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Liveblogging the HRC/LOGO Visible Vote 08 Forum

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The candidates participating in The Visible Vote ’08: A Presidential Forum will be appear in this order: Barack Obama, John Edwards, Dennis Kucinich, Mike Gravel, Bill Richardson and Hillary Clinton. Each will be on the stage for 15 minutes taking questions from Human Rights Campaign’s Joe Solmonese, singer Melissa Etheridge, and journalists Margaret Carlson and Jonathan Capehart.


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The show is being streamed live on LOGO.


6:00 PM: Margaret Carlson is doing the introductions — Jonathan Capehart, Melissa Etheridge, and Joe Solmonese, and welcomes Obama to the set. The applause is enthusiastic as he shakes hands with the front row of the crowd. She calls him a rock star.

The rest of the liveblog is after the jump.

He thanks HRC and LOGO for setting this up and is glad he got the ball rolling by being the first candidate to accept the invitation.


Joe: What place does the church have when dealing with same-sex marriage.


Obama: He wants to ensure that all have equal civil rights, and mentions his opposition to DOMA. He again says he wants strong civil unions. He doesn’t want churches involved in legal issues that concern the state.  He wants churches to have the freedom to exercise their religion. He says he will fight that equal rights are available to same-sex couples.


Joe: if the issue of civil marriage came before him if he was still in the Illinois senate.


Obama: It depends how the bill came up, he would have supported all rights equivalent to marriage. Joe presses that this sounds like separate but equal. Obama raises the issue of his parents’ situation of interracial marriage.


If I were advising the civil rights movement in 1961 about rights, he wouldn’t have advocated first for repeal of anti-miscegenation laws, but for voting rights. He does see that the struggle that faces the gay community.


Margaret Carlson again presses on the fact that marriage is not just a matter of semantics. Obama feels that civil unions can be enforced as equal to marriage (he still cannot define why marriage has to be separate).


6:10: Melissa Ethridge: She first talks about the privilege it is to be there despite not being a journalist. She asks a question about how he as president would heal the divides in the country about LGBT issues.


Obama: he has a hopefulness that there is a core decency in all Americans, and that the key question for the next president is whether they can tap into that decency. When it comes to LGBT issues, is to acknowledge the lives people are living out there. People have gay friends and family members, but politics creates fear that doesn’t match peoples’ experience in the real work. There is a sense that ‘Obama is always talking about hope’ but he is a “hope-monger”.


Melissa: Our country’s founding documents mean we are all equal, she urges him not to give in to the fear out there in the country.


6:15: Jonathan Capehart: He asks about homophobia in the black community.


Obama: He references his comments at the PBS Howard debate. He talked about the degree to which the church has been used to divide and distract. He asked if a minister can prove that a heterosexual marriage has been broken up by another gay couple being married he should come to him. He stresses that these ministers need to focus on more important economic issues in the community. He believes the black community, with a diversity of opinion, that it still means that civil rights should apply to all. His job as a leader is to tell the truth that black homophobia is a political football that has to stop.


Jonathan: You are running as a candidate of change, but how can you when your position on marriage is old school.


Obama disagrees, he feel that he is at the forefront of moving LGBT issues forward. He will continue to press federal, state and local governments to ensure equality.


6:19: Margaret Carlson asks if there is equivalence between the LGBT and black civil rights movements.


Obama says that though the issues are parallel, but different, but the important thing is not to look at the black candidate and wonder if they are going to be more or less sympathetic to these issues, but to see if they have a record of treating people fairly and working together with people to effect change.


Summing up: he doesn’t talk about these issues because it is convenient. He talks about LGBT people in his stump speeches, even when it’s hard — in front of black ministers. It’s the kind of political courage he feels he brings to the race.


Matt Hill Comer has a post-forum entry on Obama:

In post-forum conference, Obama prioritizes LGBT equality


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John Edwards is up next.


6:22: Melissa: asks about health care and the fact that gay and lesbian couples often don’t have partner benefits. What would he do?


