Jessica Hoffmann

Edwards: Live from the HRC Candidates' Forum

Filed By Jessica Hoffmann | August 09, 2007 9:25 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics

[EDITOR'S NOTE:] Transcript of Senator Edwards's section after the jump.

[6:31] Sorry. I am an inexperienced live-blogger, and the adoption thing just flew by in my background while I was typing about class (but didn't she do the soundtrack to Where the Day Takes You? that realistic depiction of struggling scraggly youth?). Now we're on to Anne Coulter, I guess? I'll agree with Mr. E here -- "what Anne Coulter does is the worst kind of public discourse."

So the upshot (I think) is: he's better than most of them on economic justice; wants powerful employment non-discrimination laws; wants to repeal DOMA and Don't Ask, Don't Tell; thinks we should care about presidents' personal reactions as well as policy actions (or something to that effect? In any case, sorry, I am not that cult-of-personality audience, but thanks); apologized for some faith-based comment I didn't even know about cuz I hardly pay attention to electoral politics; and ... the big moment ... his stance on same-sex marriage has not changed.

Since he's ending on grassroots movements, I'll note that earlier some dude was making fun of his campaign for the cheap ($15) ticket prices to their after party -- "ha ha, I guess you gotta love the grassroots." Oy. I think he was a reporter for E!

[6:27] So, Melissa Etheridge is kind of a disaster on class -- first (during the Obama section), she said some odd thing about how gays and lesbians might be after (or below? don't have the transcript yet ... ) everyone else (e.g., economic classes and races) in the us-versus-them divide, and now she wonders if Edwards, who she thinks is good on health care for low-income people, also understands that gay couples deserve health care. Or something rock-star bizarre like that.

But Edwards, well, for a presidential candidate, all in a stream he just talked about universal health care and homeless queer youth at the LA Gay and Lesbian Center. Now if only he'd talk about what might happen to that place and others like it as Hollywood continues to gentrify ...


MS. CARLSON: Our next candidate, John Edwards, was elected

senator from
North Carolina in 1998 and ran for president six years

later. And of course in 2004 he was the vice presidential candidate.

Welcome to Senator John Edwards. (Applause.)


MR. EDWARDS: We've been listening to your music. I want you to

know that.


MS. CARLSON: Senator Edwards, welcome. We're so delighted that

you're here. Thank you for coming.

MR. EDWARDS: Thank you. Glad to be here.

MS. CARLSON: We're going to have -- Melissa's going to start off

the questions.

She was bragging that she's neither a politician and not even a

journalist. (Laughter.)

MS. ETHERIDGE: (Off mike.)

MS. CARLSON: Maybe she'll -- but we can't sing. So --

MR. EDWARDS: That's a great place to start.

MS. ETHERIDGE: All right. There you go. (Laughter.) All


MS. CARLSON: Melissa.

MS. ETHERIDGE: Yes, welcome. And thank you so much for being


MR. EDWARDS: Of course.

MS. ETHERIDGE: We're so grateful for that.

Your wife and I actually have a lot in common, both suffering

through cancer and such, and I wish her the best.

MR. EDWARDS: Thank you.

MS. ETHERIDGE: And I send her lots and lots of love.

MR. EDWARDS: Thank you.

MS. ETHERIDGE: And we also share more than that. Both her and I

are very fortunate to be able to afford the best health care.


MS. ETHERIDGE: And, you know, this -- I remember being in

chemotherapy and, you know, having a shot once a week that was $3,000

and wondering how anyone else could afford this.

And I know you understand the health care need of lower-income

people, but do you understand the special needs of people in gay and

lesbian couples who cannot depend on their partner's insurance for

protection because they are not a legal spouse or have to pay extra

taxes on the benefit? What would you do about this?

MR. EDWARDS: Well, first of all, let me say thank you to HRC and

thank you to all of you for your leadership.

And the answer to your question is, those rights should be

available to gay and lesbian couples. I admire -- I, actually, was

the first candidate to come out with a universal health care plan,

which I'm very proud of, and I've made it very clear that those rights

to gay and lesbian couples would be exactly the same as they would for

straight couples. And so those health care benefits would be

available to -- to someone in that situation.

