Who wants to give Dennis Kucinich a big bear hug? The Ohio-born Congressman definitely “felt the love” last night at the Logo/HRC gay forum.
The diminutive Kucinich left the crowd wanting more, Senator Hillary Clinton left people cheering and poor Governor Bill Richardson, meanwhile, left us scratching our heads.
Barack Obama started it all, his prize for agreeing to the forum first. The Senator from Illinois strolled up to the casual, Oprah-esque stage and stayed cool as a cucumber while discussing the division between church and state. And, like all the “different” candidates, made sure to emphasize his outsider status:
Well, it is my strong belief that the government has to treat all citizens equally. I come from that in part out of personal experience. When you’re a black guy named Barack Obama, you know what it’s like to be on the outside. And so my concern is continually to make sure that the rights that are conferred by the state are equal for all people.
I am a strong supporter not of a weak version of civil unions, but of a strong version, in which the rights that are conferred at the federal level to persons of — you know, who are part of the same sex union are compatible. Now, as a consequence, I don’t think that the church should be making these determinations when it comes to legal rights conferred by the state.
Obama must have been listening to Irene Monroe, because he made sure to point out that his particular church – United Church of Christ – thinks the gays are a-ok.
If Obama believes in equal rights, why not support marriage? He attempts to explain himself:
…My view is that we should try to disentangle what has historically been the issue of the word “marriage,” which has religious connotations to some people…
…Semantics may be important to some. From my perspective, what I’m interested is making sure that those legal rights are available to people.
Alright, then, why don’t you do it?
One of the most intriguing questions posed came from Jonathan Capehart, who asked Obama how he’ll deal with homophobia in black communities. Like all good politicians, Obama made sure to reference an earlier reference to fighting homophobia in black communities. He also betrayed his straightness when he described gays as a “political football,” an analogy that went over our heads.
…My job as a leader, not just of African-Americans but hopefully as a leader of Americans, is to tell the truth, which is this has been a political football that’s been used. It is unfortunate. It’s got to stop. And when it stops, we will then be able to address the legitimate and serious concerns that face the black family.
In addition to ending the ugly game of anti-gay politics, the handsome politico became obviously uncomfortable when asked about comparisons between black and gay struggles. “I’m always very cautious about getting into comparisons of victimology.” Obama also made clear he’s not talking about gay rights because “it’s convenient”. He does it for the bitches. And the equal rights under the law.
Breast cancer provided a convenient segue for rocker Melissa Etheridge’s interrogation of Senator John Edwards. The rocker and Edwards’ wife, Elizabeth, both had breast cancer, which prompted Etheridge to ask about equal health rights, which Edwards supports. He also supports gay homeless teens, perhaps more of Irene Monroes influence? The lesbian reverend recently worried homeless gay teens would get cut from the subject list. We’re sure she’s proud of Edwards.
We’re all proud Edwards accepted an invitation to slam Ann Coulter, who made more than a few headlines for calling Edwards a faggot earlier this year.
I think that what Ann Coulter does is the worst kind of public discourse. I think she demeans everything that all the rest of us do — and I think it is — I think it is intended to out — to get — to go to the lowest common denominator in the American people and to divide us.
The idea of reuniting America ran through nearly all the candidates’ discourse, but seemed especially powerful coming from Edwards. It must have been the accent.
It should come as no surprise that Edwards’ faith come up in the conversation. The lawyer once said that his Southern Baptist upbringing led to an internal gay marriage struggle. Well, he abandoned that right quick when Solmonese inquired, “I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit about what is it within your religion that’s leading you to this position? ” Edwards owned up to his mistake right quick – or what he wants you to think he thinks was a mistake:
Well, you know, I have to tell you, I shouldn’t have said that, because first of all my — first of all, I believe, to my core, in equality.
I will not impose my faith belief on the American people. I don’t believe any president of the United States should do that. I believe in the separation of church and state.
We heard to words, but somehow we didn’t quite believe it. Maybe Edwards’ squirming and apparent – and denied – discomfort distracted us.
Love machine Dennis Kucinich – one of the two candidates who support gay marriage – came out next. We would love to put all of our notes in picture form, because Kucinich’s adorable display nearly defies words. The Ohio politico came out smiling, as one does, and offered a hippie-flavored explanation for his gay marriage “love”:
…This is really a question of whether you really believe in equality. I mean I see the “equal” sign there, and I have that same sign in my office in Washington, D.C. And imagine that “equal” sign inside a heart. Because what we’re really talking about here is human love. And there’s no power on this Earth greater than human love.
Love bug Kucinich stayed political when asked about the other candidates’ anti-nuptial stance, “I stand for real equality…” He didn’t seem to stand for anything during his closing remarks, during which he froze for a few seconds before again ejaculating his verbal love all over the room, giving himself a symbolic group hug and making his way out.
Mike Gravel, the other candidate who supports gay marriage, came out and, we must say, proved to be the night’s winner. It wasn’t simply what Gravel said, but how he said it. More than any other candidate, the former Alaska Senator really seemed to connect with the audience. No doubt he won some support when he called out his “white, straight, male” peers who continues to discriminate against gays. And some of the atheists in the audience creamed when Gravel took on spiritually-motivated politics:
I resent religion saying that [marriage is] a religious term. It’s not. Marriage preceded all forms of religion in civilization. Marriage is a commitment between two human beings in love. And understand me; I’m saying two human beings.