Edwards: He said that couples should have equal access to partner benefits. He talked about his visit to a G&L youth center in L.A. where people kicked out of their homes because they came out of the closet. He believes that Americans need to see the impact of these situations to see how bigotry is wrong.


Melissa: she asked him about his past comments about his “discomfort” with gay people. Should public schools teach about gay families/different families


Edwards: [He says that the above remark was completely not true.] On schools he says that it should absolutely be taught about LGBT families, and he said that he believes that gays and lesbians to be able to adopt. Kids need to understand about these families, and adults have a responsibility to educate their children about this. He didn’t specify at what age this is appropriate.


6:27: Jonathan: he asks about the demonization of gays and lesbians in prior presidentil cycles, and why should the LGBT community trust this crop of Dems.


Edwards: he’s proud of Elizabeth for taking Ann Coulter on. He has seen the impact of intolerance — if you stand quietly by it takes hold, and  it becomes ok for the Republicans to use hatemongering to gain votes. We have to stand up for what’s right and just. It’s bad for America to use these issues to divide us. It must be taken on head on, without fear to effect change. He talks about the lowering of discourse by people like Ann Coulter and why it’s important to challenge voices of intolerance.


6:30: Joe: he brings up the case of Susan Stanton (who was fired for deciding to transition, while as city manager in Largo, FL).


Edwards said that he would provide help and support in every possible way. He underscores why ENDA is important in this vein. He also says that the American people deserve an answer as to what a candidate will do on a personal level to do what’s right in circumstances of this nature. He relates this to his experience in the segregated south.


Joe: what is it within your religion that prevents him from accepting marriage equality?


Edwards: I shouldn’t have said that. It makes perfect sense for me for gay couples to ask for full equality. It is a mistake to impose a personal religious belief on the American people. He says it is part of my heart and soul to do the right thing.


Joe presses on to ask where he is on the journey to accept marriage equality.


Edwards: his position on same-sex marriage has not changed, he reiterates his desire to get rid of DADT, to support civil unions, and a repeal of DOMA.


6:35  A viewer question from Jason Knight (who was discharged from the Navy under DADT) — what would he do –sign an executive order to lift it.


Edwards: he would sign an executive order to lift it, and said the law never should have been put into a place.


Summary: he knows there is work to do on the LGBT rights front, allowing binational couples to have legal support married couples do, he knows that America is better than this and it doesn’t support discrimination of any kind. He said that the real movements don’t start in the Oval Office, that it begins at the grassroots level.


6:40: Dennis Kucinich.


Jonathan Capehart: he amusingly poses that he seems to be for everything the LGBT rights movement decides and wonders is there anything that he opposes on this front.


Kucinich: (he answers “no.”) The state should be there on behalf of people in loving relationships. Capehart asks whether Edwards and Obama actually do support equality. Kucinich says all he knows is that he supports full equality for gay couples. “It’s easy to be here to take a stand for principle.” “The president should lead on these issues, to respect the power of human love. If you embody that, then it effects change.” He will bring it to the White House.


Margaret Carlson: How did he reach this evolved position as a mayor of Cleveland?


Kucinich: “I had people in my cabinet, people who I worked with…I mean, who cares about it (sexual orientation)?” I recognize the journey of so many people in this room.


6:45: Melissa: The country really needs a leader who stands for what is right. Many people with HIV/AIDS have benefited from legalized medicinal marijuana, something completely at odds with the federal government. Should these laws exist?


Kucinich: Compassion for those who need medicinal marijuana for symptoms from cancer or AIDS should be encouraged by the government. Single payer health care is a necessity because lives are destroyed by the current system. We are already paying for a universal standard of care and not getting it.


He talks about his early opposition to the Bush Administration’s Iraq policy as an example of being ahead of the curve and putting issues out front even if unpopular, and that goes for marriage equality and LGBT rights issues. It will transform this nation when it has a president that cannot be bought off, will challenge corruption and lies.


