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John Edwards addresses marriage equality question at N.H. town hall gathering

It was an overflow crowd in Portsmouth, New Hampshire that waited in the cold to see Dem presidential candidate John Edwards today, and, given the locale, it’s not surprising that the issue of marriage equality was raised at the event. 

A gay man in a committed relationship stood up and asked the former senator where he stood on relationship recognition for gay and lesbian couples, given the sky hadn’t fallen in Massachusetts with the expansion of marriage to include them. Eric Stern watched the live feed and passed this on.

Edwards indicated that this issue was the “single hardest social issue” for him and that he had engaged in a lot of “personal struggles” over this issue.  He believes that same-sex partners in committed relationships should have civil rights and should be afforded the dignity and respect to which they are entitled.  He struggled with the question of “how we achieve this?.whether it is through civil unions or partnerships.”  He indicated that he is certainly for all of the non-discrimination and equal benefits provisions

However, he said that it was a “jump for me to get to gay marriage?I am not there yet.”  He said that this was a “great conflict for him” and that he continues to struggle with the question internally.  He ended by alluding to the fact that his daughter (and most in her generation) support marriage equality.  (The crowd applauded after this last statement).

Aside from the public emotional wrangling over the issue (and admission of differences of opinion within the family household), Edwards’ position is not markedly different than in 2004. The nugget of good news is that he’s not dodging the general question early on, and has an answer that I believe reflects the opinion of many of the folks out there on the fence.

Open discussions of the issue — along with a schooling of Edwards to refer to it as marriage equality (as see Russ’s framing last night) — will help shape this discussion in a healthy manner in future town halls, allowing candidates to become more comfortable with open, candid discussion. That was sorely missed in 2004 as Dems ran as fast as they could from this issue — a reader reminded me that both Edwards and Kerry missed the vote on FMA back in 2004 (the only senators to do so). 

We need to have folks get out there to ask this question of every candidate in those venues (and I’ll continue to re-post it early and often):

Are gay and lesbian couples entitled to benefits at the local, state and federal levels that currently automatically convey with civil marriage? If no, why not? If yes, why?

You can read more about the Edwards N.H. appearance at 365gay and

If you want to get your hackles up, take a look at the response of someone named, of all things, strategic thinker,  who posted on the John Edwards ’08 blog about the event. These are the kinds of “supporters” who are all for throwing us under the bus again.

Read and lose your cookies after the jump.

I tell you, the media never want to talk about substantive issues.  They want to talk about gender (Hillary), race (Obama), or gay marriage.

Like I said.  If the gay community wants a SERIOUS Presidential Candidate to push gay marriage, then they need to START A PARADE and get the public to join in, and then the politicians will follow, otherwise, they may as well shut up complaining, because no serious Presidential candidate is going to push for gay marriage without the public wanting it.

That’s just the way it is.

I agree with Thom Hartmann about the parade.  I agree with he and Edwards about the need to “mobilize people” and create change from the ground up.

Apparently the gay community doesn’t get it.  The public at large is against legalizing gay marriage, so Presidential candidates are going to be against calling their unions “marriage.”

If they want it, then they need to work to change the public’s mind from the grassroots level, upward, otherwise, they are going to just keep complaining without any results.

First off, no, marriage equality is not the single most important issue facing our country today. Our Dear Leader made sure of that, managing to f*ck up foreign and domestic policy in mind-blowing, budget-busting, eco-damaging, miltary-destroying, civil-liberty slashing ways.

That said, the lack of leadership in both parties as the rights of LGBT taxpayers have been subject to the public’s whim at the ballot box is a disgrace and hurts real, not hypothetical people by creating a legal limbo and second-class status — that is uniquely un-American. Drawing attention to it and having candidates answer the simple question of where they stand is absolutely the right thing to do. How else will a national discussion be generated and debated? The Democrats have been content to let the Dobsons, Falwells, Bauers and Wildmons drive the train. It’s time to boot them – off the caboose an onto the tracks.

Also, “strategic thinker” seems to think the gay community has done nothing more than complain — I don’t know how much more vocal we can be, though it’s safe to say that our national advocacy organizations haven’t exactly done their jobs by only supporting candidates that only have our complete interests at heart (e.g., the HRC endorsement of Lieberman over Lamont). How can the national parties or candidates take us seriously if those who are supposed to speak for us are willing to throw us under the bus?

Same old story — homos have to do it all by themselves from the back of the bus, or perhaps, more appropriately in this person’s mind, from the curb. This is insulting. Black folks didn’t fight the bigots alone, why must gay folks? Do we need to wait for a specific measure of affirmation in a nationwide poll before we ask leaders to state their position on the matter, let alone support our right to civil equality?

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding