Friday, August 10, 2007

A Different World

Last night, six Democratic Presidential candidates participated in a televised forum (click the link to watch) that discussed an issue often avoided in most campaigns - homosexuality. (LOGO, the channel that broadcast the forum, offered the same screen time to Republican candidates, and they all declined. Shocking, I know.) Fielding questions from a panel including Melissa Etheridge, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, Joe Solmonese and Jonathan Capehart, a writer for the Washington Post, the Democratic Presidential hopefuls who participated (all except Chris Dodd and Joe Biden) expressed their positions on gay rights once and for all.

And what are those positions? All support civil unions, hope to repeal the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy and support a ban on anti-gay discrimination in the work place. John Edwards apologized for previously aligning his position on homosexuality with his religion; Hillary Clinton spoke of her "honest effort" to work towards gay rights during her husband's time in office; Barack Obama likened the plight of the LGBT community to the struggle faced by African-Americans during the civil rights movement; Bill Richardson (upon removing his foot from his mouth after suggesting that homosexuality was a choice) rattled off his relatively short list of pro-gay accomplishments as governor of New Mexico. The only outright support of total equality came from the two candidates least likely to ever find themselves elected to the White House, Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel.

There were no real surprises. No radical pledges of sweeping reform. In fact, most of the candidates were surrounded by what was unmistakably a giant, impenetrable forcefield of gray. Questions were danced around and only half answered, John Edwards tossed his hair around and I'm sure Hillary Clinton's campaign song was playing on a loop in her head the entire time - all in all, a regular stop on the campaign trail. But the purpose of the stop (to discuss gay rights) and it's participants (individuals who stand a real chance of becoming the next President), when put together, is entirely irregular. A high profile, nationally televised conversation about a political hush point is a huge step towards progress in this country, and however lackluster the performance of the candidates, the simple fact that it happened, even if it was only Democrats, is fantastic. Brian Graden, the president of LOGO, summed it up best: "Simply seeing the candidates step on a stage to speak to a national gay television audience may be as moving as anything they say." Indeed.

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