User question: AIDS prevention outreach (via Ryan White funding) and education.


Kucinich: he talks about comprehensive sex education as a requirement in school (parents could opt their kids out), and the challenge of a president to openly discuss AIDS issues.


6:55: Joe: ENDA issues – what do you see as a hurdle to getting it done.

Kucinich commends Barney Frank for leading on the legislation. The issue of employment non-discrimination affects everyone; there should be no reason to discriminate. The same kind of hurdles are faced in marriage equality issues as well. One plus one, when you’re talking about gay couples currently equals zero under the law.


Summary: long pregnant pause before he starts to speak. He says we need a president to understand love in the deepest sense. He couldn’t imagine meeting the love of my life and being told that you cannot be married. That would be devastating. He’s ready to be the person that transforms this nation and reconnects us with the deepest truths there are.


Margaret Carlson mentions that the Republican candidates were asked to participate in a forum, but they all declined.


Whew. A short break to recover…


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Margaret Carlson mentions that the Republican candidates were asked to participate in a forum, but they all declined.


Whew. A short break to recover…


***


7PM: Mike Gravel. This should be interesting, to say the least.


Melissa: He says that most in his generation are wrong when it comes to its thinking about LGBT citizens. He thinks the marriage issue will not be around in five years. She asks about whether there are many gays in Alaska. (Ugh.) I love Melissa, but she’s slowing the forum down with the platitudes for Kucinich and Gravel.


Gravel discusses how the other candidates dance around the marriage issue, and acknowledges that he and Kucinich moving the ball down the field, pressing equality issues.  He talks about how the world needs more love. As president he will call upon the courage in people to stand up for what counts — love.


7:10: Jonathan asks Gravel about why Clinton, Obama, and Edwards are ahead of him. Gravel says they are playing it safe, politics as usual. A good politician will tell you to go to hell, and you’ll look forward to the trip.


He’s asked by Jonathan about whether going for marriage (legally) happened too soon. He notes that marriage has been misappropriated by religion. What the message is is that you are seen as second class citizens. Leadership must bring us to civic maturity.


Joe: What have you done professionally to advance gay rights that you are most proud of?


In the Alaska legislature 45 years ago, he established a human rights commission as a freshman. Use your capital, more comes your way. He’s not afraid of the equality issue and that’s why he’s in the race. Mainstream media marginalizes people like Gravel because he was ahead of the curve. He compliments Joe on his leadership.


Joe asks about the horrid statistics on HIV/AIDS among black men and how he would address it.


Gravel says that health care should be addressed, and that the war on drugs is a failure and that marijuana should be able to be bought as liquor is today, and that hard drugs should be available by prescription, with treatment plans available for addiction. [of course this doesn’t really answer the question.]


Summary: he says he has worked all his adult life on justice issues. He advocates for gays and lesbians to come out of the closet and to assert your rights. Step forward and he will step forward with you.


Next up, Gov. Bill Richardson.


7:15: Jonathan asks a followup to Richardson’s statement at the YouTube debate about “achieving what’s possible.”


Richardson said that’s civil unions with full marriage rights. He wants to redress some gross imbalances in the past, such as getting rid of DADT. He would repeal DOMA (which he voted for), it would allow the full partnership rights he now supports. He wants to bring the population along over time.


Why did he support DOMA? He says that at that time, the objective was to fight off an assault in Congress to ban gay marriage. On DADT, it made no sense to him. “We have to bring the public along to build support. We need a president that knows how to lead, knows the country is moving toward more inclusion.”


Jonathan: He asks about the appearance on Don Imus’s radio show when he joked about calling someone a “maricon” (faggot).


He apologized, he said, but he said that people should look at his words, not his actions. He said he was the first governor to have trans-inclusive protections under the law. He talked about his efforts to expand domestic partnerships and how he has added LGBT members to his cabinet. He regrets what he said but again asks that people judge him by what he has done for the LGBT community.


