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Blend Liveblog: Democrat for N.C. U.S. Senate, Cal Cunningham

UPDATE: The cleaned-up transcript of the liveblog is below the fold. The short version: Cunningham would vote to repeal DOMA and DADT. He would vote for an inclusive ENDA and UAFA. We didn’t receive a final answer on whether the additional information from the liveblog would be added to his campaign site.  You can replay the CIL in a separate window.

We’re leaving behind discussion of the very long and bumpy road we traveled to get NC Dem U.S. Senate Candidate Cal Cunningham here to the coffeehouse to discuss his outlook on LGBT civil rights — and how he would address them if elected as senator. We’re glad to see he’s accepted the invitation this evening.

For those of you who may not have followed the Blend’s coverage of this primary, which is currently in early voting stage with the official primary date of May 4, the blog has featured not only liveblogs, but assessment of candidate web sites over the course of the campaign.

In 2010, Elaine Marshall, Ken Lewis, and Cal Cunningham, all have LGBT issues featured on their campaign sites, and in the case of Marshall and Lewis, actually added content and positions as a result of their liveblogs and outreach to make it clearer for those perusing their sites to get an idea of their approach to social justice and civil rights for LGBTs before casting a vote – or writing a check.

Cunningham debuted his Issues page recently addressing hate crimes, DADT and ENDA.

Equality and Civil Rights

Our country has made great strides toward equality and civil rights, but there is still work to be done to ensure that every American is treated fairly and equally under the law, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, disability, or religion. That is why North Carolina’s next senator must focus on:

  • Ensuring equal pay. Despite much progress, women continue to be paid less than men for equal work. Congress must go further to close this divide. The Paycheck Fairness Act that passed the U.S. House was a promising step forward, but now the Senate must step up and take action.
  • Protecting a woman’s right to choose. Health decisions should be made between a woman and her doctor — not the federal government. That is why we must oppose efforts, like the Stupak amendment, that would restrict reproductive rights.
  • Exacting justice against sexual assault. Women who serve in the armed forces are more likely to be sexually assaulted than injured in combat. Congress must hold the Department of Defense accountable to end this threat to women and the good order and discipline of our forces. Women who serve as contractors in combat zones should also be able to sue in open court to seek justice for hostile work environments.
  • Ending LGBT discrimination. Sexual orientation plays no role on the battlefield, which is why we must repeal the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy holding back our military. We also must ensure that employers cannot discriminate based on employees’ sexual orientation or gender identity by promptly passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
  • Eradicating hate crimes. Passing the Matthew Shepard Act last year, which expanded federal hate-crime legislation to include crimes motivated by gender, sexual identity, and disability, was an important step towards eradicating bias-motivated crimes. Going forward, we must ensure that its provisions are properly enforced.
  • Increasing opportunities for minorities. While millions of Americans are suffering from a devastating economic climate, the unemployment rate for minorities — particularly African Americans — is far too high, the graduation rate is too low, and opportunities for individuals to empower themselves to overcome these statistics elude too many. We must work to close this inequality gap by raising the levels of employment in these communities and ensuring equal opportunity.

This evening we will ask the same questions we posed to Lewis and Marshall, along with questions specific to Cunningham’s record in the State Senate regarding hate crimes and repeal of the anti-sodomy law in this state.

Also of note is that Cal recently received a non-competitive endorsement from the gay-run Replacements Ltd PAC, and that Raleigh resident singer Clay Aiken gave a max-out ($2400) contribution to the campaign last week.

If you want to Tweet your own impressions of the liveblog, use the hashtag #ncsen.


* PHB archive on Cal CunninghamCal Cunningham Liveblog on PHB:

Cal Cunningham: Glad to be on. Regret there were some bumps in the road in getting us here.


Pam Spaulding: But we are now online with Cal. Thanks for joining us.,


Cal Cunningham: Thank you Pam.


Pam Spaulding: Q: As a candidate from the South, you’re well aware of the role religion plays in society; Senator Burr no doubt will play this up during his campaign. Do you support the repeal of DOMA, if so, how will you make it clear that you are advocating a change in the status of civil, not religious marriage, something marriage equality proponents continue to conflate even though the U.S. has a clear separation between church and state, with the repeal of DOMA not affecting any church’s belief systems on religious marriage.

