Friday, December 21, 2007

The devil’s in the details: our guide to the candidates

The devil’s in the details: our guide to the candidates

by Laura Kiritsy
associate editor
Wednesday Dec 19, 2007With the Iowa caucuses (Jan. 3) and the New Hampshire primary (Jan. 8) just around the corner, you can’t flip on the television, pick up a newspaper or log on to YouTube without encountering images of a weepy Mitt Romney, Hillary Clinton trying to soften her edges or Rudy Giuliani perusing holiday tchotchkes at a barn in New Hampshire. The pundits are opining endlessly over minutia like whether the fact that John Edwards prefers campaigning in jeans or that Mike Huckabee used to be fat will help or hurt their chances in the presidential sweepstakes. And what of the impact of Oprah’s endorsement of Barack Obama? We’re guessing it’s got more heft than Sen. Joe Lieberman’s nod to candidate Sen. John McCain and Clinton’s endorsement from Babs combined. Obviously, we’re just as guilty of contributing to the media cacophony, especially given the fact that Massachusetts voters will be going to the polls on Feb. 5, about month earlier than we usually do. For the past year, we’ve heard candidates parse, parry, flip-flop, backtrack and nip/tuck their positions on LGBT issues. The Democratic candidates have done this all the while promising to advance a pro-gay agenda: All of the Dem contenders support repealing "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," and parts, or all, of DOMA. With the exception of Congressman Dennis Kucinich and former U.S. senator Mike Gravel, who both support marriage equality, all of the candidates support civil unions. All have expressed support for federal benefits for same-sex partners, immigration equality, trans-inclusive ENDA and hate crimes bills, comprehensive sex education and increased HIV/AIDS funding. Meanwhile, the Republicans for the most part have tried to sugarcoat their anti-gay views with bland statements about tolerance. While it would appear that support for LGBT rights breaks down along party lines our attentions have turned up some little nuggets that might make you wonder. For Democratic voters concerned about LGBT rights maybe it’s time to look more closely at which candidates have actually been able to produce results and been willing to show leadership on the issues. Sure, all of the Dems want to do away with "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," but why haven’t any of the sitting senators in the race introduced a version of a House bill to do just that? Mmmm.For Republican voters concerned about LGBT rights, well, maybe there’s a lesser evil somewhere in the pack. Either way, our handy-dandy guide to the presidential contenders aims to give you a closer look at the candidates. Hope it helps you pick a winner.

The Good: Spoke out on Meet the Press against the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2004. Has never publicly described an LGBT person as "articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy."The Bad: Voted for the Defense of Marriage Act. Has largely been absent from the LGBT community on the campaign trail. Has a yarmulke-sized bald spot - who knew?Quotable: "Our allies - the British, the French, all our major allies - gays openly serve. I don’t know the last time an American soldier said to a backup from a Brit, ’Hey, by the way, let me check. Are you gay? Are you straight?’ This is ridiculous." Spin Control: To Human Rights Campaign’s question about supporting marriage equality, Biden’s campaign said he "believes government has an obligation to ensure that individuals are free from discrimination and that fundamental principle - that freedom and justice should be equally applied to each American - has guided his actions throughout his service as a United State Senator." Then stated that Biden "supports letting states determine how to recognize civil unions and how to define marriage."
ClintonThe Good: Led strategy sessions to defeat the federal marriage amendment in the Senate. Sported a mullet on her recent appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.The Bad: Asked by ABC News if she believed homosexuality is immoral, Clinton responded, "Well, I’m going to leave that to others to conclude." Spent the next few days backtracking. Quotable: "We’re going to make sure that nothing stands in the way of loving couples, gay or straight, who want to adopt children."Spin Control: "We were able to defeat [the FMA] but I don’t know that we could have defeated it if we had not had DOMA. I mean, that is something that, you know, has provided a great protection against what was clearly the Republican strategy blessed by George Bush, led by the congressional Republicans, to just cynically use marriage as a political tool."

