The balance of the U.S. Senate hangs on the result of the November 8 general election, and the race in Pennsylvania, between Lt. Governor John Fetterman and television host Dr. Oz, is among the most closely watched in the country, and whoever wins in Pennsylvania will likely determine which party holds a majority. Democrats have narrowly controlled the Senate since 2021, which has allowed for Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson to be confirmed to the Supreme Court and numerous other judicial confirmations. Such confirmations are one of many aspects of Senate control that greatly impact the LGBTQ community.
Recently, Fetterman garnered endorsements from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Ricky’s Pride Political Action Committee, a Montgomery County organization that fights against discrimination based on LGBTQ status, race, age and disability.
“From his early support for marriage equality during his time as Mayor of Braddock to his current role as Lieutenant Governor, where he has continued to be a champion for equality and LGBTQ+ nondiscrimination protections, John Fetterman has always stood tall for LGBTQ+ Pennsylvanians,” HRC Pennsylvania State Director Ryan Matthews said in a statement.
Fetterman has long supported LGBTQ people; he officiated a same-sex marriage in August 2013 in Allegheny County, making him one of the only elected officials in western Pennsylvania to do so. He has pushed for state and local laws to ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination, fought to lift restrictions on men who have sex with men from donating blood and advocated for LGBTQ couples to have equal adoption rights.
“As your lieutenant governor and your next Senator, I’ll always support the LGBTQ+ community and fight against anyone who tries to roll back these critical rights,” Fetterman said in a statement. “Some members of the Senate, like Pennsylvania’s own Pat Toomey, are claiming they’re ‘undecided’ on whether to support a new law to protect the right to a same-sex marriage. I find that unconscionable. When it comes to LGBTQ+ rights, I will be very clear where I stand — in favor of Equal Protection Under the Law always. I would proudly and swiftly vote to pass this bill, and I will vote to scrap the filibuster so we can finally pass legislation to advance LGBTQ+ rights like the Equality Act.”
Beyond marriage and LGBTQ protections, Fetterman supports gun control laws, healthcare as a basic human right and “women’s right to choose,” all important issues for LGBTQ people, many of whom do not have access to affirming healthcare and who would be impacted by abortion restrictions.
“John will continue to advocate for our LGBTQ+ community because he has stood for equality and doing what is right since he first stepped into public service,” a representative from Ricky’s Pride PAC said in a statement. “As we spent time with John, one of his priorities will always be to level the playing field for all people and he will continue to do so when we send him to the U.S. Senate.”
Oz, who was endorsed by Donald Trump and narrowly won the Republican primary in a recount against David McCormick, has shown support for LGBTQ people on his TV show and even said earlier this week that he supports the right to same-sex marriage, the Inquirer reported. However, he has been critized by LGBTQ organizations, including GLAAD, for giving air time to what has been called “reparative therapy” and having a representative from the now disgraced National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality on as an expert.
Once pro-choice, Oz says on his campaign website that he’s “100% pro-life,” is a “proud gun owner,” and while he also vows to “fix healthcare” and prioritizes a “response to COVID-19,” he has touted questionable medical treatments, including publicly supporting hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19, despite a lack of scientific evidence that it was effective. He also faced backlash when he advocated for the reopening of schools during the early days of the pandemic, citing a British medical journal arguing that doing so would yield a two to three percent mortality rate. He has since apologized for his remarks.
Another of Oz’s priorities listed on his website is “improving education” but he says that he believes “that the extreme left wants to use our schools to indoctrinate our children with anti-American ideology.”
In terms of campaign funding, the Fetterman campaign has seen a spike in larger donations and funds coming from outside Pennsylvania, the Inquirer reported. Fetterman raised $8.3 million in the 44 days between the primary and the end of June, most of which came from outside of the state. In the same time frame, a month and a half after the primary, Oz raised $952,270. An AARP report cited by The Hill in late June shows that Fetterman leads Oz by 6 points — 50% of expected voters support Fetterman, 44% support Oz. Despite Fetterman having suffered a stroke in mid May and subsequently taking time off the campaign trail, a poll from mid July published by FiveThirtyEight shows Fetterman up nine percentage points from Oz.