CommunityPam's House Blend

Early adopters — some prominent LGBT folks 'come out' for John Edwards

Blender Miss Wild Thing and I (and probably a LOT of people) received this press release from the Edwards campaign about LGBT leaders who are going on record endorsing the former U.S. Senator from NC and 2008 presidential contender. She said: “Two questions, 1. what do you make of this? 2, Isn’t this a LOT early?

The John Edwards for President campaign announced today that prominent LGBT leaders from across the country endorsed Senator John Edwards for President.

I am honored to have the support of so many well-respected LGBT leaders,” said Edwards. “They work hard every day to make our country a better place and I am proud to join with them to fight for equal rights for all Americans.”

The following LGBT leaders endorsed Edwards for President:
  * Skip Paul, Corporate Executive
  * Darren Star, TV Producer
  * Julie Johnson, Human Rights Campaign Public Policy Committee Co-Chair
  * Eric Stern, Former National Stonewall Democrats Executive Director; Former Democratic National Committee LGBT Outreach Director
  * David Mixner, Former Bill Clinton for President Adviser; LGBT activist, fundraiser, author
  * Dennis Erdman, TV Producer/ Director
  * Mary Snider, Human Rights Campaign Board of Directors Executive Committee Member
  * David Tseng, Kerry-Edwards 2004 National LGBT Advisory Committee Co-Chair; Former Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) National Executive Director
  * David Mariner, Former Out for Howard Dean Co-Chair; Founder,
  * James Duff, TV Producer
  * Ramon Gardenhire, National Stonewall Democrats Black Caucus Co-Chair; Former DNC LGBT Deputy Outreach Director
  * Scott Benson, Majority Leader Minneapolis City Council
  * Shane Larson, AFL-CIO Pride @ Work National Executive Board Member; Association of Flight Attendants (AFA)-Communications Workers of America (CWA) Government Affairs Director
  * Scott Wiener, Human Rights Campaign Board of Directors Member; San Francisco Democratic Party Chair* (for identification purposes only)
  * Jeff Gardner, Garden State Equality Vice Chair; New Jersey for Democracy Co-Chair
  * Lynne Wiggins, Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) National Leadership Council Member; Former Human Rights Campaign Board of Governors Member
  * Ken Keechl, Broward County Commissioner; Former Dolphin Democrats President
  * Linda Elliott, Human Rights Committee Board of Directors Member
  * Dave Garrity, Former Democratic National Committee Member
  * Mark Periello, Former Human Rights Campaign staff member; Democratic strategist
  * Ron Ginsburg, LGBT Community Activist; business owner
  * Randall Kelly, LGBT Community Activist; attorney
  * Stephanie Kornegay, LGBT Community Activist; business owner
  * Robert D. Horvath, Mautner Project Board of Directors Member
  * Patrick J. Lyden, LGBT Community Activist; Homeland Security Advisor

If you’re saying “who are these people?” then head over to Jim Provenzano’s pad, where he’s done the research for you (h/t Michael).

So what’s this all about? I have no insider dope, of course, but it’s an fascinating matter to speculate about, and I do so below the fold…

I think this is interesting because it is so early. To me this is an earlier big lob by the Edwards camp against Hillary Clinton and a commonly held belief out there that she has bagged the support of Human Rights Campaign (the org has not officially endorsed anyone) and gay advocacy groups and organizations.

As we all know here at the Blend, average gay folks living outside of the Beltway, who are not inside gay organizations have a vote that is obviously up for grabs this cycle —  the waffling, wan, support of Hillary is transparently conditional. As long as we are invisible and allow her to focus-group test any answers to questions about the homos, I guess she’s willing to throw a public bone or two (see her tortuous slow response to Gen. Peter Pace’s remarks). The fact that you see Human Rights Campaign-related folks on that list (as individuals, of course), for instance sends out two signals — 1) the Edwards campaign is serious about courting the gay vote, and 2) those HRC-ers and others in prominent advocacy groups are willing to come forward early to show there’s clear dissent within establishment circles about where gay support — and gay dollars will go.

All, in all, this is a good thing, because, in my opinion, it means better answers to tough questions from the candidates. Who gets our vote, even from within gay advocacy organizations of all stripes (and from those of influence) is not a done deal.