The Good: Though Dodd did not participate in the Logo network’s LGBT forum last August reportedly because of a schedule conflict, he posted his answers to the questions that were asked of other candidates at the forum on his website afterward. Touts his 100 percent rating on Human Rights Campaign Congressional Scorecard.The Bad: Voted for the Defense of Marriage Act. Gives off bad John Kerry vibes when he regularly prefaces his support for civil unions with the statement, "I believe marriage is between a man and a woman."Quotable: "Before you answer the question of how you feel about the rights of people who are gay or lesbian ask yourself ... how would I want my children or grandchildren treated if that’s the sexual orientation they have?"Spin Control: Has used some variation of the above quote a million times on the stump.
EdwardsThe Good: Has aggressively courted the LGBT vote throughout his campaign, most recently in a meeting with N.H. Freedom to Marry Coalition. Says that his universal healthcare plan will cover hormone treatment for trans people.The Bad: Campaign used occasion of Ann Coulter calling him a "faggot" to raise cash with fundraising letter that made no mention of gay people. Affirmatively answered a question about whether he’d support a staff member transitioning on the job without ever using the word "transgender."Quotable: "The kids who go to public schools need to understand why same-sex couples are the parents of some of the children, they need to understand that these are American families just like every American family."Spin Control: Buffers his opposition to marriage equality by noting his wife Elizabeth supports it, as in, "A lot of people I love and care about feel the same way Elizabeth does. I’m very strong about ending discrimination against gay and lesbian couples. But I’m not quite where Elizabeth is yet."

lThe Good: The only presidential candidate to march in this year’s San Francisco Pride Parade. Has actually uttered the word "transgender" on TV.The Bad: Did not participate in San Francisco’s Dyke March. Poll numbers still hovering around 1 percent. Quotable: "Love between a man and a woman is love. Love between a man and a man is love. Love between a woman and a woman is love. What this country needs is a hell of a lot more love than it has."Spin Control: Not really. To wit: "It’s sort of ironic that we see the gay community supporting people like Hillary, Obama, Edwards, who for some reason can’t get their arms around [same-sex] marriage."
KucinichThe Good: The only current federal office holder in the race co-sponsoring bill to repeal "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell." Has also been known to use the word "transgender." Has the hottest spouse on the campaign trail.The Bad: Although in his second bid for the presidency, has roughly the same poll numbers as Mike Gravel.Quotable: "I can’t imagine what it would be like to have met the love of my life and to have such a depth of feeling for her and then be told that no, you can’t be married, because there’s a certain rule or law that won’t let that happen. That would be devastating."Spin Control: "I feel the need to point something out to you, although I’m hopeful it’s not going to take that long, but I was elected to Congress on my fifth try."

The Good: Recently met with N.H. Freedom to Marry Coalition instead of hanging with Oprah after their Granite State campaign swing. Bested Hillary in public catfight for the support of gay music mogul David Geffen.The Bad: When asked if he thought homosexuality was immoral, hopped in a car and drove away. Pissed off the gays by putting gospel singer Donnie "God delivered me from homosexuality!" McClurkin on his African American gospel music tour, then tried to atone by adding a white gay pastor to the bill.Quotable: "There are good, decent, moral people in this country who do not yet embrace their gay brothers and sisters as full members of our shared community. We will not secure full equality for all GLBT Americans until we learn how to address that deep disagreement and move beyond it. To achieve that goal, we must state our beliefs boldly, bring the message of equality to audiences that have not yet accepted it, and listen to what those audiences have to say in return."Spin Control: "My basic belief is that marriage ... connotes to so many people a religious and not just civil element - and that includes me by the way - that it’s going to be very hard to build consensus around the idea of extending marriage - using that term - to all people, including those who are same-sex."
RichardsonThe Good: Has a strong record on LGBT issues as governor of New Mexico, including signing a trans-inclusive non-discrimination bill. Now says he regrets voting for DOMA as a congressman in 1996. Confessed at an HRC event that he’s a Trekkie and that George Takei, an openly gay man, is his hero.The Bad: Laid an egg at Logo’s LGBT issues forum ("It’s a choice!" he said of homosexuality), then spent the next few days on the LGBT media circuit trying to recover. Quotable: "We are fed up with Karl Rove’s machinations and Ann Coulter’s ignorant epithets. Actually we’re fed up with Ann Coulter, period."Spin Control: Of his DOMA vote: "[A]t that time the objective in passing DOMA was to fight a huge assault for a constitutional amendment in the Congress to ban marriage. It was sort of a cheap political way to decimate a bad initiative."

The Good: As NYC mayor signed sweeping domestic partnership legislation, marched in city Pride parade and hosted an annual Pride event at Gracie Mansion. Co-signed letter to President Bush in 2001 urging him to cover same-sex domestic partners with 9/11 victims compensation fund. Dressed in drag, he let Donald Trump nuzzle his breasts. The Bad: Icky taste in men. Has flip-flopped on support for civil unions and a federal hate crimes bill. Hasn’t talked up his mayoral record on LGBT issues on the campaign trail as much as his endorsement from anti-gay fundie Pat Robertson.Quotable: On signing DP benefits into NYC law, he said, "I’m proud of it. I think it puts New York City ahead of other places in the country."Spin Control: "I do not believe under the state that presently exists, with the Defense of Marriage Act and basically one state that has by judicial fiat created same-sex marriage, I don’t think we need a constitutional amendment at this point. If a lot of states start to do that - five or six states - then we should have a constitutional amendment."

