I trust that the LGBT community and its advocacy orgs will not ignore this. --Pam
I've blogged extensively about the U.S. Senate race in the state of North Carolina at my pad. Bush rubber-stamping Elizabeth Dole absolutely must be unseated, and despite the roiling Dem presidential primary season, I'm glad that the spotlight will be on my state for the May 6 primary -- it can only help expose the Democratic U.S. Senate candidates to a wider audience.
The leading Dem candidates are former investment banker (and TBP contributor) Jim Neal (who has received the thumbs up from the netroots, and who's openly gay) and State Senator Kay Hagan (who was recruited by Chuck Schumer and the DSCC). One candidate has a problem answering basic questions about pending LGBT legislation.
The latest SurveyUSA poll shows Neal and Hagan effectively tied despite her huge war chest. Neal:
"This proves that grassroots politics works and people power trumps the power of money. Despite being outspent two to one, our message is getting through. The average contribution to our campaign is $80, and I am honored that thousands of North Carolinians are putting their hard-earned money behind us. I will continue reaching out to people across the state, listening to their concerns and learning from their ideas so we can have a government that works for all the people."
UPDATE: Listen to Jim on yesterday's Mike Signorile show; he was in studio:
Neal's campaign has been open and responsive to folks around the state, and to the progressive online community at BlueNC
. Questions on policy and even tough ones about campaign tactics have been responded to promptly, publicly, and in detail.
I wish that the Hagan campaign had that same level of respect for members of the BlueNC and LGBT communities.
Sen. Hagan recently held a liveblog at BlueNC, and I had the chance to ask her very specific, detailed questions about LGBT issues and pending legislation, and well, let's just say that 1) she didn't adequately address them, and 2) despite repeated attempts to politely contact the campaign for follow up or clarification on the answer given, no one has given me -- or several other BlueNC members -- the courtesy of a response. Read about the liveblog exchange and the follow up-to-nowhere below the fold.
So here's what happened.
I submitted a set of very specific questions on LGBT issues for the Hagan liveblog several hours in advance (as did several BlueNC members on other topics), so Sen. Hagan could prepare answers ahead of time and take other questions live.
The initial questions posted to the thread:
Senator Dole has not supported any legislation before her that would extend civil rights to LGBT citizens. What are your positions on matters under consideration in the U.S. Senate that will profoundly affect gay and lesbian taxpaying citizens here in NC. Below is legislation already introduced or about to be introduced that you would cast a vote on during your term if elected.
1. Federal hate crimes legislation. Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (H.R. 1592 / S. 1105).
2. Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). One version has already passed the House. It would prohibit discrimination against employees on the basis of sexual orientation. Gender identity is included in the other version of the bill.
3. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal, which would allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military. This has been introduced in the House and will likely be introduced in the Senate.
4. The Uniting American Families Act (H.R. 2221, S. 1328), that would enable an American citizen to petition for immigration sponsorship for a same-sex partner, and the INS would treat the relationships between opposite and same-sex couples in the same manner under the immigration code.
LGBT voters and allies in the NC (as well as thousands of my readers around the country) would also like to know your positions on these civil rights issues...
* Regarding civil marriage. In her consistent position in favor of restricting rights of LGBT citizens, Senator Dole voted for the Federal Marriage Amendment in 1996.
During a Feb. 25 forum at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, you conveyed to attendees that the definition of marriage should be left up to state law. - How is that reconciled with 1967's Loving v. Virginia, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that invalidated state bans on interracial marriages? Should that have been left a state matter? - Would you be in favor of overturning the federal Defense of Marriage Act in full?
* What legal rights should tax-paying gay and lesbian couples NOT have access to if you believe that extending civil marriage is inappropriate at this time. Do you believe that there should not be parity with opposite-sex married couples regarding: - inheritance rights - hospital visitation rights - equal pension and health care benefits - and the over 1,100 other legal protections government affords couples via civil, not religious, marriage?
Thank you for your consideration.
