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February 29, 2008

Worries of fair-weather
support are revealed at
town hall

Cleveland--An LGBT town hall meeting with representatives of the Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton campaigns did little to differentiate the candidates, but highlighted many concerns and fears about fair-weather support from the two Democrats.

The February 26 event was presented by the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats, the Gay People’s Chronicle and the National Stonewall Democrats. It was held in a meeting room at Trinity Cathedral, a block from the Wolstein Center at Cleveland State University, where the candidates were having a debate that evening.

Summit County Stonewall Democrats head Sandra Kurt asked why Hillary Clinton’s website lists LGBT issues under civil rights, but the only Obama page she could find marked “LGBT” was not under rights, but under a heading listing groups of people.

Compared to most of the questions that night, asking why a candidate did not list LGBT issues under civil rights was an easy, soft pitch.

Representing Clinton was Bo Shuff, who will be a delegate for her at the convention. Before the question and answer period, Fred Hochberg, the openly gay head of the Small Business Administration during Bill Clinton’s administration and current dean of the New School University, spoke on Hillary Clinton’s behalf.

Representing Obama were Jason Lansdale, former president of the Stonewall Democrats of Central Ohio, and Matt Nosanchuck, the national LGBT advisor for the Obama campaign.

Shuff, Lansdale and Nosanchuck faced some difficult questions, like when Cleveland Heights councilor Mark Tumeo pointed out that Bill Clinton had bargained away LGBT rights with “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act.

He then asked the trio, “In the next administration, what are the issues that you see us being traded off for?”

Shuff pointed to ENDA, and noted that the discussion over transgender inclusion will continue. Lansdale noted that Obama favored transgender inclusion in ENDA, but argued that there needs to be a larger Democratic majority in both houses of Congress to avoid the need for trade-offs.

The representatives failed to elucidate major differences between their candidates when faced with questions about the FDA ban on gay men donating blood or their support for immigration assistance for bi-national couples.

During a January debate, both candidates supported the Solomon Amendment, a law that strips colleges and universities of federal funds if they bar military recruiters over the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

When Chronicle publisher Martha Pontoni asked why, at the Tuesday town hall, both sides pointed out that their candidates’ support of repealing the policy would render the Solomon measure moot.

Lansdale also noted that Obama goes further, supporting a military equivalent of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.



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