After a few negative posts on bilerico.com about the Kris Kiser for Congress campaign, I thought it appropriate that we veer back towards what bilerico.com readers are more interested in - the issues.
As background, Kiser, an openly gay man, is running against Democratic incumbent Julia Carson. Carson is a gay-friendly politician who's held the seat in Congress for several years. This primary race is being watched closely by the Indianapolis LGBT community.
I submitted five questions to both candidate's campaigns. Here are the answers returned by Kris Kiser. Remember folks, bilerico.com is the only place where you can read detailed statements from the candidates on the issues you care about. We'll continue our candidate interviews and coverage of the elections as the year goes on.
1. What are your stances on the following issues?
2. What is your opinion of local civil rights protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity such as the one recently adopted by the City of Indianapolis? How have you been involved in the community's efforts to secure legal protections and general acceptance?
a. Proposed amendment to the Constitution banning same-sex marriage: I am an attorney. I view the Constitution as the Foundation on which our government is built. Amending it should be difficult. Unfortunately, the Right has demonized this issue - and our community -- so severely that I believe its passage is closer than we'd like. I will work vigorously against this Amendment. It is based on hate and insufficient understanding of the issues. I will reach out to those who propose it, to find whatever common ground might exist, and to help them understand why the LBGT community so badly needs and deserves basic human rights. We all know a gay person can do this more effectively because we each have our own personal stories to tell. I view that as vital.
b. Funding for HIV/AIDS services, prevention programs, research: The Ryan White Act has for many years provided the basis on which certain funds are directed toward AIDS programs. That innocent Hoosier child lived amid tremendous strife, and in his memory, and the memories of so many of our brothers and sisters who have died, we must fight for increased funding. Now. The Bush administration's insistence on talking about abstinence - to the exclusion of every other aspect of human sexuality - is harmful. These policies must be based on reality and they currently are not. Our push for a cure must continue, and I will ensure that it does.
c. Civil rights protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity: Whatever strength we can muster to pass civil protections against discrimination should be gathered promptly. Under the past five years of the Bush administration we have seen the slow chipping away of LGBT rights that took more than 30 years to achieve. I will be in the forefront of efforts to push for equality, whether it is advocating for parity in rights and responsibilities in personal relationships or ensuring that gays and lesbians continue to be able to adopt children and be foster parents - the next battle for our community.
d. The war in Iraq: It is a war based on miscalculation, lies and distortions. The President's actions in Iraq are not defendable, and every day new allegations leak out about misspent funds, fraud and human rights abuses. Over 2,000 brave Americans have perished as a result. We have spent billions we don't have--so we've borrowed. And yet despite the billions of borrowed funds, we can't properly feed, clothe and house our soldiers there, nor care for their health needs when they return. We are not one step closer to peace. The Iraqi internal conflict or civil war cannot be won by force. It will require a political solution among the factions. We must provide the diplomatic and political leadership necessary to empower Iraqi citizens to form a working government. Our presence as an occupying force only serves to empower insurgent recruiting. We must develop a methodology to leave Iraq. America's withering image abroad brought about by our actions in the region and a destabilized Iraq only complicates our ability to deal with the emerging Iranian nuclear threat with our allies.
e. Federal environmental protections: We just celebrated Earth Day. I can remember the first Earth Day, when Republicans mocked it. Without proper legal protection, our environment will succumb to the special interests of this Administration. I strongly favor real and enforceable environmental protections which guarantee that our legacy is not one of waste and pollution. Every day we wait imperils our future. Our children and grandchildren deserve better.
f. Federal funding for affordable housing and homeless programs: We never stand as tall as when we stoop to help a child or someone less fortunate. I favor programs which, although expensive, properly house, feed, clothe and provide for the health of those who cannot do it themselves. Our heritage demands we support these types of programs.
g. Reauthorization of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program: I support any efforts to give people who need it a hand up and provide them with the tools and the ability to make life better for themselves and their families. We know that the gap between the rich and the poor is growing, and that working families here in Indianapolis are being squeezed. While I am troubled by the TANF's focus on "marriage protection," I strongly support efforts that will make Hoosier families stronger and healthier.
I have long supported sound efforts to protect the legal rights of the LGBT community. Indianapolis's ordinance is similar to those in other jurisdictions. The real test in many other communities nationally has been the enforcement of any such ordinances. I applaud the passage of Indy's ordinance. Let's collectively assist the city government in its enforcement. As an openly gay man, I have participated in a broad spectrum of activities for more than 20 years, including the Human Rights Campaign, the National Stonewall Democrats, the Lambda Legal Defense Fund, the Whitman Walker Clinic (Washington, DC's HIV clinic, one of the first and largest in the nation), and the Indiana AIDS Funds' Spotlight 2006.
3. What do you see as issues of importance for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community? In what way would you assist in addressing these issues?
As noted above, it is critical for the local community to push hard for proper enforcement of the new Human Rights Ordinance. If I'm elected I will do all I can to bring people together to discuss the critical civil rights issues facing our community. For instance, I have begun meeting with Women in Motion in the Mozell Sanders apartment homes in the Meadows to support their efforts in educating men and women on HIV and AIDS. The more we reach out to those outside our community, and demonstrate that our lives are normal and well-rounded, the better chance we have of moving people toward acceptance and tolerance. All of us need to do those little things every day, in our communities--work, home, church, temple.
As one of only 3 openly gay Members of Congress, I will take the lead in speaking for our community here in Indiana and in the halls of Congress. Gays and lesbians should not be denied equal rights and benefits based solely on whom we love. I will be a vocal and visible opponent of Indiana's proposed amendment to ban same-sex marriages, and on any attempts to ban gay adoption. Additionally, the Iraq war has shown that gays and lesbians are capable service members, and I will work to finally overturn the Don't Ask/Don't Tell ban on openly gay members of the military. And I will fight the Bush administration's continued efforts to marginalize our community throughout the federal government with discriminatory policies and rulings.
4. How do you see your relationship with the local LGBT community?
I am very proud of Indianapolis and grateful for the acceptance and friendship I have received in the local LGBT community. The local LGBT newspaper, The Word, has endorsed me, because they know the importance of having an openly gay Member of Congress at this critical time in our nation's history and our equal rights movement. The level of support is humbling, and I'm very thankful. Immediately after Tuesday's primary - win or lose - I will begin meeting with those in our community who have supported my opponents. Our community is too small, and under too much fire, to be so sharply divided. We can achieve so much more when we are working together toward the same goals.
5. Why do you believe you are the best person to represent the citizens of the Indiana 7th Congressional District?
The 7th District needs a representative with energy, fresh ideas, and experience in these challenging times. I am an attorney, I was a staffer to Rep. Lee Hamilton for many years, and I have worked for major business trade associations. My bipartisan outlook will inform my approach to building bridges, particularly on issues of importance to the LGBT community - and that will be especially key if the Democrats do not take back the House this November. That's what I learned from Rep. Hamilton, my political mentor. As a Member of Congress and as co-chair of the 911 Commission, his legacy is one of honor. He worked every day in Congress to make peoples' lives better. His is a tremendous example of how I'd like to work in Congress.