LGBTQ students at Penn are divided on which candidate to support in the race for the White House.

Credit: Vanessa Weir

Opinions of presidential candidates among Penn’s LGBTQ community are as diverse as the candidates themselves. Students fall all along the political spectrum, supporting Democrats, Republicans and in some cases, even the Green Party.

College junior Hannah Frank supports Bernie Sanders. “I think he’s the most honest and open candidate. His proposals reflect his track record, history and political career,” she said, criticizing Hillary Clinton’s supposed lack of consistency, especially when it comes to her support of marriage equality.

But if Clinton were to win the Democratic nomination, Frank would cast her vote for Clinton without a second thought, as “she’s far, far better than any of the Republicans. I just think that if we have a Republican in the White House, it’s going to be a few steps back for LGBT rights and the community.”

Frank places a high importance on candidates’ stances on LGBTQ issues, refusing to support any candidate who doesn’t embrace the community’s rights.

College freshman John Matthews also plans to vote for Sanders in the primaries. He is in “critical support” of Sanders, as he doesn’t fully agree with Sanders’ foreign policy and believes that Sanders could go further with some of his stances, such as those concerning LGBTQ issues.

“I think I would be more in support of Bernie if he were to say, ‘We need to radically change the way we address the queer homeless problem’ or something like that,” Matthews said. “That’s, in my opinion, the most important issue in the queer community right now.”

If Sanders doesn’t win the Democratic nomination, Matthews would either vote for Jill Stein of the Green Party or choose not to vote.

“I think that environmentalism is very important; significant portions of the Democratic party have not really been active on trying to stop climate change or have actually been on the wrong side of environmental policies,” Matthews said.

College junior Emily Irani thinks that Clinton is the most qualified candidate. She likes how Clinton is a strong supporter of women’s rights and that she has “policies in her head that she’s going to implement as president — policies that will work in Congress and the government.”

Irani thinks the media is playing up the email scandal and admires how Clinton has handled the situation. She’s supporting the candidate even though she has been criticized for perceived inconsistency on certain issues. “Every candidate flip-flops on issues, and people change their opinions,” Irani said.

But not all members of the LGBTQ community identify on the liberal side of the spectrum — there are a number who identify as conservative. Wharton freshman Eugene Otero described the experience of being at the intersection between gay, Christian and conservative as “pretty difficult. I can face a little bit of backlash and rejection from all sides.”

Originally a fan of Ben Carson before he announced his candidacy, Otero now finds himself struggling to choose a favorite Republican candidate. “I’m definitely not feeling any of the Republican candidates, especially Trump. I pretty much hate that guy with a passion,” he said. The idea that many Christians are voting for Trump baffles Otero since “he really is the opposite of a Jesus Christ figure.”

If it came down to Trump and Sanders, Otero said he would vote for Sanders if he nominated Neel Kashkari as his running mate, as Kashkari is a Republican and would balance out Sanders’ ticket.

Otero finds it unfortunate that the most “moderate” Republican when it comes to LGBTQ rights — John Kasich — merely presents a “weak opposition to LGBT rights.” He hopes that the Republican party moves in the right direction in the future, along with the rest of the country.

College freshman Christian Petrillo, who identifies with the Republican party, started off the election cycle as a Rand Paul supporter, but when Paul dropped out of the race, he turned toward Marco Rubio, who also recently dropped out. Out of the three candidates still in the running, Petrillo likes Kasich the most, but he believes that in order to prevent Trump from winning the nomination and to have a better chance at landing a Republican in the White House, he has to rally behind Ted Cruz.

“At least with Ted, I know he’s consistent. I know that he can beat Hillary Clinton if he tried. Donald Trump — I feel like you’re rolling the dice. I feel like he could win, but I feel like he could lose 50 states,” Petrillo said.

While he isn’t supporting Trump, he believes that some of Trump’s views have been misconstrued. “I don’t think Donald Trump is racist. I don’t think he’s racist. I don’t think you can be a billionaire businessman from New York and be racist and try to just point the finger at people. But I do think that, in some ways, he is silently leaning towards that.”

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