John McCain: From LGBT opponent to reluctant advocate
Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona passed away last August 25 due to cancer at the age of 81.
The former soldier had been an opponent in the fight for LGBT equality, but he later became a reluctant advocate.
In particular, McCain went up against President Donald Trump to prevent the latter from disallowing transgender soldiers from serving in the military.
John McCain’s anti-LGBT stance
A lot of McCain’s obituaries have listed the senator’s accomplishments and positions. He was notably anti-LGBT like most Republican politicians.
The former Vietnam veteran supported the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy of the military that forced LGBT soldiers to hide their sexual identity.
When the vote allowed gay people to serve openly in the military in 2010, he described it as a “sad day.”
In 2004, he voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment, saying that states should choose to recognize same-sex marriage.
In Arizona, he supported the 2006 initiative to ban same-sex marriage, as well as the California Proposition 8.
He also supported the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, which disallowed the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage
John McCain: The turning point
However, McCain had a somewhat more moderate view of the LGBT community as compared to his more strident Republican colleagues.
This came to the fore when he courted the LGBT vote during the 2008 presidential elections running against then-Senator Barack Obama.
The then-Republican presidential nominee told Washington Blade: “I have always hired the most qualified and competent people — regardless of their political party, race, gender, religion or sexual orientation.”
Likewise, McCain’s position on same-sex marriage or civil unions was that he opposed it.
But he also stated that he was against any amendment to the Constitution that would ban the said unions.
He also favored that people should be allowed to enter into legal agreements, like insurance.
John McCain’s reluctant defense
In 2015, McCain supported then-President Obama’s nomination of the openly-gay Eric Fanning as the Secretary of Army.
“It is not fair to the men and the women of the United States Army to be without the leadership of a secretary of the Army,” McCain said, adding that Fanning is eminently qualified for the role.
When Trump took over the reigns of government, his move to repeal the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare) was foiled when McCain voted to save it.
In 2016, he blocked the move by the Trump administration to ban transgender soldiers from serving in the military.
In particular, he said: “Any member of the military who meets the medical and readiness standards should be allowed to serve — including those who are transgender.”
Jennifer Pizer, senior counsel and director of Lambda Legal’s Law and Policy Project, lauded McCain’s potential realignment then, saying that “sometimes they lead to civil rights progress thereafter.”