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Manchester, N.H.--Gay equal rights and “don’t ask, don’t tell” were among the issues batted around at the second debate for Democratic presidential candidates on June 3.
When moderator Wolf Blitzer of CNN brought up the military policy, all eight candidates raised their hands, indicating they would revoke it.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said that the policy, which was signed into law by her husband, was intended to be a transitional one and that it had outlived its usefulness.
She pointed out that the military, which is short on servicemembers fluent in Arabic, had discharged a number of gay Arabic linguists.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who was in Congress in 1993 when the policy was approved, said that he had voted against it then and opposes it still.
“I would get rid of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ I voted against it as a congressman,” Richardson said. “A president has to show leadership.”
All eight candidates were opposed to the policy.
Two days later, when Blitzer asked the Republican candidates at a similar debate if they would repeal “don’t ask,” none of them raised their hand.
The day before the Democratic debate, the Human Rights Campaign released a questionnaire on LGBT issues that it had sent to all eight candidates. Of those, only former Alaska senator Mike Gravel failed to respond.
Of the 15 items presented to candidates, the seven that responded--Sen. Clinton, Sen. Barack Obama, Sen. John Edwards, Sen. Joe Biden, Sen. Chris Dodd, Richardson and Rep. Dennis Kucinich--all agreed on 14 issues.
The sole dissent came when asked if they would support full same-sex marriage. Only Kucinich said he would, although all of them support civil unions.
Nowhere on the questionnaire, however, was the issue of repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton after passing Congress by a wide margin in 1996. The measure allows states to refuse recognition of same-sex marriages from other states. It also outlaws federal recognition of these marriages for any reason, including taxes, Social Security and immigration.
According to blogger Chris Crain, former editor of the Washington Blade LGBT newspaper, only Kucinich and Obama fully favor repealing the law. Crain believes that HRC’s survey was skewed to obscure Sen. Clinton’s support for DOMA.
Ben Smith on Politico.com published this statement from Phil Singer, Clinton’s spokesman: "Sen. Clinton backed the Defense of Marriage Act because it enabled us to fend off right wing attacks like the Federal Marriage Amendment by keeping marriage as the purview of the states. She believes DOMA served an important purpose in that respect. Marriage should be left up to the states.”
"She has also long believed in the need for full equality of benefits for same sex couples, and believes the federal government should recognize civil unions,” he continued. “It was not until Massachusetts passed its law that it became clear that those in civil unions could receive better treatment under DOMA than gay and lesbian couples in Massachusetts who have gotten married, and therefore, that aspect of DOMA makes little sense to her. However, she still affirms the general principle of DOMA that marriage should be left up to each state. "
Pam Spaulding of the blog Pam’s House Blend points out that Gravel is in favor of full marriage rights, but did not respond to the poll.