HOLLYWOOD—New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is speaking now. This partial transcript inludes first hour plus of the two-hour forum co-sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign and LOGO, a gay-oriented cable channel.
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“VISIBLE VOTE ’08” PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES FORUM SPONSORED BY THE HUMAN
RIGHTS CAMPAIGN AND THE LOGO NETWORK TOPIC: ISSUES CONCERNING GAY,
BISEXUAL AND TRANSGENDER PEOPLE IN THE UNITED STATES PARTICIPANTS:
HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY); FORMER SENATOR JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC) FORMER
MIKE GRAVEL (D-AK) REPRESENTATIVE DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH); SENATOR
OBAMA (D-IL); AND GOVERNOR BILL RICHARDSON (D-NM) MODERATOR: MARGARET
CARLSON PANELISTS: JONATHAN CAPEHART, JOURNALIST; MELISSA ETHERIDGE,
SINGER-SONGWRITER; JOE SOLMONESE, PRESIDENT, HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN
LOCATION: LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA TIME: 9:00 P.M. EDT DATE: THURSDAY,
AUGUST 9, 2007
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MS. CARLSON: For the next two hours, the Democratic candidates
running for president will be here to talk directly to you, live and
commercial-free, only on LOGO. You’ll find a wealth of information
about the candidates and their positions on the issues at hrc.org and
at the VisibleVote08.com, where this show is also being streamed live.
Finally, before we begin, a word about the order of appearance at
tonight’s event. The candidates, who will appear one after another,
picked their time slots in the order of their confirmation to attend
And now, with that, it is my pleasure to introduce our first
candidate. Barack Obama was elected to the U.S. Senate from Illinois
in 2004. The senator previously served eight years in the state
senate in Illinois. Please welcome Senator Barack Obama. (Cheers,
SEN. OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you.
MS. CARLSON: Well, welcome, Senator. You are a rock star, I
SEN. OBAMA: Well, I don’t know about that.
MS. CARLSON: Yeah, I’ve seen it. It’s not quite as hot here as
it was in Chicago the other night —
SEN. OBAMA: (Chuckles.)
MS. CARLSON: — literally and figuratively, perhaps.
SEN. OBAMA: Absolutely.
MS. CARLSON: We’ll see.
SEN. OBAMA: Well, it’s wonderful to be here. I want to thank,
first of all, HRC and LOGO for setting this up. I think it is an
historic moment, not just for the LGBT community but for America. And
so I’m glad that I’m participating and glad I kind of got the ball
MS. CARLSON: Yeah. Start-off batter here.
SEN. OBAMA: Absolutely.
MS. CARLSON: Welcome.
SEN. OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.)
MS. CARLSON: I’m going to have some questions for you, but first
I’m going to turn it over to Joe.
MR. SOLMONESE: Senator, thank you so much for joining us. It’s
a real honor to have you here with us tonight. And thank you for
being the first to accept our invitation.
You have said in previous debates that it is up to individual
religious denominations to decide whether or not to recognize same-sex
marriage. And so my question is, what place does the church have in
government-sanctioned civil marriages?
SEN. OBAMA: Well, it is my strong belief that the government has
to treat all citizens equally. I come from that in part out of
personal experience. When you’re a black guy named Barack Obama, you
know what it’s like to be on the outside. And so my concern is
continually to make sure that the rights that are conferred by the
state are equal for all people. That’s why I opposed NOMA in 2006
when I ran for the United States Senate. (Applause.) That’s why —
that’s why I am a strong supporter not of a weak version of civil
unions, but of a strong version, in which the rights that are
conferred at the federal level to persons of — you know, who are part
of the same sex union are compatible.
Now, as a consequence, I don’t think that the church should be
making these determinations when it comes to legal rights conferred by
the state. I do think that individual denominations have the right to
make their own decisions as to whether they recognize same sex
couples. My denomination, United Church of Christ, does. Other
denominations may make a decision, and obviously, part of keeping a
separation of churches and state is also to make sure that churches
have the right to exercise their freedom of religion.
But when it comes to federal rights, the over 1,100 rights that
right now are not being given to same sex couples, I think that’s
unacceptable, and as president of the United States, I am going to
fight hard to make sure that those rights are available.
MR. SOLOMONESE: So — (interrupted by applause). So to follow
up on your point about the state issue, if you were back in the
Illinois legislature where you served and the issue of civil marriage
came before you, how would you have voted on that?
SEN. OBAMA: Well, I — you know, my view is that we should try
to disentangle what has historically been the issue of the word
“marriage,” which has religious connotations to some people, from the
civil rights that are given to couples, in terms of hospital
visitation, in terms of whether or not they can transfer property or
any of the other — Social Security benefits and so forth. So it
depends on how the bill would’ve come up.
I would’ve supported and would continue to support a civil union
that provides all the benefits that are available for a legally
sanctioned marriage. And it is then, as I said, up to religious
denominations to make a determination as to whether they want to
recognize that as marriage or not.
MR. SOLMONESE: But on the grounds of civil marriage, can you see
to our community where it — that comes across as sounding like
separate but equal?
SEN. OBAMA: Well, look, you know, when my parents got married in
1960, ’61, you know, it would have been illegal for them to be married
in a number of states in the South.
So obviously, this is something that I understand intimately, it’s
something that I care about.
But I would also say this, that if I were advising the civil
rights movement back in 1961 about its approach to civil rights, I
would have probably said it’s less important that we focus on an anti-
miscegenation law than we focus on a voting rights law and a non-
discrimination and employment law and all the legal rights that are
conferred by the state.
Now, it’s not for me to suggest that you shouldn’t be troubled by
these issues. I understand that and I’m sympathetic to it. But my
job as president is going to be to make sure that the legal rights
that have consequences on a day to day basis for loving same sex
couples all across the country, that those rights are recognized and
enforced by my White House and by my Justice Department.
MS. CARLSON: You know, before I got to Melissa with her
question, I’ve been working with the Logo people for a couple of days
so I have more of a feeling for what troubles them.
And it seems like you’ve — religion owns the word marriage, or you’re
letting religion have marriage and then civilly you get civil unions.