And I might add, just a few weeks ago I was at the LA Gay and

Lesbian Center , which is an extraordinary place which I'm sure some

people here are familiar with here in the
Los Angeles community, where

they're doing amazing, amazing work. But there's a message from my

visit there that I think is really important for
America to hear,

which is I met a whole group of young people who were there because

they were homeless. And they were homeless because they came out of

the closet and told their parents the truth, and their parents kicked

them out of the home. And there they were, the only -- they were

living on the street, had nowhere to go. Thank God for the LA Gay and

Center being there for them, an extraordinary woman who runs

the center.

But without that place, where would these -- where would these

young people go? And it just can't be that in
America people think

that's okay. They can't believe that's okay. And they need to hear

and see exactly what I saw when I was there, because it was moving, it

was touching, and I actually believe that that kind of experience

would have a huge impact on the American people if they could just see

it. (Applause.)

MS. ETHERIDGE: It seems like it's had a -- it seems like it's

had a huge effect on you, and that's really nice to see because I have

heard that you have said in the past that you feel uncomfortable

around gay people. Are you okay right now? (Laughter.) It's okay.

MS. CARLSON: Senator Edwards, you look very calm.

MR. EDWARDS: I'm perfectly comfortable.

MS. ETHERIDGE: No, but it's experiences like that people need to

know, people need to see, and just how universal and how we are just

all people, the same.

MR. EDWARDS: It is. It is.

MS. ETHERIDGE: Now, my next question is --

MR. EDWARDS: Can I just tell you, that's not true, what you just

said? (Laughs.) You didn't say I said it, but someone --

MS. ETHERIDGE: I had heard of it.

MR. EDWARDS: Someone else said it.

MS. ETHERIDGE: Not true?

MR. EDWARDS: It is not true. It is not true.

MS. ETHERIDGE: Okay. I will -- I take that back.

MS. CARLSON: Oh, well then you can correct the record.

MS. ETHERIDGE: I apologize.

MR. EDWARDS: No. I know where it came from. It came from a

political consultant. And he's just wrong.


MR. EDWARDS: And Elizabeth and I were both there, and both of us

have said he's wrong.

MS. ETHERIDGE: All right, I apologize for ever taking that and

putting that out.

MR. EDWARDS: That's okay.

MS. ETHERIDGE: I have children in grade school. And I have --

they're now in 3rd and 5th grade. But I remember in 1st grade and

kindergarten, the little kids coming up to me and going, why do they

have two mommies?


MS. ETHERIDGE: And I always felt that this was -- you know what?

This is just my place to just bend down and go, you know what? Some

people have a mommy and a daddy; some people have just a mommy, just a

daddy; some people have two mommies and two daddies. And they go,

okay, and they walk away, because it makes perfect sense to them, and

they're fine with that.

Do you think public schools should teach about LGBT kids and

families? Or do you think this is a place -- how can we bring this

into the public school system? Or should we?

MR. EDWARDS: Oh, sure, it should. I mean, the kids who go to

public schools need to understand why same-sex couples are the parents

of some of the children. They need to understand that these are

American families, just like every American families.

It's one of the reasons of course why, you know, we have tens of

thousands of kids in foster care who desperately need a home. It's

one of the reasons that we need to allow gay and lesbian couples the

same rights to adopt children, in fact, provide for them to have the

same rights to adopt children. (Applause.)

MR. EDWARDS: Margaret, can I say one other thing? I'm sorry,

I'm almost done.

But the only thing I would add to that is I do think it's

important though for the kids that their peers understand what's

happening. Because otherwise, you know, children are children. And

they can be mean and cruel, as I know that -- as you have seen. And

the question is whether we as adults have a responsibility to make

sure that they're educated, that they understand this is a good thing

and it's something that we as Americans believe in and embrace.

MS. ETHERIDGE: Thank you.

MS. CARLSON: At what grade or what age would you introduce, for

instance, that kind of education into the schools?

MR. EDWARDS: I don't -- I don't miss a good question. I've not

thought about it enough to answer it. I know I heard --

MS. CARLSON: Well, think about it and come back later.