What needs to happen now is that those who have endorsed Edwards should come forward to say what sets him apart from the rest of the field. That’s the flip side of “coming out” with an early endorsement. John Edwards’ broad statement that “I am proud to join with them to fight for equal rights for all Americans” puts issues that need to discussed back on the table. I take it at face value that the presidential candidate, if he’s courting these endorsements so early, is willing to address the issue of the repeal or amendment of the 1996 DOMA law, which prevents federal and country-wide legal recognition of civil unions.

If the goal is to create near-parity with civil marriage, then it’s time to ask John Edwards about DOMA.

And that’s a proactive challenge, by the way. It shouldn’t be hard for him to say “yes, it must be repealed because discrimination is wrong” since he’s in favor of equal rights for all Americans.

Before you all start harping on full civil marriage equality in name as well as legal status, you have to leave this off the table for the moment because we all know that’s not going to happen without a Supreme Court decision in our favor. That doesn’t mean “settling” — it means achieving the most we can now, given the onslaught of legislation put forth by the Right to restrict any gains whatsoever in state after state. The bleeding must stop, and every Democratic candidate can do this by directly addressing that civil rights should not be determined at the ballot box by direct vote, and that leaving it to the states has resulted in institutionalized discrimination against a group of taxpaying citizens. It would be so refreshing for a politician to say that their former “leave it to the states” position was wrong.

If John Edwards can say his vote on Iraq was wrong, certainly saying DOMA should be repealed and the ballot initiatives to ban marriage equality are wrong should be a walk in the park. He’s already shown moxie, with direct answers about General Pace’s ridiculous “homosexuality is immoral” comments, I’d like to think he can do the same about DOMA. I’ll tell you this — John Edwards is going to have an easier time doing so than Hillary, and it will equally challenge the (now) timid Obama, who seems to have retreated from his prior forceful affirmation when he was running for office in 2004 that LGBT citizens deserve the same rights as the rest of Americans and that DOMA should be repealed.

Edwards’s last direct response on CUs/marriage (and folks correct me if I’m wrong) was in February of this year, when he was on Meet the Press.

MR. RUSSERT: …Gay marriage. You said this: ” It is [a hard issue] … because I’m 53 years old. I grew up in a small town in the rural south. I was raised in the Southern Baptist church and so I have a belief system that arises from that. It’s part of who I am. I can’t make it disappear. … I personally feel great conflict about that. I don’t know the answer. I wish I did. I think from my perspective it’s very easy for me to say, gay civil unions, yes, partnership benefits, yes, but it is something that I struggle with. Do I believe they should have the right to marry? I’m just not there yet.”

RUSSERT: Why not?

SEN. EDWARDS: I think it’s from my own personal culture and faith belief. And I think, if you had gone on in that same quote, that I, I have-I, I struggle myself with imposing my faiths-my faith belief. I grew up in the Southern Baptist church, I was baptized in the Southern Baptist church, my dad was a deacon. In fact, I was there just a couple weeks ago to see my father get an award. It’s, it’s just part of who I am. And the question is whether I, as president of the United States, should impose on the United States of America my views on gay marriage because I know where it comes from. I’m aware of why I believe what I believe. And I think there is consensus around this idea of no discrimination, partnership benefits, civil unions. I think that, that certainly a president who’s willing to lead could lead the country in the right direction on that.

We have to separate public policy from private beliefs, and that is why we now ask for answers — those who have given Edwards the thumbs up, tell us why he’s the best candidate for you.

As most of you know, I’ve not endorsed any candidate because it is so early. So much more discussion is needed. We can’t even get candidates to stop using the right-wing frame of “gay marriage” and use “marriage equality.” When I see that come out of a candidate’s mouth, then I know they (or at least their aides prepping them) are “getting it.”  Callie outlined it beautifully in a comment in a past thread on whether the candidates really know and understand what the legal obstacles LGBT citizens face on a day to day basis:

There are several options here [for candidates]: 1) they know the obstacles and don’t care, 2) they know the obstacles but don’t know what to do about them, or 3) they have no clue about the obstacles.

The first one we can’t do anything about.  That’s a dead candidate in my eyes and worthy of shuffling off the board.  The other two could be dealt with through education, but that won’t work until the community sits down with them and lays out the issue step-by-step, question-by-question.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding