This morning, I've been watching the Logo LGBT Issues Forum (which, if you missed it, can be seen here). I'd encourage anyone who didn't watch this to do so-- the forum was extremely interesting.
Here were some of the more standout bits for me (and note that I'm going to skip Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich in my summary-- Ryan Sager succinctly summarizes what they had to say, so check that out if you're interested).
1. Barack Obama: Obama took a little heat for supporting civil unions, but saying what I felt amounted to, civil unions for everyone, marriage at the discretion of churches. Personally, I found this an interesting answer and one that smacked of having a slight undertone of "get the state out of marriage, let the state only be involved in ratifying/notarizing contracts"-- which I will admit is pretty close to my view. Note that I did not have a religious marriage, thus making my marriage more civil union-like-- and maybe making me less convinced that what (depending on the route a state takes) may amount really to a linguistic difference, as opposed to an inherent one impacting on rights-- particularly where the separation of church and state is preserved-- results in "unequal" treatment (and maybe making me less wistful, for lack of a better word, about "marriage," generally).
Is it unfair that, if we define marriage as a religious institution, gay couples cannot necessarily get married, depending on what their church says? Yes, but then perhaps so are rules within the Catholic Church that a Catholic and Non-Catholic cannot marry, unless certain promises are made (which non-Catholics, like for example my husband, would simply not make). Churches are private entities and their beliefs and practices, I think, should not be subject to dictation by the state-- regardless of how distasteful we may find particular churches' views.
Another note on Obama's performance: I absolutely agree with him that there are a ton of issues beyond gay marriage that are very important, and that a candidate's record should be assessed by reference to those issues (which I would suggest encompass non-discrimination, as a direct issue, and issues relevant to economic policy and problems that the gay community faces with taxation, Social Security, and so on), also.
2. John Edwards: I loved the fact that Melissa Etheridge made the point about gay people having to pay extra taxes on health insurance they get through their partners. Easing the tax burden where domestic partner benefits are concerned is something that Sen. Gordon Smith tried earlier this year, and it's an important issue-- both for those of us who want the tax burden reduced, and for the gay community, which gets hit inordinately hard where benefits are concerned.
I did not love the fact that Edwards seemed keen to use the question-- which I thought was quite specific-- to talk more generally about poverty, instead of answering the question. I also thought it was pretty lame that he went off about Ann Coulter in this particular context, instead of sticking more narrowly to the issues at hand (sure, I don't like Ann Coulter, but what exactly does she have to do with a discussion of how Democrats did a crap job of defending gays in 2004, when some people in my party were going all-out on what certainly looked in a lot of cases like gay-bashing?). The audience may have liked it, but I thought it was a waste of time.
Final note on Edwards: I don't think that the "on a journey thing" is really going to work out for Edwards. But I do think the "I won't impose my faith on the American people" thing will be a winner for him with the gay community-- and I daresay others, too. Still, the interviewers didn't look very enthused during Edwards' wrap-up.
3. Bill Richardson: Richardson started off in a difficult place, with the first question focusing on Richardson's prior comments about what is "achievable"-- which sounds a lot like "what I can get away with." He did well by switching the topic to Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and sounded very Barry Goldwater on that point. Him apologizing for his vote on DOMA probably also was a good move, and I enjoyed what looked like not very-well-concealed ripping of Bill Clinton and political expediency where DOMA was concerned. But, once Richardson was done, he was back in hot water over his use of a certain term in Spanish. It kind of seemed like Jonathan Capehart was giving him a deliberately rough ride, though Richardson did cover a lot more ground where it came to his record than either Obama or Edwards, so maybe it won't have hurt him much. What did hurt Richardson was his continued mention of what was "achievable" and the country moving along but not being "there" yet-- as well as his selection of the word "choice" in relation to homosexuality. It sure didn't sit well with Melissa Etheridge, that much is for sure-- though an interchange about bark beetles did seem to cure that. Tough night for Richardson, I think.
4. Hillary: Hillary was saved for last, and got a LOT of applause. The gay community just seems to love her (something I'm not sure I get)-- crazy jackets and all.
Hillary did a great job of blaming non-repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell entirely on the GOP and the President-- an explanation for inaction that I'm not sure I buy, given the Clinton administration's movement of Don't Ask, Don't Tell in the first place. Hillary was right to point out what the consequences of being discovered to be gay were before Don't Ask, Don't Tell-- and I totally agree with her that Don't Ask Don't Tell was an improvement over that situation (even if I'm dubious about her saying that the problem was with the implementation, rather than the policy itself). But what I found most interesting was simply what looked like very deft and crafty maneuvering on her part in relation to the issue.
Hillary also did well because compared to the other candidates (maybe with the exception of Richardson), she demonstrated a greater depth of knowledge of the issues being discussed, and spoke in more detailed terms-- even if she said quite frankly that she still opposes gay marriage (which did not seem to work out for John Edwards). She also demonstrated more crafty argumentation on the question of marriage, by hammering Karl Rove, and then praising DOMA for helping stop the FMA (so on the one hand, she said she doesn't like DOMA, or at least part of it, yet she doesn't like gay marriage and thinks DOMA is a handy tool-- clever contortioning-- ditto that with regard to her defense of her husband's term, which a lot of gay people I know see as a period of major let-down, and her explanation of how in spite of her views and certain statements she has made, she can be a "leader").
Overall conclusion: this was a big win for Hillary-- as odd as I think that is.