But you got to get married, and I got to get married, but Joe doesn’t
get to be married. And that really does mean that it’s a lesser
thing. It looks like a politically feasible thing to do, but —
SEN. OBAMA: Well, you know, as I’ve proposed it, it wouldn’t be
a lesser thing, from my perspective. And look, you know, semantics
may be important to some. From my perspective, what I’m interested is
making sure that those legal rights are available to people.
And if we have a situation in which civil unions are fully
enforced, are widely recognized, people have civil rights under then
law, then my sense is that’s enormous progress. And that is the kind
of progress that I think HRC would be proud of and I would be proud of
as president. And that’s what I’m going to try to lead.
MS. CARLSON: Okay, thank you.
MS. ETHERIDGE: Thank you very much.
First, I just want to say how incredibly humbled and honored I am
to be here. I am not a professional politician. I’m not even a
journalist. I’m an incredibly privileged rock star — (laughter,
applause) — and I’m —
SEN. OBAMA: That’s a good enough reason.
MS. ETHERIDGE: I’m very, very grateful and honored here to
represent my community and be able to speak for so many people who
need to have their government’s help.
And with that, thank you. I want to say hello. It’s a pleasure
to meet you, Senator Obama.
SEN. OBAMA: It’s great to meet you.
MS. ETHERIDGE: And you — you have this reputation — and not
only in my heart and my experience of you — of being an incredible
orator. You speak, you touch many of us, and you have. And we have
lots of hope.
And I see you speaking to a very divided America. We have been
— the last eight years we have been subject to a great fear that has
divided us all between races, between economic classes, and of course
gays and lesbians often feel like we are at the very end of that, the
“us and them” role.
SEN. OBAMA: Right.
MS. ETHERIDGE: If you’re elected president, what are you going
to do? What are you going to do to bring this country back together?
SEN. OBAMA: Well, it’s a great question. Part of the reason
that LGBT issues are important to me is because I got into politics in
part because I don’t like people looking down on other people.
It bothers me. Maybe it’s something that my mother instilled in me.
Maybe it’s the experience of being an African-American and at times
being discriminated against. So, the cause that all of you are
involved with is part of what prompted me to get into politics.
But part of what prompts me is also this hopefulness, this belief
that, you know, there’s a core decency to most people, and certainly
most Americans, and that our founding documents, I think, have a set
of universal truths that are really important. And the key question
for the next president is can we tap back into that core decency and
can we appeal to what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature.
And part of that involves, I think, when it comes to LGBT issues,
acknowledging the reality that people experience every day. That’s
why when I was at the Democratic Convention in 2004, I said there are
no red states, there are now blue states, but I also said, you know,
we’ve got gay friends in the red states and we’ve got — you know, we
play Little League in the blue states.
Trying to acknowledge that people’s experience on a day-to-day basis
is they’ve got gay friends, they’ve got gay family members that —
they love them and they cherish them, and somehow our politics creates
craziness and fear that doesn’t match up with people’s day-to-day
experience. And it’s the job of the president, I think, to talk about
these issues in ways that encourage people to recognize themselves in
each other, and when I talk like this, by the way, you know, sometimes
the Washington press corps rolls its eyes and says, “Ugh! It’s so
MS. CARLSON: No eye rolling here yet. (Light laughter.)
SEN. OBAMA: Not yet —
MS. : No, no, no.
SEN. OBAMA: But — but people do because the sense is, you know,
“Obama, he’s always talking about hope.” It’s — you know, I’m a hope
monger — (laughter) — but I believe that and — (interrupted by
MS. ETHERIDGE: I grew up in the Midwest. I grew up believing if
you work hard and you’re good, then you’ll succeed and you can be a
SEN. OBAMA: Right.
MS. ETHERIDGE: I grew up believing in our country, in this great
America. This is the greatest country. And I grew up believing in
those documents, and those documents say equality to everyone —
SEN. OBAMA: Absolutely.
MS. ETHERIDGE: — given by our Creator. And my Creator made me
what I am —
SEN. OBAMA: Right.
MS. ETHERIDGE: — and I believe that. (Applause.)
And as you lead, don’t be afraid. Don’t let that fear — be the
first one to make the change, to bring it.
All right, thank you.
MS. CARLSON: Thanks, Melissa. (Applause.)
MR. CAPEHART: Senator Obama, you’ve gotten some praise for
taking to the pulpits of black churches and telling the black
community, talking to the black community, about its responsibilities.
Now you and I both know that there’s a homophobia problem in the black
SEN. OBAMA: Right.
MR. CAPEHART: So how are you going to talk to the black
community about that, both as candidate and if you are elected to the
White House as president?
SEN. OBAMA: You know, I have already done so. I mean, some of
you saw at the Howard debate, a — Tavis Smiley had organized, I
specifically raised the homophobia in our community as an impediment
to dealing with AIDS issues. You know, I’m somebody who talks about
LGBT issues not just before HRC.
I was with Harold Ford. He organized a forum of black ministers
in Tennessee. And I specifically talked about the degree to which the
notion of gay marriage in black churches has been used to divide, has
been used to distract. I specifically pointed out that if there’s any
pastor here who can point out a marriage that has been broken up as a
consequence of seeing two men or two women holding hands, then we —
you should tell me, because I haven’t seen any evidence of it. And —
And what I’ve also said — and what I’ve also said is, if you
think that issue is more important to the black family, which is under
siege — if you think that’s more important than the fact that black
men don’t have any jobs and are struggling in the inner cities, then I
profoundly disagree with you. So this goes to the earlier point that
we were talking about, Melissa. I think when there’s truth-telling
involved, people respond, as long as you don’t come at people in a
heavy-handed way but rather you approach them based on their own
experience and their own truth.
And the black community, I think, has a diversity of opinion, as
you and I both know. There are people who recognize that if we’re
going to talk about justice and civil rights and fairness, that should
apply to all people, not just some. And there are some folks who,
coming out of the church, have, you know, elevated one line in Romans
above the Sermon in the Mount.
And so my job as a leader, not just of African-Americans but hopefully
as a leader of Americans, is to tell the truth, which is this has been
a political football that’s been used. It is unfortunate. It’s got
to stop. And when it stops, we will then be able to address the
legitimate and serious concerns that face the black family.