If you do not support the repeal of DOMA, state why you believe that separate-but-equal status such as civil unions will be workable in practice? Note that this is something that has not been found to be the case in NJ. which has civil unions and civil marriage on the books and a state panel to track the matter determined civil unions only confused citizens and they were not treated as equivalent to civil marriage by many businesses as well.


Pam Spaulding: For readers: You can queue up questions and barista Autumn Sandeen and I can release them so we don’t have them all released at the same time.


[Comment From Bill Patrick]

If you get past the primary, what will you do to offset the look-a-like image of a John Edwards Jr? The GOP I am sure will throw that out there to the uneducated voters


Cal Cunningham: You are right. The right wing really stirs up prejudice and intolerance. I particularly had some engaging conversations with Mitchell Gold and his Faith in America initiative about how we speak the language of tolerance. He shares some compelling stories in his book Crisis about teenagers wrestling with their identities and the compounding effect that intolerance can have on young people recognizing who they are.

That’s why I believe we need to support full and equal federal recognition of committed same sex relationships, including equal rights of survivorship, inheritance, Social Security, FMLA, and the ending of tax and health plan inequalities. We should reserve to States and faith institutions the characterization and imprimatur they place on committed same sex relationships, as a growing portion of the North Carolina electorate embraces equality before the law.


Cal Cunningham: On John Edwards? I’ve NEVER paid more than 20 bucks for a haircut and it was 5 dollars with a tip in Iraq.


Cal Cunningham: I’ve got my own unique story to tell and experiences to bring to the U.S. Senate.


Pam Spaulding: So is that a yes or no on repeal of DOMA, for clarity’s sake.


Autumn Sandeen: I’m among the many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender veterans who’ve served our country. I personally identify as transgender. I served 20-years in the U.S. Navy, and I’m a disabled, Persian Gulf War veteran with a 100% VA Disability rating. My disabilities, like many veteras coming back from the wars of Iraq and Afganistan, are mostly mental health related, and they’re service connected. May I ask your take on veterans issues (which are the important issues to you, etc.), especially relating to disabled veterans and LGBT veterans who may have dificulties accessing assistance in the VA system?

[Comment From Guest]

lol..i was also wondering that. sounds like you do NOT support doma repeal


Cal Cunningham: Autumn, I know you’ve had a busy week. First of all, thank you for your service. We must address the shortfall in VA funding. As a veteran myself, I am acutely aware of the need to make certain that our service men and women receive the health, educational, and transition assistance benefits they have EARNED through their sacrifice for our nation. Our VA must do a better job of making these benefits easily accessible to all veterans, and certainly focus on the particular needs of LGBT vets. We have hundreds of thousands of our disabled vets waiting an average of 8 months to have their disability claims ruled on. Meanwhile, every night more than 200,000 veterans go to sleep homeless. It is a moral imperative that we take better care of our veterans in this country, and I will make it a top priority of mine in the U.S. Senate.


Autumn Sandeen: Thank you.


Pam Spaulding: Q: Explain to readers your LGBT-releated positions during your tenure in the North Carolina legislature. You did not co-sponsor the hate crimes bill here, nor did you co-sponsor the repeal of the crimes against nature (sodomy) statute. Do you regret this/ would have considered it today?……


Autumn Sandeen: (And yes, I did have a busy week!)


Cal Cunningham: DOMA institutionalizes discrimination against committed same sex couples. I am committed to legislation that ends this type of discrimination in all of those fields that I described above.


Pam Spaulding: Thank you, Cal.


[Comment From dieter]

ok, then why no support for the two items mentioned above in the past?..why the sudden change of heart regarding disrimination?


[Comment From chrisl]

Hi Cal, here in Canada, we have equal marriage, some branches of various religions will solemnize them and others of the same religions choose not to. The state uses simple rules of marital status, age and competencey the mark the legal institution.


Pam Spaulding: Q: Where do you stand on Uniting American Families Act? UAFA being a measure to allow all bi-national married couples the same immigration right to be together that straight couples are allowed.


Pam Spaulding: I wanted to make sure this question got in because many, many readers are in this legal limbo, and this issue is often overlooked, and is part of what should be included in immigration reform.


