[EDITOR'S NOTE:] The following guest post is from New Mexico Governor and Presidential candidate Bill Richardson.
Two weeks to the day after my August 10th appearance at the televised HRC/Logo LGBT Forum, I arrived at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada for a meeting. I had specifically requested the meeting be held with a few prominent Las Vegas LGBT community leaders in the very room where they had watched the LOGO Forum together with over 100 other GLBT residents.
Let's face it: I had stumbled through a question from singer Melissa Etheridge two weeks before about whether people choose to be gay or are born that way. That stumble had created doubts about me in the gay community, after I had spent over 20 years fighting for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and, yes, transgender rights. I needed to let the community know about that record and show them my determination to eliminate discrimination of any kind for every American.
So I walked into the GLBT Center that day and saw some unsmiling faces. My only choice was to be as frank and honest as possible:
"Look, I screwed up. I didn't understand the question and I made a mistake. What I truly believe is that this is an trait that you're born with. It's not a choice."
That was a tough meeting, but Bill Jacobs, who has since become my Nevada Director of GLBT Outreach, later told me that I had them at "I screwed up." I guess we¹re not used to those words from politicians.
Words matter, but the real test of a leader is action, and my record on GLBT issues is the strongest of any of the presidential candidates. I have consistently voted on your side from the start of my Congressional career in the 1980s and early 90s, when GLBT rights had far less support (even from my fellow Democrats) than it has today. I voted against Don¹t Ask, Don¹t Tell, and when I¹m President, I¹ll get rid of it.
In my first term as governor, I worked for and signed into law New Mexico's first version of ENDA and first hate crimes bill that included both sexual orientation and gender identity. Believe me, I had to fight with the legislature to include gender identity protections. The day those bills became effective I issued an executive order giving healthcare to all domestic partners in my state. This year, I called a special session of the state legislature to pass a domestic partnership law. We fought hard, but we lost by one vote. I will reintroduce it this year, and this year, we will get it done.
I grew up in Mexico City, but went to school in Massachusetts, the only Mexican kid at an all-white high school. I have faced discrimination, and I have dedicated my life to putting an end to it. It¹s time that every gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender person in this country enjoyed the same rights as everyone else. I¹ve done it in New Mexico and I¹ll do it as President.