Sweet Dem Gay forum special. Partial transcript. Will post full transcript later.

SHARE Sweet Dem Gay forum special. Partial transcript. Will post full transcript later.
SHARE Sweet Dem Gay forum special. Partial transcript. Will post full transcript later.

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.

click below for transcript…














AUGUST 9, 2007

Copyright (c)2007 by Federal News Service, Inc., Suite 500, 1000 Vermont

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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

the forum.

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

see. (Chuckles.)

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

good citizen.

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.)


MR. EDWARDS: We’ve been listening to your music. I want you to

know that.


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

the questions.

She was bragging that she’s neither a politician and not even a

journalist. (Laughter.)

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.


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

the center.

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

it. (Applause.)

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.


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?


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

it’s appropriate.


Right. Jonathan?

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

this position?

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

makes sense.

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.)

(Cross talk.)

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.


MS. CARLSON: They really like you here on the Left Coast.

REP. KUCINICH: Actually I represent mainstream America here.

(Cheers, applause.)

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).

So —

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

do so.

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

political spectrum?

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.


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

time ever.

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

Gravel. (Applause.)

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.


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 —


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.)

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