Dodd answers questions from HRC/LOGO forum
Dem presidential candidate Senator Chris Dodd was unable to make last week's VisibleVote 08 forum, but he did take the time to answer all the questions posed by the forum's panel.
Read them below the fold.Chris Dodd answers questions that were asked at the Human Rights Campaign and LOGO debate concerning the GLBT community.
1. Do you understand the special needs of people in gay and lesbian couples who cannot depend on their partners’ insurance for protection because they are not a legal spouse? What would you do about this?
I believe that every American, regardless of race, age, income, or sexual orientation, is entitled to high quality health care. That is why I cosponsored the Domestic Partner Health Benefits Act. This is also why I have introduced a health care plan that provides access to proper care for all Americans. My health plan will create a health insurance marketplace called Universal HealthMart that is based on, and parallel to, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan (FEHBP). Individuals and businesses will contribute to Universal HealthMart based on their ability to pay. Premiums will be affordable based on leveraged negotiating power, spreading risk, reduced administrative costs, and incentives for technology and preventive care. Coverage will be portable – insurance purchased in Universal HealthMart will follow individuals, not jobs.
My plan will phase in universal, affordable coverage to all Americans over four years. No one will be forced into Universal HealthMart. If they wish, employers and individuals can maintain their existing insurance arrangements. This plan is easy to accomplish because the model and infrastructure for the plan, the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHBP) plan, already operates in every county in the country.
Another significant feature of my health plan is that coverage is available for all Americans regardless of employment status, health status or income level. Individuals pay for coverage within Universal HealthMart based on their ability to pay and the insurance industry will be forced to end price and coverage discrimination against people based on prior conditions.
2. Do you think public schools should teach about GLBT students and families? How can we bring this into the public school system, or should we?
I believe that schools should embrace diversity of all types and should make all families and students welcome regardless of race, ethnicity or sexual preference. What is taught at individual schools is a local school board decision but I do believe that the federal government should ensure that just as with race and ethnicity, GLBT students should be afforded the same rights, responsibilities and protections as their peers.
3. Why should the gay community believe that Democrats will fight for us, after allowing us to be used by the Republicans as a scare tactic in 2004 and after the Clinton administration failed to follow through with campaign promises to us?
I have been a supporter of the GLBT community throughout my career, and in the White House I will be able to do even more to advance issues important to this community. My record shows consistent commitment to the advancement of GLBT issues. I am proud to have fought long and hard to pass the Family and Medical Leave Act, and I will fight again to extend this legislation to cover same-sex couples. I have supported legislation to expand the definition of hate crimes to include gender, sexual orientation, and disability. I cosponsored the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. I have supported and continue to support equal rights for domestic partnerships. I was an original co-sponsor of the Ryan White CARE Act and believe in working to restore this bill to its original purpose of promoting HIV/AIDS prevention. I will repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I have spent a great deal of time on these issues, and in the White House I would continue to fight for you.
4. If a member of your staff came to you, told you that they were transgender, that they were thinking of transitioning, how would you react to that?
I would support them in their decision.
5. Many people in the GLBT community have HIV, others suffer with cancer, and have benefited from medicinal marijuana. Do you think we should legalize medicinal marijuana?
I believe that states should be able to decide whether or not to allow the use of medicinal marijuana. From what I understand, it can be a source of significant pain relief, among other beneficial properties. I would not interfere with states whose policy it is to listen to the advice of doctors and allow the use of medical marijuana.
6. AIDS prevention outreach currently for Ryan White funding. Would you reinstate Ryan White funding for this type of outreach?
I was an original cosponsor of the first Ryan White CARE Act in 1990. I am appalled by what this administration has done to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs and its cuts to Ryan White funding. I would absolutely reinstate funding for outreach to prevent HIV/AIDS.
7. What potential hurdles do you see to passing ENDA? How will you overcome them?
As a supporter of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act I would fight hard to ensure its passage. I believe I can overcome the current deadlock in Congress by relying on my long experience of reaching across the aisle to bring people together on tough issues. I passed the first child care legislation since World War II and the Family and Medical Leave Act with help from across the aisle. Reaching out, building upon existing relationships to get the job done, is something I have proven time and time again I am successful at. It is time to work with others to make them understand that a society that discriminates against a population of people based on nothing other than their inherent characteristics is not a truly free or vibrant democracy. ENDA is not about granting new rights to people. It is simply about affording every American the same rights in employment.
8. The CDC estimate that nearly 50% of black, gay, and bisexual men in urban surroundings may already be infected with HIV. What can we do to fix this?
There are a number of things we need to do to reduce the rate of HIV/AIDS in our urban communities. Reinstating funding for the Ryan White CARE Act will be an important piece of turning back the tide on this disease. In addition, my universal healthcare plan which focuses on prevention as well as coverage, will ensure that people in our urban communities, regardless of socioeconomic status, have access to the information they need to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, and the treatments we have developed to treat it.
9. Under our current immigration laws, one spouse can sponsor another to become a U.S. citizen, but same-sex couples are not covered by this law. What would you do to help bi-national gay and lesbian couples whose families are being torn apart by this system?
I cosponsored the Permanent Partners Immigration Act, which provides same-sex partners of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents the same immigration benefits that legal spouses of U.S. citizens enjoy. As President, I will work to encourage cooperation in Congress in order to pass this important piece of legislation.
10. Do you think homosexuality is a choice or is biological?
I believe that it is biological.
11. Would you repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?
Yes. I believe that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” prevents people like Marine Staff Sgt. Eric Alva, the first American wounded in the war in Iraq, from being recognized as they should for their heroic acts in defense of our country. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans ought to be able to serve in the armed forces without being required to hide part of their identities from their fellow soldiers. We need every skilled person we can get in the armed forces. Excluding people based on their sexual orientation is ludicrous and would run counter to our national security goals.
12. Do you support gay marriage?
I strongly believe that all Americans should have equal rights regardless of their sexual orientation, and as a United States Senator, I have been working to make that a reality for over 30 years. This is not something I have come to because I am running for President — I have been fighting for civil rights and equal protections my entire career.
I wish every American, when considering these issues, would think about this as a personal matter affecting their own family not an esoteric issue affecting “others”. I have two young daughters, 2 and 5 years old, I would want them to have access to all the benefits their mother and I have had. They should be able to have the jobs of their choice, build homes, and take care of the people they love. I want these things for my children regardless of their sexual orientation. Every American ought to want that.
But marriage is a states issue, and that is one of the reasons I voted against the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. I would also support amending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to ensure parity for civil unions at the federal level. I am proud that my home state, Connecticut, was the first state in the union to enact a civil unions law without a court order.
13. Would you put someone in a position of power who is known to be anti-gay?
No. I would not put someone in a position of power who would discriminate, or be outwardly hostile, against another based on race, ethnicity, age, gender or sexual orientation.
Dana at Mombian shares her comments on his answers. She notes that Joe Biden, the other Dem who didn’t make the forum, has not yet responded to the questions.