Never one to mince words, Gravel had something to say about his fellow candidates:
They’re playing it safe. They’re not going to earn — they’re not going to lose any votes over not being for marriage, whatever their excuses are. They’re going to win. This is costing votes for us. I don’t care. I don’t want those votes.
Oh, Mike Gravel, you beautiful crank of a man, we love you! If Gravel and Kucinich teamed up, America would be thrown back to the 1960s, only without all the strife and war. Just flower power and happenings, man.
Man, oh man, did Governor Bill Richardson stink or what? Definitely the big loser of the debate, Richardson dropped jaws when he stumbled over what should be the most simple of questions: is homosexuality a choice. Richardson stumbled, which prompted Etheridge to rephrase her question. He did no better the second time around:
ME: Do you think homosexuality is a choice, or is it biological?
BR: It’s a choice. It’s — [Note: official transcript says “it’s,” we heard “yes”.]
ME: I don’t know if you understand the question. (Soft laughter.) Do you think I — a homosexual is born that way, or do you think that around seventh grade we go, “Ooh, I want to be gay”?
BR: Well, I — I’m not a scientist. It’s — you know, I don’t see this as an issue of science or definition. I see gays and lesbians as people as a matter of human decency. I see it as a matter of love and companionship and people loving each other. You know I don’t like to categorize people. I don’t like to, like, answer definitions like that that, you know, perhaps are grounded in science or something else that I don’t understand.
His fragile popularity shattered, we’re sure.
Richardson wanted to point out to voters, however, that he’s sorry for having voted for the Defense of Marriage Act during the Clinton administration. He hopes his positive work as New Mexico Governor – including comprehensive hate crime and non-discrimination laws – can counteract the damage done by DOMA. It’s a start, to be sure.
So, what of that infamous “Maricon Moment,” when Richardson uttered the Spanish word for “faggot” while on Don Imus’ since canceled radio show? Richardson takes full responsibility and, yes, reminded readers that he’s Latino, which is almost like being gay, only he doesn’t suck dick.
I’m Hispanic. I felt the sting as a kid of being stereotyped. And I apologized but I meant no harm when I said that. It was, you know, one of those exchanges that I was caught off guard. No, I am not backing off. I apologize, but I think you should look at my actions and not words.
Actions do speak louder than words, but that doesn’t mean the words aren’t important.
Richardson seemed to be at a loss of words when Solmonese busted his balls over marriage. Richardson famously called a special New Mexico legislative meeting to pass domestic partnerships – a move many saw as political posturing – but the bill lost by one vote. Solmonese hinted at the political cache of Richardson’s oft-referenced vote before taking him to task:
JS: …If the New Mexico legislature handed you a marriage bill, would you sign it?
BR: (Short pause.) The New Mexico legislature, I am pushing it very hard to expand domestic partnership. It’s the same thing, Joe. It’s a question of going through a path that is achievable.
That’s a fairly nonsensical answer, if you ask us, which you tacitly do. Solmonese asked what Richardson would do if handed a marriage bill and Richardson says we need to stay realistic. Richardson failed to realize it wasn’t a question about legislative action, but core convictions. Now we know where Richardson stands, huh?
Last but certainly not least, we got ourselves a bit of Hillary Clinton. The front runner amongst gays and Democrats, Clinton seemed the most comfortable on stage, laughing and charming the pants and panties off the crowd. “I’m your girl,” she laughed with Margaret Carlson.
Not surprisingly, Clinton had to defend her past stances on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which her husband implemented, an issue she claims ranks as one of her top concerns.
…It’s one of my highest priorities. I came out against don’t ask/don’t tell in 1999. It was a transitional action that was taken back at the beginning of my husband’s administration because at the time, there was such a witch hunt going on. …We have moved a long way on this and other issues.
Clinton also believe the country has moved on the issue of marriage, which the Republicans once brandished as a weapon, but the majority of people seem to realize they were duped. As the tides change, Clinton says, she’s sure we as Ameicans can get more rights.
Clinton wrapped up by clarifying her post Peter Pace stumble. She initially took a neutral stance after Pace called gays “immoral,” but rapidly shifted gears after gay activists criticized her wishy-washy answer. Clinton released a more harsh statement the next day, “I should have put it in a broader context.”
The Senator garnered even more cheers after humanizing gay rights:
And I want to be a president who can clearly say to the American people, you know, these are our friends, our children, our parents; these are people who we want to support as they live the best lives they can.
The question remains, however: can we trust Hillary Clinton?
We’re not sure, but she did come off as one of the top contenders after last night, using her hag magic to work the crowd. While most of the candidates whored themselves a bit, we have to admit we’re pleasantly surprised with how the forum’s played out. No new issues were raised, but we got a good long look at the major issues facing gay communities – and heard where the candidates stand, or don’t stand, on our civil rights.
Now, if only we could figure out how to get Kucinich’s love out of our hair.