP candidate Mitt Romney couldn't be more different when it comes to LGBT issues. As the president who has made more advances for LGBT citizens than any before him, Obama doesn't just tolerate our community, he wholeheartedly embraces it. This past year, we saw the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT), which allows gays to serve openly in the military. Obama also historically came out in complete support of gay marriage — the only sitting president to do so.
Romney, on the other hand, continues to put his foot in his mouth and to show his and his party's intolerance toward gays and lesbians. His insensitivity to the LGBT community and flip-flopping ideals have inspired a website called "Mitt Gets Worse," a play on the anti-bullying campaign "It Gets Better".
It hasn't always been easy for Obama. Marriage equality has been an issue he's "evolved" on since he took office. But now that he's fully embraced it, support of gay marriage has made it onto the Democratic Party's official platform.
From day one, Obama has made an impact on the LGBT community in a number of ways aside from endorsing the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as solely between a man and a woman, and DADT. He tackled bullying in schools — especially bullying of LGBT youth — by hosting the first-ever White House conference on the matter, recording an "It Gets Better" video, and creating the Inter-Agency Task Force on Bullying.
He's made an impact on health care rights, expanding certain benefits, hospital visitations, and medical decision-making for LGBT patients and their partners. He's also ordered the extension of certain key benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees. This past summer, he announced nearly $80 million in additional funding for HIV/AIDS care.
In October 2010, Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, expanding the federal hate-crime law to include those motivated by perceived gender, gender identity and sexual orientation. Obama has also made measures for transgender individuals, allowing them to receive true gender passports without surgery and promoting safer work environments.
These are just some of the reasons to make sure you get out and vote this November to ensure the continuing expansion of rights for you and your family. If you aren't registered to vote, the last day to do so is Oct. 9. You can stop by any Organizing for America-Florida office, which has locations throughout the Tampa Bay area, any day between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m. for voter registration information.