The Good: Is pissing off Mitt Romney big time with his recent surge in the polls.The Bad: As Arkansas governor, signed one of the first DOMA laws and campaigned for the state’s constitutional amendment. Also supported that state’s efforts to outlaw gay adoption. Says he would "lead - not just support, but lead -" on passing a federal marriage amendment. Has called homosexuality "aberrant, unnatural and sinful." Once suggested that Madonna and Liz Taylor, rather than the feds, fund AIDS research.Quotable: "I miss the America I grew up in where the Gideons gave Bibles to fifth graders instead of school nurses giving condoms to eighth graders."Spin Control: "I don’t think the issue’s about being against gay marriage. It’s about being for traditional marriage and articulating the reason that’s important. You have to have a basic family structure. There’s never been a civilization that has rewritten what marriage and family means and survived."

The Good: Hates illegal immigration more than he hates the gays. Polling at the bottom of the GOP heap.The Bad: Overall, a rabid right-winger. Cosponsored the federal Protection of Marriage Amendment. Voted to ban gay adoption in D.C. Ann Coulter loves him.Quotable: "[M]ost Americans, most kids who leave that breakfast table and go out and serve in the military ... most of them are conservatives. And they have conservative values, and they have Judeo-Christian values. And to force those people to work in a small, tight unit with somebody who is openly homosexual, who goes against what they believe to be their principles - and it is their principles - is I think a disservice to them."Spin Control: Not exactly. To wit: "That confidence that marriage gives our children, that moms and dad gives our children, can’t be duplicated by government. We need a constitutional amendment to maintain their marriage."

The Good: Delivered eulogy at the funeral of Mark Bingham, an openly gay man who died in the 9/11 attacks. Has consistently opposed a federal marriage amendment. The Bad: Endorsed Arizona’s constitutional amendment. Got told off by a New Hampshire high school student who didn’t like McCain’s opposition to civil unions, gay marriage or his support for "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell."Quotable: "I think that gay marriage should be allowed, if there’s a ceremony kind of thing, if you want to call it that, I don’t have any problem with that but I do believe in preserving the sanctity of a union between man and woman." Spin Control: "I’ve not known most of the Republican Party as being intolerant. I think that my party practices toleration and there’s some people who are entitled to their views on [gay issues], but overall the policy of the Republican Party has been inclusive."

The Good: Opposes the federal marriage amendment. Looks an awful lot like out actor Sir Ian McKellen.The Bad: Voted to ban gay adoption in D.C. Has said he would have voted for DOMA. Original cosponsor of the Marriage Protection Act, a bill to prevent federal courts from hearing challenges to DOMA.Quotable: "For every homosexual problem that we have in the military, we have a heterosexual problem in the military."Spin Control: "They can do whatever they want and they can call it whatever they want, just so they don’t expect to impose their relationship on somebody else. They can’t make me personally accept what they do but gay couples can do whatever they want."
RomneyThe Good: Ha!The Bad: Where to start? Has reversed course on every pro-gay pledge he’s ever made. Hires illegal immigrants to mow his lawn, fired gays from his gubernatorial administration. Quotable: "I would not have a pink house, I assure you."Spin Control: "If you’re looking for someone who’s never changed any positions on any policies, then I’m not your guy."

The Good: Hates illegal immigration even more than Duncan Hunter. Is polling only slightly higher than Hunter. The Bad: Says that without a federal marriage amendment, legal recognition of bigamous, polygamous and incestuous relationships will ensue. Voted to ban gay adoption in D.C. Quotable: "You have to remember that we are always just one kooky judge away from actually having homosexual marriage forced on all the rest of us, because of the [full faith and credit] clause in the U.S. Constitution."Spin Control: "Activist courts have ignored the principal legal argument that the state’s interest in marriage is procreation. Population is power. Society needs a young generation to defend the country in battle, to support its programs with taxes and to carry on its culture and traditions."

The Good: It’s a toss-up: Opposes federal marriage amendment. But wants constitutional amendment that would prevent judges from legalizing same-sex marriage while allowing for legislatively enacted marriage equality.The Bad: Recently came out in support of Florida’s 2008 anti-gay marriage referendum. Guest-starred on Roseanne, was mean to her. As U.S. senator voted for DOMA, against ENDA and hate crimes bills.Quotable: "Factually, the Judeo-Christian heritage of the United States is certainly factual."Spin Control: "I think we ought to be tolerant people. But we shouldn’t set up special categories for anybody. And I’m for the rights of everybody, including gays, but not any special rights."

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