Before I get too deep into this rant, I guess I should first take a few moments to acknowledge the progress that LGBT folks have made. Six presidential candidates consented to a Presidential forum sponsored by HRC and Logo. (It’s not a surprise that no Republicans participated.) So, compared with previous campaigns, when we’ve had to settle for even smaller crumbs, this represents many steps forward.
That being said, I can’t help but be disappointed in the overall response from the candidates, with a few notable exceptions. Here are some impressions:
- Biggest Disappointment: Bill Richardson. I previously believed Richardson to be more evolved in his views on gay rights and gay marriage. This poor lost soul just kept digging himself deeper into a hole.
- Biggest Mixed Message: Barack Obama. I’ve been a fan of Obama’s since he came on the scene. And I have great respect for his attempts to bring some dignity back to the political process and some hope back to the American people. But, like with several of the candidates at the forum, his appearance seemed a little calculated. This appearance, like other recent appearances of his, revealed that he needs some consciousness-raising.
- Biggest “If-Only”: Dennis Kucinich. This man has the most common-sense approach to gay issues, and most other issues, as well. If only he were 6’2″ with a lantern jaw, he’d be president.
- Biggest Resignation: Hillary Clinton’s inevitable candidacy. Don’t get me wrong. The nation could do a lot worse than with Mrs. Clinton (like with any of the festering tragedies on the Republican side). But Hillary is a polarizing figure, and she’s bound to inspire the wrath of the right wing as we get closer to the election. Silly me. I was actually hoping for a little harmony. (I’m really too old to be this naive.)
- Biggest Unasked Question: “If you don’t support gay marriage, what will you do to ensure that all of the same rights are afforded to all U.S. citizens?” I have to take the panel to task for not holding all of the candidates’ feet to the fire a little more. The right wants to frame the gay marriage issue in a variety of ways, none of which are an accurate representation. They either want to blur the lines between church and state, and impose a particular religious view on others, or they characterize gay marriage as a frivolous issue, as if gay people are merely fighting for the right to register our china patterns at Macy’s. The Democrats, sadly, capitulate to these mischaracterizations all too frequently.The much broader reality of the gay marriage issue is that GLBT people only have a subset of the rights afforded to heterosexual Americans. The gay marriage fight is one attempt to help even the playing field. So when the debate’s moderators failed to dig deeper on this issue and re-frame it in the context of equality, they gave the candidates an escape hatch. How can we expect the Democrats to step up if we don’t even raise the issues?