Sen. Hagan's liveblog response
Pam - I'm close to John Edwards on this - I believe marriage is between a man and a woman and that it's fundamentally a state issue the federal government has no business getting involved in. But I take a back seat to no one when it comes to equal opportunity and fairness. I oppose ANY form of discrimination and I believe that partnerships should be protected when it comes to financial issues, hospital visits, employment, and housing issues.
My follow up
comment in the thread:
I'll take it from your answer that you would, in fact, support passage of the bills I mentioned upthread, specifically federal hate crimes legislation, transgender-inclusive ENDA, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal and The Uniting American Families Act if you were the Senator from NC. I assume this is what I can report to my readers? Please confirm, since I want to be accurate. Many thanks.
There was no response to the follow up. Knowing the breakneck speed of liveblogging can result in unclear or non-specific answers, I emailed the Q&A to Communications Director Colleen Flanagan and asked her:
While I appreciate Sen. Hagan's response given the limited time allowed, her answer is incomplete in terms of any specificity, given the pending legislation referenced. The query could have been answered with a simple "Yes" or "No" on how she would vote after each bill. Given her response, it's unclear whether it is a declaration that she would vote for passage of the pro-LGBT bills in question.
If she opposes any form of discrimination, that's in direct conflict with her initial statement that civil marriage (and I was asking about civil, not religious marriage) should not be available to lesbian and gay couples. Does her answer mean that Sen. Hagan: a) supports separate but legally-equal-on-paper civil unions? b) states extending a patchwork of legal recognitions without any recognition of the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution?
Thanks in advance for the clarification and an on-the-record response; I plan to share it with readers of my blog and BlueNC.
Since I received emails from Flanagan on other occasions, and said my email to her mistakenly went into a junk filter in the past, I made sure to send this particular message not only through another email account as well, but also to her BlueNC private message account. I left my cell phone number.
I later learned that not only had I not received any reply from the campaign to clarify Sen. Hagan's positions on LGBT legislation, other members of the BlueNC community who independently sought a follow up response didn't receive a reply.
This does not bode well for an improvement in constituent services if Sen. Hagan is elected senator, as constituent services has been one of the hallmark weaknesses of Elizabeth Dole, never mind her Bush-fawning politics. The only conclusion I can draw is that her campaign is only willing to engage with a certain segment of citizen journalists, community members and MSM journalists Hagan is comfortable with.
The questions I asked are ones I that would ask of any candidate who would represent me. They weren't "gotcha" questions, or vague general ones. Hagan is supposed to represent all of us as a U.S. Senator, and if she is not willing to respond to questions about pending legislation, then I'm left to believe that she has no intention of supporting those measures. I suppose Sen. Hagan could support all of the legislation, but her answer left it open to interpretation (though it would be simple enough to confirm with a reply that Kay Hagan would vote in these cases to affirm extending civil rights to LGBT citizens, not curtail them).
North Carolina voters who are advocates of LGBT civil rights have a right to know a U.S. Senate candidate's position, and, as I showed in my recent interview with lieutenant governor candidate Dan Besse, there are politicians in the state who have no problem addressing LGBT issues in a straightforward manner. It speaks volumes about a candidate and their campaign when basic questions go unanswered.
The irony is that Sen. Hagan co-sponsored transgender inclusive non-discrimination bills in the past in our General Assembly; this perhaps makes her liveblog answer all the more disappointing. She could have cited this experience and support, yet she chose not to, playing it safe, hoping the issue will go away.
As long as I have my soapbox, it isn't going away. I won't stop trying.
You can read reactions by the BlueNC community to Sen. Hagan's weak response over at Kosh's well-documented diary.
Jim has a diary up today on The Almighty Dollar. He's building a grassroots campaign.
Give 10 for Jim!.
* Jim Neal's campaign web site
* Blend files on Jim Neal
* Jim Neal stuns James Carville into silence at NC Young Democrats event
* DSCC's Chuck Schumer is staying neutral on the N.C. Senate race - NOT
* Jim Neal picks up additional high-profile endorsements