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    April 28, 2007

    Another blunder for Bill?

    Posted by: Chris

    Billrichardson Is Bill Richardson getting bad advice? The New Mexico governor has a strong record on gay rights and support for minorities but in recent days he's sending all the wrong signals.

    There was his gaffe on Thursday, when he said during the first debate among Democrats running for president that Byron "Whizzer" White was his "model Supreme Court justice" — even though White authored the anti-choice dissent in Roe vs. Wade and anti-gay majority opinion in Bowers vs. Hardwick.

    Then, when given the opportunity to at least partially disavow his support for the Defense of Marriage Act — he did not do so.  Here's an excerpt from his interview in the May 8 issue of the Advocate (which I couldn't find available online):

    In 1996, when you were in Congress, you voted for the Defense of Marriage Act. Do you stand by that vote? Yes, I do. I'm for civil unions, and I've got the strongest record of any governor in protecting gay rights, in nondiscrimination, in transgender [issues].

    It's not entirely clear, since the interview doesn't go into detail, whether Richardson views his DOMA vote as simply a reflection of his opposition to gay marriage, or whether he really stands by each of DOMA's two provisions: (1) allowing one state to refuse recognition of another state's gay marriages; and (2) prohibiting federal recognition of gay marriages.

    In the same interview, Richardson twice suggests that as president he would push for "domestic partnership rights" and "a domestic partnership act."  Again there's no detail, and Richardson could just be referring to a law extending D.P. benefits to gay federal workers. But assuming he's talking about broader federal recognition of gay couples — something Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and others have hinted at as well — then repealing the second part of DOMA is almost a necessity.

    That's because any meaningful domestic partnership law at the federal level would likely recognize, at the least, gay couples who are married (in Massachusetts or abroad), civil union'd (Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey and soon in New Hampshire) or domestic partnered (California, Hawaii, District of Columbia, etc.). To give any recognition to gay married couples, Congress would have to repeal that portion of DOMA. What's more, even those opposed to gay marriage shouldn't sign on to efforts to block federal recognition of licenses issued by those states that have chosen to marry gay couples.

    All this mushiness in positions taken by the leading Democrats practically calls out for some clarity from the Human Rights Campaign and other leading gay rights groups. I have pointed out, on more than one occasion, that we need some specifics from the candidates about what level of federal recognition each would extend to gay couples, whether or not such legislation is pending today.

    This would be my checklist:

    1. Domestic partner benefits for gay federal workers: 20 points
    2. Immigration rights for binational gay couples (Uniting American Families Act): 20 points
    3. Repeal of DOMA, Part 1 (federal recognition of gay married couples): 20 points
    4. Repeal of DOMA, Part 2 (let courts decide whether states can refuse recognition of marriage licenses issued to gay couples by other states): 20 points
    5. Federal civil union/D.P. law: tax, social security and other marriage-related federal recognition of gay couples extended to gay couples who are married or in civil unions or domestic partnerships: 20 points

    Unless I'm wrong, so far no one among the first or second tier of Democrats would score beyond a 20, at least in terms of specificity. It's long past time for gay rights groups, or the gay press, to get the candidates on the record on these points.



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    1. Andoni on Apr 29, 2007 12:52:40 PM:

      Welcome back to daily postings. I really missed them. You've done some excellent reporting over the past few days -- thanks.

      I'm not a reporter and haven't played one since high school. However, when I read some of these interviews, there are so many obvious follow up questions, that I wonder if these reporters are actually listening to answers and cerebrating.....or simply running down a list of prepared questions, looking at the next question instead of listening to the answer and thinking about what is missing from the answer.

      If HRC doesn't start developing a set of very specific, detailed questions for the candidates so we can see daylight between their stands (and possibly coax them along), we need an ad hoc new organization to do so.

      HRC, NGLTF, Stonewall Dems, and LCR.......that is your assignment. It's time to find out for all us voting gay people, EXACTLY where each candidates stands on our issues. Vague and general answers just don't cut it any more.

    1. David on Apr 29, 2007 11:50:53 PM:

      Et tu, Chris?