Cal Cunningham: I support and would have voted for the current Hate Crimes Bill that Richard Burr opposed. Unfortunately in the Senate, those bills were not taken up for consideration by a committee that I was serving on. As you note, those bills had only one co-sponsor apiece, and, to be frank, they were not moving through the legislative process at the time.


Cal Cunningham: I believe we must address UAFA as part of comprehensive immigration reform.


Pam Spaulding: Q: Bob McDonnell won in Virginia by really downplaying his anti-LGBT record and focusing on economic issues etc. Will you call your opponent out if he tries to throw down the gay card and not let him minimize his anti-LGBT record.


Comment From chrisl]

Do You believe that would work for your constituants?


[Comment From Mark Kleinschmidt]

Cal, I just want to thank you for participating in this discussion.


[Comment From Bill Patrick]

I noticed your consultant told the Washington Post that with an African American and a Female in the Primary, it is hard to rasie cash. You have the national endorsement. But seems to be slacking off. How will you combat to raise cash in the final week?


Cal Cunningham: I know that UAFA is an issue that Jake Gellar-Goad has been asking the candidates and I appreciate his interest in the issue.


Pam Spaulding: Speaking of Jake, I have included a couple of his Qs to ask tonight if he didn’t show up. And a big hello to Mark Kleinschmidt, the wonderful (openly gay) mayor of Chapel Hill, the town that makes Jesse Helms roll in his grave.


Cal Cunningham: I will do so. If I am the Democratic nominee, there will be a clear choice in this election between Richard Burr’s record(0% rating from HRC) and my positions on ensuring equality and eliminating discrimination in our laws. We intend to hold Richard Burr accountable for his record of being out of touch with North Carolina and pursuing policies that hurt people.


Pam Spaulding: Q from Jake Gellar-Goad: I’d like to hear your stance on Voter Owned Elections/Publicly Financed Campaigns. After working on Mark Kleinschmidt’s Mayoral Campaign and supporting Penny Rich’s Town Council campaign and seeing them each having less money over all, but still able to win the most votes in their respective categories as voter owned candidates I think I’d like to see more of this at all levels of government. And on a somewhat related note of election reform and I wonder where you stand on efforts of those like Congressman David Price and Alan Grayson to introduce sunshine legislation following the recent SCOTUS ruling?


Cal Cunningham: That last response was in reference to the McDonnell question.


Pam Spaulding: Thanks, Cal.


Cal Cunningham: Hello to Mayor Mark who I went to law school with and proudly supported for mayor.


[Comment From dieter]

if it’s true that cal thinks that having an african american and a woman running means that as a white guy he can’t catch a break money wise, then that’s all I need to hear…lol

Cal Cunningham: Back to Jake’s question:

We need to make sure that the voices of the people are heard, not the dollars of special interests. The first bill I cosponsored in the State Senate was a ban on unlimited soft money contributions in our state elections. I helped write the law for our voter owned elections.

I believe our system of elections is broken and needs serious reform. The Citizens United ruling was wrong, and we must find a legislative remedy to fix it. First, we must confirm a Justice to the Supreme Court to replace Justice Stevens who believes in and values our Constitution, not corporations. Then, we must address the ruling by passing legislation that will require corporate CEOs to “stand by their ad” just like candidates do, and pass shareholder oversight to limit the ability of CEOs to buy our elections.


Pam Spaulding: On foreign policy: Q: As Senator, how would you handle the issue of LGBT rights and U.S. policy and aid when it comes to virulently anti-gay countries such as Uganda, which is considering legislation that would criminalize homosexuality and punishment includes imprisonment, and at one point execution, for simply being gay. It also criminalizes any open support for or affiliation with someone who is gay.


Cal Cunningham: Also I am encouraged by the bipartisan DISCLOSE Act that should be filed this week in Congress.


Cal Cunningham: Regarding Dieter’s question:

I completely disagree. I am proud of the Democratic field we have assembled and I believe that neither race nor gender should be a factor in the decision making by voters-or donors, for that matter. Elaine Marshall, Ken Lewis, Marcus Williams, Ann Worthy, Susan Harris are all fine Democrats. All of them would be a dramatic improvement on Richard Burr. I’ll be proud to work hard to beat Richard Burr in November, regardless of who wins the primary. One thing’s for sure, we have a highly competitive primary filled with good candidates.


