By Chris Crain
The HRC-Logo forum on gay issues with the
Democratic presidential hopefuls is one week
away. What questions should they be asked?
Only a week before the Democratic presidential candidates gather for a forum on gay issues, the event’s sponsors have taken their cue from the CNN-YouTube debate and are inviting questions from the community.
Differentiating these eight candidates on gay issues isn’t easy because their positions are almost identical. But each candidacy raises its own doubts, and the Aug. 9 forum put on by the Human Rights Campaign and Logo is an opportunity for them to be addressed.
Here are the toughest questions on gay issues that I think each candidate could be asked.
Asking a difficult gay rights question to Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel ought to be difficult, they’re the only two in the race who support full marriage equality and Kucinich has a 100-percent HRC voting record as a congressman from Cleveland. But their incredibly strong positions on gay rights are matched by their incredibly weak chances of being nominated, much less elected.
Congressman Kucinich and Senator Gravel, aren’t gay Democrats who support you only siphoning money, support and votes from the candidate best on our issues who has a decent shot of actually winning? Throwing gay support for you could allow someone with a relatively poor record on gay rights to become the party’s standard-bearer. Doesn’t that make you the Ralph Naders of the Democratic primary for gays?
Barack Obama has a real chance of winning, of course, and a strong gay rights record. But the Illinois senator flubbed a debate question last week on gay marriage, answering it as if gays wanted to interfere with whether churches permit gay weddings. It’s not his only gay oopsie.
Senator Obama, when you ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004, you said you disagreed with the Defense of Marriage Act at the time it was enacted in 1996, but you also defended the law in a candidate questionnaire from a conservative group. Do you support full repeal of DOMA, including the part that allows each state to ignore valid marriage licenses issued to gay couples by other states?
Delaware Sen. Joe Biden has been even harder to pin down on gay issues, voting for gay rights but delaying or refusing to co-sponsor gay rights legislation. He wouldn’t even check the boxes on HRC’s candidate questionnaire, opting instead for written answers that avoided specifics.
Senator Biden, you say you support immigration rights for gay couples and Medicaid money for people with HIV, but you’ve refused to co-sponsor pending legislation on both issues. And you’ve avoided saying to what extent married gay couples or those in civil unions should receive federal recognition. Are you prepared now to make firm, clear commitments and why has it taken you so long?
Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, by contrast, has co-sponsored the bills and appears to speak from the heart on gay issues, asking straight voters what they would want if their son or daughter were gay. But he is running to be president, and we want to elect someone to lead on our issues.
Senator Dodd, basic gay rights legislation has languished in Congress for more than a decade, including during times when Democrats controlled one or both houses and the White House. Even today, the public supports hate crimes, workplace rights and “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” repeal, but they haven’t come up for a vote in the Senate, where you serve. Being president requires leadership, so why don’t you lead now and call publicly for votes now on all three bills?
Hillary Clinton is now the clear frontrunner and has recruited high profile gay supporters, but the New York senator’s specific positions on gay rights are as carefully calibrated as her views on Iraq.
Senator Clinton, many gays remember how betrayed they felt when your husband pledged support for gay rights and went on to sign “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act into law. You supported both laws at the time but now say you favor gays in the military and partial repeal of DOMA. Will your campaign rhetoric translate into real leadership on gay rights legislation, even when the going gets politically tough as it did for your husband?
John Edwards has gone from a relatively poor gay rights record as a North Carolina senator, to a near-perfect score on HRC’s presidential questionnaire. Is the transformation to be believed?
Senator Edwards, you’ve talked about your “personal journey” on gay marriage, but the description also applies to your overall gay rights record. A former top aide of yours wrote in his memoir that you once said you weren’t “comfortable around those people,” meaning gays, and you received a 66 out of 100 from HRC for your first term in the Senate. Is your support for gay rights today real, or are you Mitt Romney, the Massachusetts Republican, in reverse?
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson arguably has the strongest gay rights record in the race, including actually pushing into law workplace rights, a gay and trans-inclusive hate crimes law and domestic partnership for state employees. Then came news of his “maricon moment.”
Governor Richardson, many gay people were shocked you called a staffer with shock jock Don Imus a “maricon” in an on-air joke because he didn’t believe you were really Latino. You have said the word means “simply gay” to you and not “faggot,” as gay activists and many gay Latinos have claimed. But why would the Imus staffer be “simply gay” for not believing you were Latino? Shouldn’t you take full responsibility for what was clearly intended as a slur?
Be sure to tune in to Logo on Aug. 9, so we can see if Melissa Etheridge and the other panelists are as tough with the candidates.