(Laughter.) And tell us what you come up with.

MR. EDWARDS: Yeah. There is a place, though, that I believe

it's appropriate.


Right. Jonathan?

MR. CAPEHART: Yes. (Chuckles.) I thought --

MS. CARLSON: Jonathan --

MR. EDWARDS: We phoned you. You didn't think we were coming to


MR. CAPEHART: But I'm -- Senator, when you were the vice

presidential nominee in 2004, many gays and lesbians felt that they

were being used as scare tactic by the right wing and the Republican

Party, and that the Democrats didn't do anything to defend them. Why

should the gay community think that it will be defended this time by


MR. EDWARDS: Well, first of all, this is only one area where the

right wing uses scare tactics to divide the American people. And the

truth is, both in a presidential campaign and in governing, it is so

important that we reject this hate-mongering.

I was actually very proud, I have to say -- Melissa mentioned my

wife, Elizabeth -- I was very proud of
Elizabeth for taking Ann

Coulter on and taking her on head-on. (Cheers, applause.)

I have seen the impact of tolerance, for lack of a better word,

of hate-mongering. You know, I have seen it with language used when I

was growing up in the segregated South. And if you stand quietly by

and let it happen, what happens is, it takes hold. And it takes hold,

and then people begin to believe it's okay; you know, it's okay to use

the kind of language that Ann Coulter used; it's okay for the

Republicans in their politics to divide
America and use hate-mongering

to separate us.

If we stand quietly by -- it's not just bad for a political

campaign -- and it is bad for a political campaign, because we have to

stand up for what's right and fair and just, and we have do it with

passion and strength.

But it's also bad for
America . It is bad for
America for us to let

anybody speaking to the American people use these issues to divide us,

and it is so important for anyone who seeks to be the leader of the

United States of America to stand up strong and firm, denounce it and

speak out and speak out strongly for equality.

MS. CARLSON: Senator, did you want to take on Ann Coulter? You

could use the opportunity here. (Laughter.) Or just Mrs. Edwards?

MR. EDWARDS: Yeah, I think -- no, no. As a matter of fact, I

Elizabeth -- (inaudible) -- most things with
Elizabeth . One of

the reporters asked me afterwards, they said, "So what kind of

consultation did you have before
Elizabeth called in?" I said the

usual, and I found out at about at the same time the media --

(laughter) -- I mean, the public found out.

No, I think that what Ann Coulter does is the worst kind of

public discourse. I think she demeans everything that all the rest of

us do -- (applause) -- and I think it is -- I think it is intended to

out -- to get -- to go to the lowest common denominator in the

American people and to divide us.

And this goes to the same question -- same point I was making

just a minute ago with what I saw when I was growing up in the South,

which is if you stand quietly by and let this happen, then what

happens is hatred gets a foothold, and when hatred gets a foothold, it

is much harder to unseat. And you cannot let these people go by

quietly and continue what they're doing, which is why
Elizabeth spoke

up, and now I think it's absolutely crucial that we speak up in a

presidential campaign with strength and passion, not quietly and

carefully, to do what's right.

MS. CARLSON: Joe, do you have a question?

MR. SOLOMONESE: Yes. (Laughter.)

Senator, thank you for being here.

MR. EDWARDS: Thanks, Joe.

MR. SOLOMONESE: Susan Stanton is in our audience tonight. She

was, for 17 years, the city manager in
Largo , Florida . She did her

job well; she was respected and admired. And when it was revealed

that she was transgender, she was fired. So my question for you is if

a member of your staff came to you and told you that they were

transgender and that they were thinking of transitioning, how would

you react to that? And who in your life has influenced what your

reaction might be?

MR. EDWARDS: I would -- I would support them in every possible

way, including on a personal and an emotional level, provide every bit

of help and support that I possibly could in going through what they

were going through.

And, by the way, can I say about the first point you made in your

question, it's the reason we need powerful employment

nondiscrimination laws in the
United States of America so that people

cannot be fired. (Applause.)

