By Lisa Keen
EDWARDS’ HIV PLAN: Democrat John Edwards on Monday, September 24, became the first presidential candidate of either party to announce a plan for combating HIV/AIDS. The plan, revealed at a Kaiser Family Foundation forum in Washington, D.C., calls for providing Medicaid coverage in the early phases of the disease and directing preventive efforts on the African American and Latino communities. It also calls for spending $50 billion over five years to make drug treatments more affordable. On the more controversial side, the plan calls for “age-appropriate sex education” to help prevent HIV infection in young people and clean syringes for “high-risk individuals.”
FACTCHECK ON SAM: Republican presidential hopeful Sam Brownback has been claiming for months that the acceptance of same-sex marriage in some other countries has resulted in a dramatic drop in heterosexual marriages and a dramatic rise in the number of children born out of wedlock. But a recent Washington Post “FactChecker” column says those claims are “questionable.” “Both the decline in marriage rates and the rise in numbers of children born out of wedlock long precede attempts to ‘redefine’ marriage by permitting civil unions and gay marriages,” said the Post. For example, said the paper, “While it is true that there has been a sharp rise in out-of-wedlock births in Holland since the introduction of domestic partnerships in 1997, there has been no appreciable increase in several other countries, such as Sweden and Denmark, that changed their marriage laws at the same time.
FOCUS ON FRED: Republican presidential hopeful Fred Thompson is the latest victim of right-wing Focus on Family leader James Dobson. According to an Associated Press report this month, Dobson sent out an e-mail criticizing Thompson for his position against a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and said the candidate is “not for me.” In June, Dobson said there was no way he could support Rudy Giuliani either.
SNUBBING THE RIGHT: Fred Thompson and several other top polling Republican candidates snubbed another right-wing group recently by not showing up for its September 17 Republican presidential debate. Values Voters, a coalition of groups with well-established anti-gay credentials, held the debate in Florida and a considerable number of the questions were asked, including “Would you support legislation ensuring that schools forfeit federal funding if they expose our children to homosexual propaganda that puts them at risk?” The overwhelming favorite among the candidates who did show up was Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. Associated Press reported that the four no-shows all cited scheduling conflicts for their absence but that Giuliani was in Fort Lauderdale -the site of the debate–“just hours before the debate and Thompson was in Florida over the weekend and is due back Tuesday.”
ROSES AND GUNS: Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani has apparently revised his 12 commitments to the American people to include a new one that promises “preserving and protecting the constitution of the United States the way it’s written.” It wasn’t one of the 12 commitments he issued in June, but one he gave considerable attention to in an appearance this month before the National Rifle Association. The NRA, of course, is quite concerned with how Giuliani and the judges he might appoint would interpret the Second Amendment “right of the people to keep and bear arms.” His answer provides LGBT voters some useful information too. He said he would protect the constitution “based on what it means, not based on somebody’s social agenda or political biases or prejudices, left, right middle, in-between.” He said “a judge is an interpreter of the law, not a creator of the law.” And he thinks the U.S. Supreme Court’s most conservative justices –John Roberts Jr., Sam Alito, and Antonin Scalia– “are the kinds of judges I would seek to appoint.” He singled Scalia out for additional praise. Scalia has the worst voting record on gay-related cases of any justice currently on the Supreme Court.
ROMNEY RADIOS POSITION: Republican candidate Mitt Romney is playing up his opposition to same-sex marriage in Iowa this month, capitalizing on the recent decision there by a district court judge who said the state constitution requires the state to treat gay couples the same as heterosexual couples in marriage licensing. In a radio ad, the Romney campaign boasts that the former governor of Massachusetts “stood up for traditional marriage” in the nation’s most liberal state and is opposing the Polk County, Iowa, decision, too. Romney calls the Iowa court decision “just another example of an activist judge finding things in the constitution that aren’t there” and, saying that “not all Republican candidates for president agree,” reiterates his support for a federal constitutional ban.
IT MATTERS: A large national survey of voters found that “social issues,” such as gay marriage matter only to a small percentage of voters -white evangelical Protestants. The survey, conducted by the Pew Research Center in August, interviewed 3,002 adults in early August. The results indicated that, while 55 percent of Americans still oppose equal rights in marriage for gay couples, only 38 percent believe a candidate’s position on abortion and gay marriage will be very important in their voting decisions. The only segment that considered gay marriage to be a “very important” issue was white evangelical Protestants: 56 percent considered it “very important.” Interestingly, 14 percent of white evangelical Protestants said they support equal marriage rights for gay couples.
IT MATTERS NOT: A recent New York Times/CBS poll found that 55 percent of voters would vote for a candidate even if that candidate did not agree with them on issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion. Thirty-six percent said they would not vote for such a candidate; five percent said “it depends;” four percent didn’t know how to respond.
DEDICATION: Democratic presidential hopeful Bill Richardson spoke this month at a dedication ceremony to honor a gay man who succumbed to AIDS. Richardson gave credit to Billy Griego, whose name was inscribed on an AIDS memorial wall in Los Angeles September 7, with having helped him launch his political career. “When I was first getting ready to run for Congress,” said Richardson, “people told me that I could not win — I did not have enough money or support. But what I did have was Billy Griego.” Richardson, who also named a piece of AIDS legislation in New Mexico for Griego, said the steel monument inscribed with the names of people who have died from AIDS will serve as a reminder “that our commitment to eradicating this disease must be made of the same steel — it must be unbreakable and immovable.”
ASKING OUT: In an interview to be published next week, The Advocate asks Democrat Hillary Clinton a question various right-wing opponents have been suggesting for years: whether she’s a lesbian. According to various sources, Clinton tells the magazine: “People say a lot of things about me, so I really don’t pay any attention to it. It’s not true, but it is something that I have no control over. People will say what they want to say.” The interview apparently took place immediately following Clinton’s appearance at the Human Rights Campaign-LOGO presidential forum in Los Angeles last month and immediately before her appearance at a post-forum fundraiser nearby.
KEYES BACK: Anti-gay politican Alan Keyes is back; he announced this month (September 14) that he’s a candidate for the Republican nomination for president. Keyes ran against Barack Obama in 2004 for the U.S. Senate seat from Illinois. It was during that campaign that he notoriously stated that if his daughter was gay, he’d tell her it is a hedonistic relationship and a sin. After the race, his daughter made public that she is, in fact, a lesbian and that her parents disowned her after learning the news.