Out of the Blue: Where do candidates stand on women’s rights, LGBT issues? (opinion) | SierraSun.com

Out of the Blue: Where do candidates stand on women’s rights, LGBT issues? (opinion)

Mike Restaino
Out of the Blue

Last Monday, I was dreading the first presidential debate, concerned that it would be a grueling, muckraking slog. But I was pleased with how it turned out, though I still don't understand why the hot-button topics in its final minutes were Rosie O'Donnell and Miss Universe 1996.

Now, however, I've wandered even deeper into the political quicksand. Yep, I have the fever: debate fever.

Alas, we only have three more contests slated, and by the time this article appears, Mike Pence and Tim Kaine will have staged their only VP exchange, providing us an opportunity to see how they do business outside the limelights of their respective running mates. I could concoct a complete mock debate in an attempt to predict how this dialogue will unfold, but let me instead offer how I would begin things if Elaine Quijano needed a pinch hitter and I were called in to moderate.

To Mike Pence: First of all, I love your first name. Secondly, not considering your running mate's well-documented stances, please tell us where you stand on Women's Rights and LGBT issues (a vague start, I know, but hey — I'm moderator!).

Most media coverage about Trump's running mate in the last few months has consisted of one question: "Do you agree with Trump on this point?" Whenever Donald says something outlandish, Pence inevitably finds himself staring down a camera crew and a reporter's microphone, which prompts him to walk back on the taunts, assuring us of Trump's 'sarcasm' (though he neither agreed with Donald nor called it 'sarcastic' when Trump claimed Obama and Hillary co-founded ISIS).

Voters underestimate how strident Pence is on our more pressing issues. Gavin Newsom took him to task at the Democratic Convention, citing Pence's support of gay conversion therapy, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Pence has opposed hate crime protections based on sexual orientation, disagreed with marriage equality, and defunded HIV programs.

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His posture on Women's Rights is demeaning and Ill-informed, as well. After imposing new limitations on abortion in Indiana, Pence was inundated with messages from Periods for Pence, a group who decided that since apparently Pence knew best about Indiana women's ability to take care of themselves, they'd flood his phone lines and social media feeds with discussion about gynecological concerns.

"Let's make our bodies Mike's business for real, if this is how he wants it," an official statement read.

Asking Mike Pence directly how extreme his pro-life viewpoints are might surprise even dyed-in-the-wool conservatives. I say ignore the orange guy in the $20,000 suit who keeps complaining about his broken microphone and let Pence answer some policy questions. The results might shock us all.

To Tim Kaine: Hola, senor. Would you care to respond?

When Hillary chose Kaine as a running mate, some lefties were worried she'd gone too centrist, that the milquetoast senator would be a blunt counterpoint to the progressive Bernie supporters HRC still struggles to energize. While this writer disagrees with some of Kaine's positions, his status as a "standard" Democrat will serve us well.

As a Catholic, it took Kaine a while to evolve into his current bearing on LGBT equality, but that's been the case for most Dems over the last decade (just ask Obama and HRC). Kaine even got in trouble at the Human Rights Campaign's national dinner last month when he said he could see the Catholic Church changing its stance on marriage equality. "Who am I to challenge God for the beautiful diversity of the human family?" he said. "I think we're supposed to celebrate it, not challenge it."

Kaine is personally opposed to abortion, but he separates belief from policy — regardless of his religious compulsion, the guy gets a 100% rating from Planned Parenthood. In fact, this quality in Kaine's abortion approach reminds me of the way a nun at the church I grew up attending considered the matter.

I was at a youth group event when the issue of abortion and women's reproductive rights came up. This nun looked at us sternly and said, "If the government is doing its job, facilities for women will always be open and available. If the church is doing its job, those facilities will be empty."

After all these years, I still find deep credence in this perspective. She might even get Mike Pence to agree with her a little.

How long until the next debate?!

Mike Restaino is a writer and filmmaker based out of Incline Village. He is also a Vice Chair of the North Tahoe Democrats. He can be reached at info@northtahoedems.org.