      White authored the "anti-choice" dissent in Roe v. Wade because the US Constitution does not, in fact, contain any right to abortion -- any more than it contains a right to build your own atom bomb or a right to fuck goats!

      Please stop looking at court rulings based on the result you want and start looking at the actual reasoning involved.

      When judges simply make things up they take away the American people's right to govern themselves.

    1. David on Apr 30, 2007 12:06:53 AM:

      I just read your first post on "Whizzer" White, Chris. You really don't like him, do you? I admit he wouldn't be my ideal justice either.

      White wasn't wrong about Miranda either. The Constitution says nothing about police informing suspects of their rights before questioning them. And we have no right "to remain silent" anyway. The right we have is not to testify against ourselves under oath.

      Miranda was another instance of an activist court enganged in social engineering. It created new rights and then actually uplied them ex-post-facto in this instance -- giving many criminals an automatic get-out-of-jail-free card.

      Just what the hell kind of lawyer are you anyway, Chris?

    1. Brian Miller on Apr 30, 2007 12:51:32 AM:

      It's not entirely clear, since the interview doesn't go into detail, whether Richardson views his DOMA vote as simply a reflection of his opposition to gay marriage, or whether he really stands by each of DOMA's two provisions: (1) allowing one state to refuse recognition of another state's gay marriages; and (2) prohibiting federal recognition of gay marriages.

      In either case, it doesn't really matter. In the former case, it indicates incompetence -- he doesn't understand what the law he supported says.

      In the latter case, it indicates malevolence and mendacity -- he's willing to pursue mean-spirited policies against gays and lie about them later in order to get political office.

      In neither case would he make a decent president for gay Americans. The last thing this country needs is yet another president who is either incompetent or malevolent/mendacious.

    1. Citizen Crain on Apr 30, 2007 1:02:38 AM:

      What a cranky bunch of comments tonight!

      To dear strict-constructionist David: Under your line of argument, since there is not right to privacy, states can also prohibit the sale of condoms and other contraception, and can outlaw any form of consensual sex between adults simply because it's "immoral." I'll take my Constitution alive, thank you very much.

      To Brian: I'm not happy with Richardson's response either, but let's keep it in perspective. DOMA passed 11 years ago and he's been a busy guy since. Running for president involves preparing on an enormous span of issues.

      Since Richardson's rhetoric and the rest of his record are pretty good, and since it's still early days, I'm willing to give him the benefit of being poorly briefed. But if his campaign hasn't found a gay liaison, they ought to and quick.

      It's not that he can't get nominated without one, but given his record, he's missing out on some real early pink money/support opportunities.

    1. N. R. Cissist on Apr 30, 2007 8:32:28 AM:

      You might have added to the end of your post that the Republican candidates all score a ZERO.

    1. Citizen Crain on Apr 30, 2007 11:18:39 AM:

      Actually N.R. Cissist, that may not be true. Rudy Giuliani signed D.P. legislation as mayor of New York City and has spoken out in favor of civil unions. When New Hampshire passed civil unions this month, Giuliani (predictably) backed off a bit, saying they went too far by recognizing other state's civil unions (who knows why that's a problem). He did, however, reaffirm support for domestic partnerships.

      All that is to say he could well be in favor of #1 (federal recognition of domestic partnerships) or #5 (D.P. benefits for federal workers).

      In the past, Mitt Romney has spoken favorably of domestic partnerships as well. We shouldn't hold our breath for either one, of course, since they're running screaming from their previous pro-gay positions.

    1. Silas on May 1, 2007 3:45:58 AM:

      Richardson is a racist.

      He's for open borders.

      He's for giving all STRAIGHT illegals every American right.

      He only passingly supports gay Americans.

    1. David on May 2, 2007 5:23:29 AM:

      To dear C-Squared,

      I am not a "strict constructionist," whatever that phrase really means. I think the original meaning of a legal provision is its meaning, period.

      As a believer in the "living constitution," I assume you support earlier acts in support of this form of jurisprudence such as the overthrowing of all minimum wage laws or the overturning of the Missouri compromise in the Dred Scott decision.

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