[EDITOR'S NOTE:] The following is a guest post by Matt Hill Comer. Matt, 21, is a student & LGBT activist and youth advocate from North Carolina and has been active in local, state and national grassroots organizing. You can catch his writings, thoughts, news and commentary at his website, InterstateQ.com.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Presidential Forum on Thursday evening, co-presented by the Logo Channel, was the first time that the LGBT community really had a chance to shine in the usual dog-eat-dog world of the pre-primary election season so often full of debate after debate, party in-fighting and mad dashes to the finishing line of a race on who can raise the most money.
The real question in all this is not whether the LGBT community has been heard; I'd posit that we have, indeed, been heard. We did just have a major Presidential forum devoted to our issues. So that isn't the issue. The question instead falls on two sides of a very tricky political coin. Do the candidates really support us, or are they offering more of the usual political posturing that so often goes hand-in-hand with wanting a group's vote?
By far, the LGBT community's vote isn't the largest. Neither is it the most powerful. But with four percent of the vote, we've surely got enough power to sway an election. If the issues in an election truly did come down to LGBT issues (and, with the subject of issues on marriage and others so hot in people's minds, it could), then the turn-out of the LGBT community for one particular candidate could make a significant difference in election results, especially in a primary among Democrats.
For the most part, the candidates with the highest chances of being elected are pretty much on the same page on our issues. It is as if they took a page from that ever elusive "Homosexual Agenda," copy-and-pasted it into their platforms and had their speech-writers coin cool stories and sound-bites for us.
The only issue that really isn't on par with what the LGBT community wants (and, more aptly, needs for survival) is that of marriage equality.
Clinton, Obama and Edwards are all on the same page, again. Only this time, they aren't where the community wants and desperately needs them to be. All three support "civil unions," but when pressed on why they believe "marriage" is only for one man and one woman, they can't give any easy answers. Edwards did mess up one time; he said he had reservations due to his religious beliefs (although that certainly is no where near as bad as Richardson's gay is "a choice" screw-up). To Edward's credit, though, he did apologize.
Since all three of them seem to believe so strongly in the concept of "civil unions" and since they all seem to think that separate really can be equal, I'd love for them to dissolve their marriages and enter into civil unions, if they ever become law.
I have sincere doubts as to exactly which candidate truly believes in our issues. I don't know if any of them do. Everything they say to us sounds scripted and they won't stand up for full equality. Furthermore, whatever that was said during the HRC/Logo Presidential Forum certainly didn't reach the ears of everyone in our community. The poor, minorities or folks who live in places where Logo isn't offered or where internet viewing wasn't a viable possibility; all these folks missed their chance to hear the candidates talk to us.
My heart tells me to go for the person who is most likely to effect the most change, but exactly which one is that? My heart also tells me to vote for my sweet, fellow North Carolinian, but can I trust him with my civil rights?
The HRC/Logo Presidential Forum was supposed to give us real answers. What was supposed to be an open forum for discussing what really mattered to us, turned into a night of fan-fare and political hob-knobbing between the candidates, their staffs, the Human Rights Campaign and their mostly rich, white and male supporters.
From what I've seen, Clinton, Obama and Edwards only repeated the same things they've said before. The most outstanding of the three was Edwards, and that was only for his apology to us. Clinton came off as cold, too political and I got the sense that she was telling us to "wait and be patient" for the civil and social rights we should have had when our movement began some fifty years ago. Obama, well, he was okay, but he really didn't shine out.
More questions and not many more answers. Political posturing and a slate of copy-and-pasted candidates. Is this what the LGBT community gets for the millions of dollars we've poured into Democratic coffers?
When do we get our justice? When do we get our equality? When do our leaders face up to the fact that if they really want to lead our nation, then they must truly believe in those all too often forgotten, founding documents of our little Great Experiment.