MR. SOLMONESE: Senator, real quickly, a recent poll of The New
York Times and MTV of Americans ages 17 to 20 show that 44 percent of
them favor same-sex marriage compared to 28 percent of the public.
Now, you’re running as a candidate of change. But how can you run as
a candidate of change when your stance on same-sex marriage is
decidedly old school?
SEN. OBAMA: Oh, come on, now. (Laughter.) I mean, look, guys,
you know, I mean, we can have this conversation for the duration of
the 15 minutes. But there’s a reason why I was here first. It’s
because I’ve got a track record of working on these issues.
If people are interested at the federal level, they can look at
who was the chief co-sponsor of Illinois’ version of ENDA, which we
passed. If people are interested in my stance on these issues, I’ve
got a track record of working with the LGBT community.
What I have focused on and what I will continue to focus on is
making sure that the rights that are provided by the federal
government and the state governments and local governments are ones
that are provided to everybody. And that’s a standard that I think
can meet, and I don’t make promises I can’t keep. And on this issue,
I have been at the forefront of any of the presidential candidates.
MS. CARLSON: Senator, I want to do a viewer-generated question.
I want to do a Margaret-generated question very quickly.
SEN. OBAMA: Go ahead.
MS. CARLSON: Would you put the fight among gays and lesbians for
civil rights on a par with the civil rights movement for African-
SEN. OBAMA: Well, you know, my attitude is if people are being
treated unfairly and unequally, then they’re being treated unfairly
and unequally and it needs to be fixed. So I’m always very cautious
about getting into comparisons of victimology. You know, the issues
that gays and lesbians face today are different from the issues that
were faced by African-Americans under Jim Crow.
That doesn’t mean, though, that there aren’t parallels in the sense
that legal status is not equal. And that has to be fixed. But — but
I think it’s important not to — not to look at the black candidate
and wonder, you know, whether or not he’s going to be more sympathetic
or less sympathetic to these issues. I’m going to be more sympathetic
not because I’m black. I’m going to be more sympathetic because this
has been the cause of my life and will continue to be the cause of my
life, making sure that everybody’s treated fairly and that we’ve got
an expansive view of America, where everybody’s invited in and we are
all working together to create the kind of America that we want for
the next generation. (Applause.)
MS. CARLSON: I had great viewer-generated question here for you.
You’re never going to know what it is.
But now you get to sum up for 30 seconds or a minute.
SEN. OBAMA: Well, listen. It’s a pleasure. This went too
quick. I want more time — (laughter) — but I don’t have it.
MS. CARLSON: We’d like to give it to you.
SEN. OBAMA: But — but the only thing I want to say is this.
All the candidates in this race are going to be terrific on these
issues compared to, certainly, the candidates in the other party right
now. And that’s unfortunate because this shouldn’t be a partisan
The one thing I guess I would say about my candidacy, and
something you should think about, is I don’t just talk about these
issues where it’s convenient.
I mean, there’s a reason that I spoke about the importance of gay and
lesbian issues in a — the most important speech of my life. I didn’t
have to. There’s a reason why, in my announcement, I talked about
these issues. There’s a reason why I talk about gays and lesbians and
transgender people in my stump speeches. I’m somebody who I think is
willing to talk about these issues, even when it’s hard, in front of
black ministers. I’m willing to talk about AIDS at Saddleback Church
to evangelicals and talk about why we need to have condom distribution
to deal with the scourge of AIDS.
So that’s the kind of political courage that I hope all of you
recognize is going to be necessary in order for us to create the kind
of America that we all want.
And I appreciate your time. (Applause.) Thank you.
MS. CARLSON: And we’re happy you came here.
SEN. OBAMA: I had a great time. (Applause continues at length.)
MS. CARLSON: Nice to see you.
SEN. OBAMA: Thank you. Thanks. Thank you so much. Thank you
so much. Thank you. Thank you.
MS. CARLSON: Our next candidate, John Edwards, was elected
senator from North Carolina in 1998 and ran for president six years
later. And of course in 2004 he was the vice presidential candidate.
Welcome to Senator John Edwards. (Applause.)
MS. ETHERIDGE: Hi.
MR. EDWARDS: We’ve been listening to your music. I want you to
MS. ETHERIDGE: Good.
MS. CARLSON: Senator Edwards, welcome. We’re so delighted that
you’re here. Thank you for coming.
MR. EDWARDS: Thank you. Glad to be here.
MS. CARLSON: We’re going to have — Melissa’s going to start off
She was bragging that she’s neither a politician and not even a
MS. ETHERIDGE: (Off mike.)
MS. CARLSON: Maybe she’ll — but we can’t sing. So —
MR. EDWARDS: That’s a great place to start.
MS. ETHERIDGE: All right. There you go. (Laughter.) All
MS. CARLSON: Melissa.
MS. ETHERIDGE: Yes, welcome. And thank you so much for being
MR. EDWARDS: Of course.
MS. ETHERIDGE: We’re so grateful for that.
Your wife and I actually have a lot in common, both suffering
through cancer and such, and I wish her the best.
MR. EDWARDS: Thank you.
MS. ETHERIDGE: And I send her lots and lots of love.
MR. EDWARDS: Thank you.
MS. ETHERIDGE: And we also share more than that. Both her and I
are very fortunate to be able to afford the best health care.
MR. EDWARDS: Yes.
MS. ETHERIDGE: And, you know, this — I remember being in
chemotherapy and, you know, having a shot once a week that was $3,000
and wondering how anyone else could afford this.
And I know you understand the health care need of lower-income
people, but do you understand the special needs of people in gay and
lesbian couples who cannot depend on their partner’s insurance for
protection because they are not a legal spouse or have to pay extra
taxes on the benefit? What would you do about this?
MR. EDWARDS: Well, first of all, let me say thank you to HRC and
thank you to all of you for your leadership.
And the answer to your question is, those rights should be
available to gay and lesbian couples. I admire — I, actually, was
the first candidate to come out with a universal health care plan,
which I’m very proud of, and I’ve made it very clear that those rights
to gay and lesbian couples would be exactly the same as they would for
straight couples. And so those health care benefits would be
available to — to someone in that situation.