But -- but I do -- I will say I do think that you deserve, and

the American people deserve to know, beyond your policy position, what

your reaction is to it. I mean, what is it you're actually willing to

do, on a personal level? Will you stand with them? Will you support

them? Will you support them publicly? Are you willing to do what's

right, under the circumstances? And I can tell you, I know in my

heart and soul that I would. I've had -- not on that specific

question, but I've had similar experiences when I was younger on

issues of race that were extraordinarily difficult in the place where

I grew up, where I did what I believed was right, where my family did

what we believed was right. And I think that's at least some

indication of what I would do under these circumstances.

MR. SOLOMONESE: And finally, Senator, you've expressed your

opposition to same-sex marriage, and you've raised your faith as part

of the reason for your opposition. I'm wondering if you could talk a

little bit about what is it within your religion that's leading you to

this position?

MR. EDWARDS: Well, you know, I have to tell you, I shouldn't

have said that, because first of all my -- (applause) -- first of all,

I believe, to my core, in equality.

My campaign for the presidency is about equality across the board.

And I listened to your discussion with Senator Obama a few minutes

ago. I was backstage. I was able to hear what you were saying and

what he was saying. And it makes perfect sense to me that gay and

lesbian couples would say, "Civil unions, great; 1,100 federal

benefits, great; you know, give us these rights, we deserve these

rights." And they're absolutely right about that. But it stops short

of real equality. It makes perfect sense to me that people would feel

that way. I mean, I totally -- I totally -- I can understand it. It

makes sense.

And the only thing I would say about the faith question is I

think from my perspective it is wrong -- because we have seen a

president in the last six-plus years who tries to impose his faith on

the American people. And I think it is a mistake and I will not

impose my faith belief on the American people. I don't believe any

president of the
United States should do that. I believe in the

separation of church and state.

And these things that we have talked about, all these substantive

issues of equality, which is really what the discussion has been

about, these are part of my heart, soul and core. And they are not

just issues that I will answer when I'm in front of you; they are

things that I will fight for every day, both in the presidential

campaign and as president of the
United States , because I think

America desperately needs and it and I believe in it deeply.

MS. CARLSON: Joe, very quickly, one more question.

MR. SALMONESE: I'm just wondering, then, if you could briefly

talk about -- as you said, it is not your faith.

Then, what is at the core of that resistance? I know that you said

you're on a journey, and I'm curious where and when you might end up

on that journey. (Laughter, applause.)

MR. EDWARDS: Yeah. I --

MS. CARLSON: How old are you? (Laughter.)

MR. EDWARDS: I'm too old, I'm 54.

I can tell you where I am. First of all, I think you deserve to

know the truth, and the truth is that my position on same sex marriage

has not changed. I think political -- well, we're past the time of

political doublespeak about this. I do believe strongly in civil

unions and the substantive rights that go with that. I believe we

desperately need to get rid of DOMA. I think we need to get rid of

"don't ask, don't tell." I think we need to get rid of those things.


And by the way, don't -- just as an aside, "don't ask, don't

tell" is not just wrong now, it was wrong when it began. It's been

wrong the entire time -- (applause) -- as is true with DOMA, exactly

the same thing's true with DOMA.

All I can tell you is where I am today. That's the best I can

do. You deserve to know that from me. Today I believe in all these

other things, but I do not support same sex marriage.

MS. CARLSON: I want to squeeze in a viewer-generated question,

and it's about "don't ask, don't tell." This is from Jason Knight in

Washington , D.C. He was a former Navy linguist who was dismissed

under "don't ask, don't tell." We have so many fewer Arabic speakers

thanks to that rule.

MR. EDWARDS: I know. I know.

MS. CARLSON: He said, "Since the ban cannot be lifted by

executive order, you need more" -- he claims you need more than the

president. President Clinton wanted to do more, but ran into the

generals, ran into Congress, ran into a lot of roadblocks, so how do

you do it?

What are you going to do?

