Friday, August 10, 2007

LGBT Democratic Presidential Debate on LOGO

Barak Obama saying Goodbye to Melissa Ethridge and Joe Solomonese at LOGO event (AP).

The Democratic Presidential Candidate Debate which was featured on LOGO August 9 yesterday evening represented a milestone in the struggle for Gay Rights in America (USA). Journalist Margaret Carlson moderated the event. I was glad she was chosen as she did a good job crystalizing the issues. I am not convinced the three people interviewing the candidates were the best choices, although I felt Jonathan Capehart who is familiar to me was the most competent questioner. Melissa Ethridge's presence made the experience fun and her very heartfelt question to Hillary about the Clinton administration letting LGBT people down which felt to her "like being shoved over by a bus" was a highpoint of the debate. Having a small audience comprised of handpicked LGBT persons thought to represent a variety of interests in the LGBT community appeared to be one way to represent the community but it felt too staged to me. Each candidate was interviewed by the three questioners individually and in order of when the candidate responded to the LOGO request to appear on LOGO. In spite of my splitting hairs on this aspect of the debate, the discussion did prove to be interesting and entertaining.

I came away from the debate more confused then ever about my position in regard to Hillary Clinton. The way she defended her husband's administration support of DOMA(Defensse of Marriage Act) was really insulting. Clinton had me thinking for a minute that DOMA was a good tactic to keep the Right Wing at bay. I don't really think looking back on that period in history that putting in a right wing solution to keep a more right wing solution from happening is the way any Democrat should go for any reason, at any time.

Dennis Kucinich was perfect as usual in all his responses and I suspect will gain a good bit of support from the non pragmatic segment of the LGBT community that watched LOGO or have knowledge of Kucinich from other arenas. Only the two marginal candidates Mike Gravel and Kucinich support Gay Marriage. The others support some version of Civil Unions. I felt Barak Obama's support of Civil Union was a bit more expansive on the federal level than Hillary's version as she is still talking about keeping DOMA but changing one part of it which I think just might affect our ability to get our mates social security.

John Edwards had a lot information about our community. He was put on the spot by Ethridge about a statement associated with him about his comfort level with Gays. He denied the account and said it was not true. He admitted he had made some mistakes in his defense of himself for not supporting Gay Marriage. He had at one time said his religion was the reason he was against it. Now he disavows that reason as a poor one given he is for separation of Church and State. Hillary came off as very real and direct in her answers. She admitted (paraphrasing) that she could not give us everything we may want but that she would be a good advocate for our cause and make progress on our behalf.

Barak Obama approaches his answers like a college professor which I am. I like him but he is not down to earth enough for me. Perhaps, I miss the fiery intenseness of a Jesse Jackson when he was running for office. I hate it when he says "Look" as a precedent to an answer. I might feel differently if I saw him in person. I hear he can be quite charismatic. I am too afraid he will be co-opted or get run over by his advisers. On the other hand, he does seem more to the left than Hillary on LGBT issues and he seems good on the issue of transparency unlike Hillary who likes to keep everything so close to the cuff and who is acting already so Presidential.

Governor Richardson (New Mexico) was unprepared for some of the questions particularly the setup question that is asked over and over at Gay events "Do you believe Gayness is biological or a choice? I so hate that question. The Governor stupidly said " a choice" but went on to say that he doesn't see Gay peoplel that way, in categories, but as people which wasn't really a half bad answer. Personally, I think some people in the LGBT did make a choice and many others had no choice. I think some feminists made a choice but that is neither here nor there. Certain elements think there can be only one answer and that is we are born that way because if we say choice the right wing and fundamentalists will then say then choose to change and I say why should we not have a choice. As a social scientist who knows nothing has been proved or ever will be proved on the nature/nurture question because the reality is sexual orientation is a complex process involving lots of twists and turns on both ends of the spectrum.

I wish Melissa had not asked the Governor a question about some parasite in New Mexico, that was really just plain silly. Maybe she was trying to put Richardson at ease, trying to relate to him. Interesting that Chris Dodd and Joe Biden were not at the event. Perhaps, too afraid they would come out one down as did Richardson.

Who will I vote for in the primary? Probably Kucinich unless that deep need to go for a woman kicks in on me in the final rounds. Who knows. At least all of the major candidates seem like mostly decent folk who will try their best to move us down the goal line, not far enough, perhaps but farther than I ever dreamed about.

by Sharon Raphael
Long Beach, Ca.