And I might add, just a few weeks ago I was at the LA Gay and
Lesbian Center, which is an extraordinary place which I’m sure some
people here are familiar with here in the Los Angeles community, where
they’re doing amazing, amazing work. But there’s a message from my
visit there that I think is really important for America to hear,
which is I met a whole group of young people who were there because
they were homeless. And they were homeless because they came out of
the closet and told their parents the truth, and their parents kicked
them out of the home. And there they were, the only — they were
living on the street, had nowhere to go. Thank God for the LA Gay and
Lesbian Center being there for them, an extraordinary woman who runs
But without that place, where would these — where would these
young people go? And it just can’t be that in America people think
that’s okay. They can’t believe that’s okay. And they need to hear
and see exactly what I saw when I was there, because it was moving, it
was touching, and I actually believe that that kind of experience
would have a huge impact on the American people if they could just see
MS. ETHERIDGE: It seems like it’s had a — it seems like it’s
had a huge effect on you, and that’s really nice to see because I have
heard that you have said in the past that you feel uncomfortable
around gay people. Are you okay right now? (Laughter.) It’s okay.
MS. CARLSON: Senator Edwards, you look very calm.
MR. EDWARDS: I’m perfectly comfortable.
MS. ETHERIDGE: No, but it’s experiences like that people need to
know, people need to see, and just how universal and how we are just
all people, the same.
MR. EDWARDS: It is. It is.
MS. ETHERIDGE: Now, my next question is —
MR. EDWARDS: Can I just tell you, that’s not true, what you just
said? (Laughs.) You didn’t say I said it, but someone —
MS. ETHERIDGE: I had heard of it.
MR. EDWARDS: Someone else said it.
MS. ETHERIDGE: Not true?
MR. EDWARDS: It is not true. It is not true.
MS. ETHERIDGE: Okay. I will — I take that back.
MS. CARLSON: Oh, well then you can correct the record.
MS. ETHERIDGE: I apologize.
MR. EDWARDS: No. I know where it came from. It came from a
political consultant. And he’s just wrong.
MS. ETHERIDGE: Okay.
MR. EDWARDS: And Elizabeth and I were both there, and both of us
have said he’s wrong.
MS. ETHERIDGE: All right, I apologize for ever taking that and
putting that out.
MR. EDWARDS: That’s okay.
MS. ETHERIDGE: I have children in grade school. And I have —
they’re now in 3rd and 5th grade. But I remember in 1st grade and
kindergarten, the little kids coming up to me and going, why do they
have two mommies?
MR. EDWARDS: Yeah.
MS. ETHERIDGE: And I always felt that this was — you know what?
This is just my place to just bend down and go, you know what? Some
people have a mommy and a daddy; some people have just a mommy, just a
daddy; some people have two mommies and two daddies. And they go,
okay, and they walk away, because it makes perfect sense to them, and
they’re fine with that.
Do you think public schools should teach about LGBT kids and
families? Or do you think this is a place — how can we bring this
into the public school system? Or should we?
MR. EDWARDS: Oh, sure, it should. I mean, the kids who go to
public schools need to understand why same-sex couples are the parents
of some of the children. They need to understand that these are
American families, just like every American families.
It’s one of the reasons of course why, you know, we have tens of
thousands of kids in foster care who desperately need a home. It’s
one of the reasons that we need to allow gay and lesbian couples the
same rights to adopt children, in fact, provide for them to have the
same rights to adopt children. (Applause.)
MR. EDWARDS: Margaret, can I say one other thing? I’m sorry,
I’m almost done.
But the only thing I would add to that is I do think it’s
important though for the kids that their peers understand what’s
happening. Because otherwise, you know, children are children. And
they can be mean and cruel, as I know that — as you have seen. And
the question is whether we as adults have a responsibility to make
sure that they’re educated, that they understand this is a good thing
and it’s something that we as Americans believe in and embrace.
MS. ETHERIDGE: Thank you.
MS. CARLSON: At what grade or what age would you introduce, for
instance, that kind of education into the schools?
MR. EDWARDS: I don’t — I don’t miss a good question. I’ve not
thought about it enough to answer it. I know I heard —
MS. CARLSON: Well, think about it and come back later.
(Laughter.) And tell us what you come up with.
MR. EDWARDS: Yeah. There is a place, though, that I believe
MS. CARLSON: Yeah.
MR. CAPEHART: Yes. (Chuckles.) I thought —
MS. CARLSON: Jonathan —
MR. EDWARDS: We phoned you. You didn’t think we were coming to
MR. CAPEHART: But I’m — Senator, when you were the vice
presidential nominee in 2004, many gays and lesbians felt that they
were being used as scare tactic by the right wing and the Republican
Party, and that the Democrats didn’t do anything to defend them. Why
should the gay community think that it will be defended this time by
MR. EDWARDS: Well, first of all, this is only one area where the
right wing uses scare tactics to divide the American people. And the
truth is, both in a presidential campaign and in governing, it is so
important that we reject this hate-mongering.
I was actually very proud, I have to say — Melissa mentioned my
wife, Elizabeth — I was very proud of Elizabeth for taking Ann
Coulter on and taking her on head-on. (Cheers, applause.)
I have seen the impact of tolerance, for lack of a better word,
of hate-mongering. You know, I have seen it with language used when I
was growing up in the segregated South. And if you stand quietly by
and let it happen, what happens is, it takes hold. And it takes hold,
and then people begin to believe it’s okay; you know, it’s okay to use
the kind of language that Ann Coulter used; it’s okay for the
Republicans in their politics to divide America and use hate-mongering
to separate us.
If we stand quietly by — it’s not just bad for a political
campaign — and it is bad for a political campaign, because we have to
stand up for what’s right and fair and just, and we have do it with
passion and strength.
But it’s also bad for America. It is bad for America for us to let
anybody speaking to the American people use these issues to divide us,
and it is so important for anyone who seeks to be the leader of the
United States of America to stand up strong and firm, denounce it and
speak out and speak out strongly for equality.
MS. CARLSON: Senator, did you want to take on Ann Coulter? You
could use the opportunity here. (Laughter.) Or just Mrs. Edwards?