MR. EDWARDS: Oh, I think the president of the
United States can

get rid of "Don't ask, don't tell." I mean, I appreciate the

question, but I -- if the president of the
United States believes that

that "Don't ask, don't tell" is bad for
America and in fact bad for

our military, which -- and it's discriminatory, all of which is true


MS. CARLSON: And when General Colin Powell says no, you can't do


MR. EDWARDS: I'm not sure Colin Powell would say no. But --

MS. CARLSON: I think he did say no.

MR. EDWARDS: Back then.

MS. CARLSON: Yes, I think he did.

MR. EDWARDS: Back then. But it doesn't matter. I mean, it's

not the job of the generals to make this determination. It is the job

of the president of the
United States to make this policy decision.

(Applause.) And I can tell you I am firmly committed to eliminating

"Don't ask, don't tell."

MS. CARLSON: Well, we're out of time with our questions. Would

you like to wrap up?

MR. EDWARDS: Oh, come on! (Laughter.)

MS. CARLSON: No, you get to ask us questions, if you'd like.

(Laughter.) But anyway, you have a minute to yourself.

MR. EDWARDS: Okay. Well, thank you.

Thank you all very much for being here, and thank all of you.

You're so important.
America -- truth is,
America owes you a debt of

gratitude. And if you've heard me -- some of you heard me talk in the

past about two
Americas and trying to have one
America . You know, if

we actually believe in having one
America , we got a lot of work to do,

don't we? And nobody understands that better than the people in this

room and the people you are advocating for.

We have such work to do to keep loving couples together who are

separated because of immigration laws that are unfair, to have exactly

what was described in one of the earlier questions, to have an

employer be able to walk in to an employee and say, "You are fired

because of your sexual orientation," and nothing can be done about it;

to have someone brutally murdered in the
United States of America --

in the
United States of America -- because of their sexual

orientation, and not have that be a hate crime.

We're better than this. The
United States of America is better than

this. And we and all of you are important in bringing about the

change that's necessary in this country.

And the last thing I want to say -- what's -- what I would is

just to every single person in this room and everyone who can hear the

sound of my voice, the -- it's great that you're having a presidential

forum. I love that. I'm glad we're talking about these really

important issues of equality, but I want to add to that.

The real change and the real movements in
America -- they didn't

start in the Oval Office. They started in places and in communities

just like this, with people with courage and strength who went out and

stood up and fought for what was right, who marched and spoke up.

That's what you're doing today, and you're going to change this

country along with the next president of the
United States .

Thank you all, folks. (Applause.)

MS. CARLSON: Hey, thanks. Hope they let you talk enough.

MR. EDWARDS: Yeah, you did good. Thanks.

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Did I really hear Edwards say LGBT family issues should be taught in public schools? That's so awesome.

Homeless youth AND LGBT family issues taught in public schools? Edwards just started looking better.

Melissa Etheridge...Yeah, not the best choice for a panelist. I'll leave it at that.

Leland Frances | August 9, 2007 10:37 PM

It is now officially driving me crazy that I can't watch this live! If Edwards DID say that about schools, Good Golly Miss Molly! He'd better increase his Selective Service protection detail. As y'all know, demonstrations and lawsuits and gnashing of teeth to prevent their little Hitler Youth from hearing anything about gays is the latest wave of the American Taliban. Even the Log Cabin Repugs favorite governor, with the big Austrian oak, vetoed a law that would have mandated inclusion of LGBTs in California textbooks just as inclusion of other minorities is already law.

I agree with you, Bil. Wow!

Leland Frances | August 9, 2007 11:23 PM

Thank you SOOOOOOOO much for the transcript! He did say it about schools and I'm absolutely flabbergasted. If the American Taliban were forced to choose between allowing marriage equality or positive information about such equality in the schools I think they would be throwing rice at our weddings tomorrow and leading off the Chicken Dance! As long as they could keep their precious youngins in the dark. Forget all the criticisms of the quality of education in public schools, the MAIN reason "home schooling" is so widespread is that they want to keep their children brainwashed about any number of things, but particularly US, and they can't do it letting them out into the light.

Thanks, Senator! And, of course, Ann Coulter just had a multiple orgasm and is hurriedly editing her prewritten hatchet job on him because she didn't expect him to take this courageous step any more than we did.