Pam Spaulding: Q: The President recently signed a Presidential Memo granting the right of an individual to say who is allowed hospital visitation and designate a person to make medical decisions for them. This allows equal access for LGBT partners. This memo would also expire when the President leaves office. Would you favor that Congress take up legislation that makes this right permanent?


Cal Cunningham: Couple more questions?


Pam Spaulding: Q: What do you propose should be done on a federal level to deal with the issue of the grossly disproportionate numbers of LGBT teens among America’s homeless youth and their frequent difficulties in obtaining services?


Cal Cunningham: The Presidential Memo? My answer is yes.


Pam Spaulding: Q: What do you see as your main strategy in terms of defeating Burr, who has deep pockets of special interests to try to mask his ineffectiveness and actions against the working people of NC? His record is so poor on so many matters, where do you begin — the stimulus money he opposed then promoted when he came home?


Pam Spaulding: I wouldn’t know where to begin.


Cal Cunningham: On Uganda: The United States must make clear through our actions that our own values do not tolerate discrimination. First, we must lead by example by ending DADT and passing ENDA. In all of our diplomacy, we must show that our nation believes in equality and freedom from persecution.


[Comment From dieter]

thank you for clearing that up.


Pam Spaulding: Q: What are your thoughts on the conservative turn of Wake County School Board and its elimination of its diversity policy? This is not a unique situation, it’s happening around the country and it inevitably leads to division by color and class.


Pam Spaulding: Q from Jake Gellar-Goad: This question is probably the most important to me of all the ones that have been asked. Will you use your answers here to craft language to put onto your website and expand your civil rights section?


Cal Cunningham: First, I am realistic that we must first settle this primary, come together as a party, and then raise the money to run a highly competitive race. We intend to make clear to North Carolina voters that Richard Burr’s record has been harmful to our families and community. He has voted 18 times to ship our jobs overseas, and has taken millions upon millions of dollars from special interests. That’s why I’ve been clearly laying out this stakes of this election in my TV commercials that highlight Senator Burr’s 18 votes to ship our jobs overseas.


Pam Spaulding: Q: Why has the campaign used the Replacements Ltd PAC endorsement in a manner that suggests it is representative of LGBT support if the process was non-competitive? Perhaps you would have come out on top anyway but it diminishes the endorsement otherwise.


Cal Cunningham: On Wake County?

Diversity has made this country great. I strongly disagree with the Wake County School Board, and was heartened to hear that Governor Perdue will work to make certain we maintain diversity in our public schools in Wake County. I am proud to be endorsed by the North Carolina Association of Educators who also recognize this.


Pam Spaulding: Q: As I’m sure you are aware, North Carolina joined the growing number of states with LGBT inclusive anti-school bullying laws last year, and I wondered if you would support such a measure nationally?


Cal Cunningham: I have competed for a lot of endorsements including the HRC endorsement and any other group that was willing to meet with me. I am proud of Replacements LTD support but also respect those who have endorsed other candidates.


Pam Spaulding: Just to keep up, we have pending questions out there on 1) updating the web site with answers from tonight, 2) services for homeless LGBT youth


Cal Cunningham: I really have appreciated the chance to be on here and welcome any further questions you all have. Feel free to contact the office at I’ve got to run to my next event. Thanks again Pam for putting this together.


Pam Spaulding: Thank you. We will forward any other questions people leave here to the campaign.


[Comment From Mark Kleinschmidt]

I’m proudly going to vote for Cal. Not only do I trust his position on the issues concerning our community. I think he is our best shot to bring Burr home and end his 6 yr assault on Our rights.


Pam Spaulding: And I’m going to proudly vote for Elaine Marshall, as I noted in my endorsement last week. However, we encourage all voters and contributors to do their homework, weigh each candidate’s positions on ALL issues, and most of all, get out and vote. Our goal here at the Blend was to get the top candidates on the record, something that didn’t happen in 2008. Thanks everyone for participating.


Autumn Sandeen:  Well, I want to say thanks to Cal Cunningham for participating here. Very appreciated.

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