MR. EDWARDS: Yeah, I think — no, no. As a matter of fact, I
joined Elizabeth — (inaudible) — most things with Elizabeth. One of
the reporters asked me afterwards, they said, “So what kind of
consultation did you have before Elizabeth called in?” I said the
usual, and I found out at about at the same time the media —
(laughter) — I mean, the public found out.
No, I think that what Ann Coulter does is the worst kind of
public discourse. I think she demeans everything that all the rest of
us do — (applause) — and I think it is — I think it is intended to
out — to get — to go to the lowest common denominator in the
American people and to divide us.
And this goes to the same question — same point I was making
just a minute ago with what I saw when I was growing up in the South,
which is if you stand quietly by and let this happen, then what
happens is hatred gets a foothold, and when hatred gets a foothold, it
is much harder to unseat. And you cannot let these people go by
quietly and continue what they’re doing, which is why Elizabeth spoke
up, and now I think it’s absolutely crucial that we speak up in a
presidential campaign with strength and passion, not quietly and
carefully, to do what’s right.
MS. CARLSON: Joe, do you have a question?
MR. SOLOMONESE: Yes. (Laughter.)
Senator, thank you for being here.
MR. EDWARDS: Thanks, Joe.
MR. SOLOMONESE: Susan Stanton is in our audience tonight. She
was, for 17 years, the city manager in Largo, Florida. She did her
job well; she was respected and admired. And when it was revealed
that she was transgender, she was fired. So my question for you is if
a member of your staff came to you and told you that they were
transgender and that they were thinking of transitioning, how would
you react to that? And who in your life has influenced what your
reaction might be?
MR. EDWARDS: I would — I would support them in every possible
way, including on a personal and an emotional level, provide every bit
of help and support that I possibly could in going through what they
were going through.
And, by the way, can I say about the first point you made in your
question, it’s the reason we need powerful employment
nondiscrimination laws in the United States of America so that people
cannot be fired. (Applause.)
But — but I do — I will say I do think that you deserve, and
the American people deserve to know, beyond your policy position, what
your reaction is to it. I mean, what is it you’re actually willing to
do, on a personal level? Will you stand with them? Will you support
them? Will you support them publicly? Are you willing to do what’s
right, under the circumstances? And I can tell you, I know in my
heart and soul that I would. I’ve had — not on that specific
question, but I’ve had similar experiences when I was younger on
issues of race that were extraordinarily difficult in the place where
I grew up, where I did what I believed was right, where my family did
what we believed was right. And I think that’s at least some
indication of what I would do under these circumstances.
MR. SOLOMONESE: And finally, Senator, you’ve expressed your
opposition to same-sex marriage, and you’ve raised your faith as part
of the reason for your opposition. I’m wondering if you could talk a
little bit about what is it within your religion that’s leading you to
MR. EDWARDS: Well, you know, I have to tell you, I shouldn’t
have said that, because first of all my — (applause) — first of all,
I believe, to my core, in equality.
My campaign for the presidency is about equality across the board.
And I listened to your discussion with Senator Obama a few minutes
ago. I was backstage. I was able to hear what you were saying and
what he was saying. And it makes perfect sense to me that gay and
lesbian couples would say, “Civil unions, great; 1,100 federal
benefits, great; you know, give us these rights, we deserve these
rights.” And they’re absolutely right about that. But it stops short
of real equality. It makes perfect sense to me that people would feel
that way. I mean, I totally — I totally — I can understand it. It
And the only thing I would say about the faith question is I
think from my perspective it is wrong — because we have seen a
president in the last six-plus years who tries to impose his faith on
the American people. And I think it is a mistake and I will not
impose my faith belief on the American people. I don’t believe any
president of the United States should do that. I believe in the
separation of church and state.
And these things that we have talked about, all these substantive
issues of equality, which is really what the discussion has been
about, these are part of my heart, soul and core. And they are not
just issues that I will answer when I’m in front of you; they are
things that I will fight for every day, both in the presidential
campaign and as president of the United States, because I think
America desperately needs and it and I believe in it deeply.
MS. CARLSON: Joe, very quickly, one more question.
MR. SALMONESE: I’m just wondering, then, if you could briefly
talk about — as you said, it is not your faith.
Then, what is at the core of that resistance? I know that you said
you’re on a journey, and I’m curious where and when you might end up
on that journey. (Laughter, applause.)
MR. EDWARDS: Yeah. I —
MS. CARLSON: How old are you? (Laughter.)
MR. EDWARDS: I’m too old, I’m 54.
I can tell you where I am. First of all, I think you deserve to
know the truth, and the truth is that my position on same sex marriage
has not changed. I think political — well, we’re past the time of
political doublespeak about this. I do believe strongly in civil
unions and the substantive rights that go with that. I believe we
desperately need to get rid of DOMA. I think we need to get rid of
“don’t ask, don’t tell.” I think we need to get rid of those things.
And by the way, don’t — just as an aside, “don’t ask, don’t
tell” is not just wrong now, it was wrong when it began. It’s been
wrong the entire time — (applause) — as is true with DOMA, exactly
the same thing’s true with DOMA.
All I can tell you is where I am today. That’s the best I can
do. You deserve to know that from me. Today I believe in all these
other things, but I do not support same sex marriage.
MS. CARLSON: I want to squeeze in a viewer-generated question,
and it’s about “don’t ask, don’t tell.” This is from Jason Knight in
Washington, D.C. He was a former Navy linguist who was dismissed
under “don’t ask, don’t tell.” We have so many fewer Arabic speakers
thanks to that rule.
MR. EDWARDS: I know. I know.
MS. CARLSON: He said, “Since the ban cannot be lifted by
executive order, you need more” — he claims you need more than the
president. President Clinton wanted to do more, but ran into the
generals, ran into Congress, ran into a lot of roadblocks, so how do
you do it?
What are you going to do?
MR. EDWARDS: Oh, I think the president of the United States can
get rid of “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” I mean, I appreciate the
question, but I — if the president of the United States believes that
that “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is bad for America and in fact bad for
our military, which — and it’s discriminatory, all of which is true
MS. CARLSON: And when General Colin Powell says no, you can’t do
MR. EDWARDS: I’m not sure Colin Powell would say no. But —
MS. CARLSON: I think he did say no.