Margaret Carlson: Why didn’t he ask for a special session to consider same sex marriage?


His answer was kind of defensive, and again points to his work on DPs.


Joe: If the NM legislature hands him a marriage equality bill, would he sign it?


Looong pregnant pause, and then he doesn’t answer the question. Joe presses again, he blows this question again, by not answering the hypothetical on his personal view on marriage.


Joe: how would he help binational couples?


He says that this will be resolved with civil unions or domestic partnerships with equality under federal law.


Melissa: Does he think homosexuality is a choice?

Richardson: he says it is choice. he doesn’t like to categorize people. he says he isn’t a scientist, and doesn’t understand it all.  [No sh*t.] He starts to go into a long discussion about growing up as a hispanic and that people deserve equal civil rights.


She asks another inane question about the bark beetles in NM. [WTF?]


Margaret Carlson hits at this “choice” question and that people would withhold rights from those because they choose to be gay.


Again, Richardson gives a rambling answer going back to his support of hate crimes laws, and repeal of DADT.


Summary: He talks about Melissa’s battle against breast cancer and her Oscar for the song for An Inconvenient Truth. [Oh boy, he’s really blown this.]


Hillary Clinton…


Joe: On DADT, since she serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, why hasn’t she submitted a repeal bill


She says she doesn’t want to try with a negative President and heavily Republican Congress. She wants to do it as president. It’s one of her highest priorities (she came out against it in 1999). She points out Eric Alva (the first Marine injured in Iraq, and who recently came out of the closet), and how he could have been court-martialed and asked to reveal names of people before DADT. She notes that this witchhunt continued even under DADT, and she realized it wasn’t working and that the judgment on who should serve should be based on conduct, not status. She mentioned the support for repeal or rethinking the law by General Shalikashvili and Colin Powell.


Joe: what is at the heart of your opposition to same-sex marriage.


Hillary: it’s a personal position. For her it is clear that we believe in equality, and the debate is how to get to full equality. She reiterates her position on advocating civil unions and allowing the states jurisdiction over marriage [bzzzzzzt!] She thanks HRC for helping to stop the federal marriage amendment. She discusses the repeal of section 3 of DOMA.


Joe presses her on the “state’s rights” issue. She says she respects the advocacy that the community is doing on behalf of marriage. She’s impressed by the intensity of the advocacy. She says the states are moving far more quickly on equality (huh? what about all those states passing marriage amendments — those folks are left behind), but she defends DOMA as a protection from “the Republican strategy to use marriage a political tool.”


She doesn’t believe that the Republicans won’t bring it up in this election cycle. She doesn’t see it — she thinks that they know that the federal marriage amendment was a political ploy.


Melissa: she mentions coming out during Bill Clinton’s inaugural, and her disappointment that LGBTs were thrown under the bus, and that promises made were broken. It is many years later, and what are you going to do differently and are we going to be left behind.


Clinton says that she doesn’t see it that way, she knows not enough done as she would have liked. She mentions marching in a gay pride parade. Melissa presses her — why aren’t you being the leader now on these issues. Clinton again talks about changing people’s minds through dialog. If she was sitting where Melissa was sitting, she thinks that she understands why she wants things to move faster. Clinton says that she is positioned to handle things differently and move LGBT rights forward.


Jonathan: He asks about Peter Pace’s comment that homosexuality is immoral and why her initial response was “Leave that others to conclude.” She later said “no.”


Clinton’s reasoning was that she thought initially that her comment was sufficient until she heard from friends that what she said was inadequate and should have been out front.


She also said she would never nominate anyone to the Supreme Court who was anti-gay.


Summary: she wants to move the agenda of progress and equality forward. She comes to these issues not as a Senator or presidential candidate but as a friend to the LGBT community, knowing about the issues of people coming out. She wants to be able to say to the American people that these are our friends and neighbors, it is a personal matter for her and she will work to end discrimination in this area and the issues of concern to the community.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding

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