MR. EDWARDS: Back then.
MS. CARLSON: Yes, I think he did.
MR. EDWARDS: Back then. But it doesn’t matter. I mean, it’s
not the job of the generals to make this determination. It is the job
of the president of the United States to make this policy decision.
(Applause.) And I can tell you I am firmly committed to eliminating
“Don’t ask, don’t tell.”
MS. CARLSON: Well, we’re out of time with our questions. Would
you like to wrap up?
MR. EDWARDS: Oh, come on! (Laughter.)
MS. CARLSON: No, you get to ask us questions, if you’d like.
(Laughter.) But anyway, you have a minute to yourself.
MR. EDWARDS: Okay. Well, thank you.
Thank you all very much for being here, and thank all of you.
You’re so important. America — truth is, America owes you a debt of
gratitude. And if you’ve heard me — some of you heard me talk in the
past about two Americas and trying to have one America. You know, if
we actually believe in having one America, we got a lot of work to do,
don’t we? And nobody understands that better than the people in this
room and the people you are advocating for.
We have such work to do to keep loving couples together who are
separated because of immigration laws that are unfair, to have exactly
what was described in one of the earlier questions, to have an
employer be able to walk in to an employee and say, “You are fired
because of your sexual orientation,” and nothing can be done about it;
to have someone brutally murdered in the United States of America —
in the United States of America — because of their sexual
orientation, and not have that be a hate crime.
We’re better than this. The United States of America is better than
this. And we and all of you are important in bringing about the
change that’s necessary in this country.
And the last thing I want to say — what’s — what I would is
just to every single person in this room and everyone who can hear the
sound of my voice, the — it’s great that you’re having a presidential
forum. I love that. I’m glad we’re talking about these really
important issues of equality, but I want to add to that.
The real change and the real movements in America — they didn’t
start in the Oval Office. They started in places and in communities
just like this, with people with courage and strength who went out and
stood up and fought for what was right, who marched and spoke up.
That’s what you’re doing today, and you’re going to change this
country along with the next president of the United States.
Thank you all, folks. (Applause.)
MS. CARLSON: Hey, thanks. Hope they let you talk enough.
MR. EDWARDS: Yeah, you did good. Thanks.
MS. CARLSON: Our next candidate is Congressman Dennis Kucinich,
who has represented the 10th District of Ohio since 1996. This is his
second run for president.
Congressman Kucinich. (Applause.)
MS. CARLSON: Congressman, nice to see you.
REP. KUCINICH: How you been?
MS. CARLSON: Good, thanks.
REP. KUCINICH: It’s great to be here. Thank you.
MS. CARLSON: Thanks. Have a seat.
REP. KUCINICH: You bet.
MS. CARLSON: They really like you here on the Left Coast.
REP. KUCINICH: Actually I represent mainstream America here.
MS. CARLSON: That’s true. You can’t get more mainstream than
REP. KUCINICH: That’s right.
MS. CARLSON: Thank you for coming. We’re delighted you’re here.
And Jonathan, would you begin?
MR. CAPEHART: Congressman Kucinich, you’re seemingly for
everything the gay community wants. I took a look at your HRC
questionnaire. You support, support, support, support, support. So
is there anything that the LGBT community — (laughter) — wants —
REP. KUCINICH: By the way — finish your question.
MR. CAPEHART: Is there anything the LGBT community wants that
you’re against? (Pause.) There’s got to be something. (Laughter.)
REP. KUCINICH: All I can say is, keep those contributions
coming, you’ll have the — (laughter) — and you’ll have the president
that you want. (Applause.)
MR. CAPEHART: I’ll take that as a “no.”
REP. KUCINICH: That’s a “no.”
MR. CAPEHART: So you’re one of just two candidates who fully
supports same-sex marriage. Why do you think that is?
REP. KUCINICH: Well, I can tell you from my own experience. I
mean, this is really a question of whether you really believe in
equality. I mean I see the “equal” sign there, and I have that same
sign in my office in Washington, D.C. And imagine that “equal” sign
inside a heart. Because what we’re really talking about here is human
love. And there’s no power on this Earth greater than human love.
And when you understand what real equality is, you understand that
people who love each other must have the opportunity to be able to
express that in a way that is meaningful, and that the state should
not be intervening against people, the state should be there on behalf
of people, to make sure that that love has a chance to be facilitated.
So to me, this isn’t even a close question.
MR. CAPEHART: So, Congressman, what you’re saying is that
Senator Obama and Senator Edwards, and who sat here just moments ago
both espousing equality — they’re for equality, they’re for all these
things you just talked about.
So are you saying that they don’t truly oppose same sex marriage, that
they’re just playing politics?
REP. KUCINICH: I’m saying that I stand for real equality and
that I believe — (interrupted by cheers, applause). And this is
really part of an American tradition because when you look at the
founding documents, the idea of “all being created equal,” “we hold
these truths to be self-evident,” that all are created equal endowed
by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, to me this is a
foundational principle of who we are as a country.
So because I believe in that and because I live it, to me it’s
very easy to be here to take a stand for that principle. It would be
very easy for me as president of the United States to issue executive
orders that will require all federal contractors, anyone who’s doing
business with the federal government any way, every federal agency to
have to follow the principles that are written in ENDA and to — let
the federal government be the agent of change that it should be, and
then to lead the way as president of the United States in bringing
about the kind of unity that shows that real unity is to respect each
other’s inner equality and real unity is to respect the power of human
The greatest commandment is love, and I think that if someone
embodies that and lives it, then things change in a country. That’s
— love has that transformative power, and that’s what I have always
tried to bring in to public forums, and that’s what I’ll bring into
White House as well.
MS. CARLSON: Congressman, you’re so evolved for a member of
Congress. (Laughter, applause, cheers.)
You’re at the end of your journey, if I may borrow a phrase from
Senator Edwards. (Laughter.) But as mayor of Cleveland, did you feel
this way, when you were in high school? I mean, how did you get here?
REP. KUCINICH: Well, I was — when I was mayor of Cleveland, I
was attacked for hiring a police chief who was said to be sympathetic
to gay rights, and so, you know, my — and I had members of my cabinet
who were gay. And to me, it — who cares? I mean, it really doesn’t
matter. (Laughter.) Really, I mean, what’s — (applause, cheers).
MS. CARLSON: Again, totally evolved!
REP. KUCINICH: But it — listen, every one of us through taking
a stand has the potential to help any one of us evolve. That’s what
— that’s the gift we give to each other. And when someone is
president of the United States and is willing to share that with a
nation, we can have — lift up the whole nation in so many ways not
only in matters of equality, but in matters of peace, in matters of
all social and economic justice. I mean that’s what I’m about.
So to be here is an honor because I recognize the journey of so
many people in this room, of solitary journeys of courage, real
courage, and when you understand that, then of course as president I
want to exemplify that because so many of you have already taken that
path, and you deserve a leader who’s ready to take the same path.
MS. CARLSON: Congressman, Melissa is quite courageous.
Do you have a question?
MS. ETHERIDGE: Thank you. They told me not to fawn over you —
(laughter) — so I’m trying not to.
REP. KUCINICH: Go ahead. (Laughter.)
MS. ETHERIDGE: No, because really we have to — but it’s kind of
hard not to. I hope you always run for president until you are
elected. I do. (Laughter.) I do. I’m fawning. (Applause.) I
wasn’t supposed to do that.
REP. KUCINICH: I feel I need to point something out to you,
although I’m hopeful it’s not going to take that long. But I was
elected to the Congress on my fifth try.
MS. ETHERIDGE: See, okay. I’ll wait.
REP. KUCINICH: If at first you don’t succeed — it took me five
times. So I’m working on the second time here.
MS. ETHERIDGE: Yeah. I think this country really, really needs
a leader, someone who will sit or stand and say, “This is what I
believe in because it’s right.” And that’s so refreshing, so
amazingly refreshing to me. (Applause.)
I do have a question. I actually do. Many people in our
community with AIDS and HIV, and then many people in general with
cancer — I myself one — have benefited, especially here in
California, one of 11 states who have legalized medicinal marijuana.
And it relieves the symptoms and many, many things. And we are
completely at odds with the federal government, and they even have
come into California and have raided our medicinal marijuana shops,
and it’s quite bad.
So do you think we should have this law for the whole country?
What is your stance on that?
REP. KUCINICH: Well, four years ago, when there were raids in
California, I, as a member of Congress, objected to that. And, of
course, it’s a matter between doctors and patients. And if doctors
want to prescribe medical marijuana to relieve pain, compassion
requires that the government support that. And so, as president of
the United States, I would make sure that our Justice Department was
mindful that we should be taking a compassionate approach.
I want to go one step further, because this whole issue of drugs
in our society is misplaced. I mean, drugs have infected this
society, but I think we need to look at it more as a medical and a
health issue than as a criminal justice issue. (Applause.)
We really — and let me say one step further, for those who do or
whose friends may suffer from AIDS, I’m the only person in this race
who is standing for a not-for-profit health care system, single payer,
universal, Medicare for all, where long-term care is totally covered.
People should not be locked into these higher premiums, co-pays and
deductibles, which are destroying people’s economic capabilities.
So under the plan that I have, if someone has AIDS, they’re
totally covered. Under the plan that I have, if anyone needs long-
term care for any kind of an illnesses, they’re totally covered. And
the fact of the matter is, we already are paying for a universal
standard of care; we’re just not getting it.
Other candidates are talking about maintaining this for-profit
health care system, and anyone who has ever had a loved one who has
needed medical care and couldn’t get it because they didn’t have the
money understands the urgency of having someone not just in the race
but in the White House who’s ready to rally the American people in the
cause of not-for-profit health care, Medicare for all. And I’m doing
Thank you. (Applause.)
MS. CARLSON: You know, it may take you five times before —
because you’re further out than most — many people, I mean, most
Democrats. (Laughter.) And I’m wondering how do you — how are you
going to get elected president?
REP. KUCINICH: Well, let me tell you why — I am the candidate
right in the center of the aspirations of the American people’s hopes
and dreams. I led the effort in the House of Representatives five
years ago in challenging the administration’s march towards war
against Iraq. No other candidate in this race can say that, nor can
they say that they voted against the war and/or voted against funding
for the war consistently. The rest of the country’s come in my
direction on that. I took the stand when it was really unpopular to
Being president of the United States means that you have to do
the right thing the first time. And it means that when you’re talking
about civil liberties, marriage equality, employment non-
discrimination; when you’re talking about standing for people’s rights
to be who they are without fear of being attacked, you’re talking
about something that is really essentially American. And so I’m at
the center of all of those discussions.
And so my candidacy for president is not only transforming the race,
but I want you to understand how it will transform this nation when
you have a president who cannot be bought or bossed, who has the
willingness to stand up and speak out when others would be silent, who
can challenge war, who can challenge corruption. Because my heart is
clean, because I have the ability to see and pierce that veil of
falsehood which covers so much of our country today.
We — I see the world as one, Margaret. I see the world as being
interconnected and interdependent. Anything that separates any of us
needs to be looked at, and we need to find ways of discussing the
imperative of human unity, but not just discussing it. It’s one thing
to talk about it; it’s another thing to act from that understanding
and awareness. And that’s what I’m prepared to do as the next
president of the United States, elected in 2008. (Cheers, applause.)
MS. CARLSON: (Laughs.) Congressman, I have a viewer-generated
question for you, or of the people with the — from the same — who
have the same aspirations as you do.
This is Robert Armstrong from Morristown, New Jersey. He said,
I’m living with AIDS and speak regularly to students in high school.
The kind of AIDS prevention outreach is no longer eligible for Ryan
White funding if it includes frank talk about gay people. Will you
reinstate AIDS prevention as a category in Ryan White funding? And
how can you bring Congress along, given that you’re perceived as being
on the — in the left wing of the political — on the left wing of the
REP. KUCINICH: Well, you know, I mean, I’m the co-author of the
bill that creates a — first of all, the answer to your question is
yes. And I’m the co-author of the bill that creates Medicare for all.
I see — you know, this is a very serious health issue.
And through our education system, a president must help the
country, and help our children, in particular, learn the kind of
conduct that promotes health. And that also means sex education.
Now, some parents may not want that, and they should have the right to
opt out. But the truth of the matter is that we need to have sex
We also need a president who is ready to embrace people with AIDS
in a real, meaningful way that says that, look, we want you to receive
all the care that you need by having a not-for-profit health care
system so you don’t have to worry about working a lifetime, having
AIDS, and then losing everything you’ve ever worked for and not being
able to give it to your partner, for example, or to share it with
someone you love.
This is something that, to me, the challenge of AIDS relates to
not just funding, but it relates to having a president who’s wise
enough and courageous enough to take this issue on in a very direct
way and do it without any fear whatsoever.
MS. CARLSON: Let me give Joe a few minutes here for a question.
MR. SOLMONESE: Congressman, you haven’t just been an outspoken
hero for our community as a presidential candidate, you’ve been there
for your entire time in Congress, and I want to thank you for that.
And to that end — we are engaging in an attempt to pass the
Employment Non-Discrimination Act, as you mentioned, in the House of
Representatives, and I’m wondering if you can talk a little bit about
what you see as a potential hurdle to getting that done, and what you
might be able to do or what you might be able to talk to us about in
terms of getting that done.
REP. KUCINICH: Well, as you know, Barney Frank has introduced
the bill again. And I think that — and I think we need to
acknowledge the role that Barney Frank has played as someone in the
Congress who’s been very powerful. (Applause.)
And I’ve been privileged to work with HRC in the past as being
the person who goes to members of Congress and asks them to sign up to
support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. And I’ve certainly
looked forward to working with you again to do that.
I think that this issue of employment discrimination is becoming
— it’s acknowledged as affecting everyone, because if any group can
be discriminated against, then all groups can be discriminated
against. And so yes, I’m there on that issue, there’s just no
question about it.
And when we’re talking about discrimination — I’d like to go
back to the marriage equality issue for a minute. When you look at
the Orange County case, you really see where we have a society that
wants to enshrine separate and unequal. This is a basis for
discrimination in employment, but it’s a basis for discrimination when
two couples want to get married and have that partnership recognized
as equal before the law.
In our society — you know, when you got to math in first grade,
you learn one plus one equals two. But when you’re talking about
domestic partnership before the law, sometimes one plus one equals
zero, and that’s not right. And so what I’m saying is that a
president who understands that real equality means that you take a
stand, equal protection before the law, equal justice, equality of
opportunity, and it has to be equality of opportunity without regard
to race, color, creed, or sexual orientation period. I mean this is
what it means to be an American.
MS. CARLSON: Congressman, we’re almost completely out of time.
Do you want to take 30 seconds to wrap up?
REP. KUCINICH: Yes. (Short pause.)
I send you great love. I want you to know that the love of
country, the love of equality is something that every one of us
embodies, but we need a president who’s ready to testify to that, to
be an exemplar of equality, to understand love in the deepest sense.
I — my wife Elizabeth is here.
And let me tell you something: We’ve talked about this. I can’t
imagine what it would be like to have met the love of my life and to
— and to have such a depth of feeling for her and then be told that
no, you can’t — you just can’t be married, because there is a certain
rule or law that won’t let that happen. That would be devastating.
And because we understand that, and because I understand it, I’m
ready to be your president. I’m ready to be the person that
transforms this nation, that lifts up this nation, that causes not
just an American evolution but takes us and reconnects us with the
deeper truths of who we are.
I love all of you. Thank you so much for the chance to be here.
Thank you. (Cheers, applause.)
MS. CARLSON: Again we’d like to thank Congressman Kucinich — I
feel the love — (laughter) — Senators Obama and Edwards for sharing
their time with us. We should not that all of the major Republican
candidates running for president were invited to take part in a
similar forum and all of them declined.
PANELISTS AND AUDIENCE: Aw. (Laughter.)
MS. CARLSON: But who did not decline? Up next, former Senator
Mike Gravel, Governor Bill Richardson and Senator Hillary Clinton.
We’re going to take just a quick break now for some messages from the
sponsors of tonight’s event, Logo and the Human Rights Campaign
Foundation. If you want more information on the issues raised tonight
and the candidates’ positions, please go to visiblevote08.com or
hrc.org. We’ll be right back. (Applause.)
MS. CARLSON: Welcome back to “The Visible Vote ’08,” a
presidential forum presented by LOGO and the Human Rights Campaign
This is an historic opportunity: presidential candidates
speaking directly to a national LGBT television audience for the first
Our next guest, Mike Gravel, served as an elected official in
Alaska, beginning in the statehouse in 1963 and as a United States
senator from 1969 to 1981. Join me in welcoming former Senator Mike
Hi, Senator. Margaret Carlson.
MR. GRAVEL: Margaret.
MS. CARLSON: Senator Gravel, thanks for joining us. Wonderful
to have you here.
MR. GRAVEL: Thank you for having me.
MS. CARLSON: Well, we’re delighted.
Melissa is going to begin our questioning.
MS. ETHERIDGE: Great.
Hello. I’m so grateful that you are here. You are unusual —
(laughter) — and you —
MR. GRAVEL: Well, I’ve heard that said.
MS. ETHERIDGE: Yes. (Laughter.)
You are unusual for your generation of straight white men.
(Laughter.) But you actually —
MR. GRAVEL: Wow, Melissa, be careful. (Chuckles.)
MS. ETHERIDGE: But you actually support same-sex marriage. How
do you speak to men of your generation? And how do you speak just to
your generation in general about your issues to convince them?
MR. GRAVEL: Before I answer that, let me just — I want to thank
my friends —
MS. ETHERIDGE: Okay.
MR. GRAVEL: — the Harvey Milk Club in San Francisco, the gays
in New York, the gays in San Francisco, who really put the pressure on
Joe and others to get me here, because I was cut out of the pack, as I
was with the AFL-CIO just recently. And so I’m very grateful that,
Joe, you’ve reversed yourself, and I’m here. And I’ll try to give a
good account of myself for you. (Laughter.)
MS. CARLSON: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
MR. GRAVEL: Okay? (Applause.)