Jessica Hoffmann

Richardson: Live from the HRC Candidates' Forum

Filed By Jessica Hoffmann | August 09, 2007 10:25 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics

[EDITOR'S NOTE:] Transcript of Gov. Richardson's section after the jump.

(Note from the press room:) All the journalists are laughing and smirking too ... no one appreciates evasion. Personally, I'm drifting -- the combination of this one-after-another format, cold medicine, and lack of investment in the central questions is making it hard for me to catch the slick, slidy nuances.

Oh, wait -- that got everyone's attention. Richardson: "It's a choice."


Our next candidate, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, has

served as secretary of Energy, ambassador to the United Nations and is

a congressman representing the 3rd District of New Mexico.

Welcome, Governor Richardson. (Applause.)

MS. CARLSON: Two times in a week.

Governor Richardson, welcome. It's great to have you with us.

GOV. RICHARDSON: Thank you. Nice to be here.

MS. CARLSON: Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post has some

questions for you.

MR. CAPEHART: Yes, Governor, thank you for being here.

In response to a question on same sex marriage at the CNN YouTube

debate, you said you would focus less on marriage and more on what's,

quote, "achievable" in terms of rights and responsibilities for same

sex couples. When will same sex marriage be achievable, and what will

you do to foster an environment where it would become achievable?

GOV. RICHARDSON: Here's my view. The nation, I believe, is on a

path to full inclusion. A president must lead that effort.

In my judgment, what is achievable is civil unions with full

marriage rights, with domestic partnership. I believe that's


What we also need to do is redress some of the gross imbalances

of the past. If I'm elected president, I would get rid of "Don't ask,

don't tell." I didn't vote for it when I was in Congress.

When you have an
America that is asking men and women to fight

and die, the last thing you need to do is give them a lecture on

sexual orientation. (Applause.)

Secondly, I would repeal another horrendous initiative that I

voted for and I regret now: DOMA. That would preclude a number of

the full partnership rights that I want to see with civil unions.

And third -- and there's another one that hasn't been focused on

today -- and that's No Child Left Behind. That has initiatives in it

that hurt diversity education.

That is achievable. Hate crimes laws are achievable. But we

have to bring the country to a position where there is public support.

All my life -- as a governor, as a congressman, as the U.N.

ambassador, as the secretary of Energy -- I'm known for getting things

done. And I'd like to get into that in some of the questions.

MR. CAPEHART: Governor, what was it about the time -- I believe

it was 1996 when DOMA was passed -- what was it about that time that

made it possible for you to actually vote for it?

GOV. RICHARDSON: Well, I was the chief deputy whip of the

Democrats at the time.

President Clinton was president. And at that time, the objective in

passing DOMA was to fight a huge assault for a constitutional

amendment in the Congress to ban marriage. It was sort of a cheap

political way to decimate a bad initiative.

Now on "don't ask, don't tell," I reached the point, even though

I was the deputy whip, that I voted against that, because it made no

sense to me. So my point is that we need to bring the country along.

You need to build public support.

You know, I like all these speeches here about how we're going to

do this or that. But what makes sense is to have a president that on

-- not only knows how to lead but how to get things done. And we need

a president too that recognizes that the country is moving in a

journey or a path of more inclusion. States are moving a lot faster.

And a president not only has to guide that but has to lead.

MR. CAPEHART: Governor, as a guest on the Don Imus show, Imus in

the Morning, in March 2006, you were asked by Imus in a gag on a

staffer if that staffer were a, quote, "maricon," which as you know is

Spanish for faggot. In your response, you repeated the epithet. But

you've since apologized and now you question -- I've seen you question

the timing of this issue coming up.

Do you not believe that you should be held responsible, held

accountable, for using that word, repeating that word?

GOV. RICHARDSON: Sure, you know, and I'm Hispanic. I felt the

sting as a kid of being stereotyped. And I apologized but I meant no

harm when I said that. It was, you know, one of those exchanges that

I was caught off guard.

No, I am not backing off. I apologize, but I think you should

look at my actions and not words.

Let me tell you what I've done as governor. All of these issues that

we've talked about today, Bill Richardson as governor has done.

Number one, I passed a hate crimes act that was based on non-

discrimination, on partnership, on -- I was the first governor to

include transgender. Number two -- (applause) -- I also passed

partnerships, domestic partnerships avoiding discrimination. I pushed

that and got it done. I'm the only governor that called a special

session to expand domestic partnership. We didn't get it done in the

last session in
New Mexico ; we will get it done in this next one.

I've appointed Cabinet members that are gay and lesbians. All through

my administration I have been inclusing -- inclusive of the

lesbian/gay community.

So, you know, you can talk about what mistakes people have made.

I've made plenty. And I've probably said things that I regret across

the board. But we should look at what we've done. It's not just the

speeches and the 10-point plans, but what we've done. And as a

governor, as a congressman 15 years on gay issues, I was there.

I was there at the United Nations, too. You know, we should talk

about human rights around the world, the Iraqis that are being

discriminated and targeted today. We should talk about international

issues relating to HIV and AIDS. I was there. I have fully funded in

my state HIV, AIDS initiatives across the board.

I think -- so, you know, when you ask me a question like that --

which I accept, obviously -- you should look at my record. Action

speaks louder than words.

MS. CARLSON: Yeah. Governor, I think everyone gets one mistake

on Imus. (Laughter.) (Applause.) Since I myself made one.

Before I go to Joe, I wanted to -- you're said you're calling a

special session for domestic partnerships in --


MS. CARLSON: Oh, you did. And how did it go?

GOV. RICHARDSON: It didn't pass.

MS. CARLSON: Yeah. Why did --

GOV. RICHARDSON: We lost by one vote.

MS. CARLSON: So I now know the answer to my question of why you

didn't call a special session for same sex marriage because you can't

get domestic partnership through.

GOV. RICHARDSON: No. Here's another thing that I did, all

right? How many states don't have DOMA? There are six;
New Mexico is

one. I kept it off, I fought it. So I've done it, too -- DOMA. It

isn't in
New Mexico , it isn't in five other states, it's in the rest

of the country. I kept it off. I kept it off. We killed it, so

shouldn't that count for something? (Laughter, applause.)

MS. CARLSON: Indeed. We're going to count it, okay?


MS. CARLSON: Joe -- Joe's going to count it.

MR. SOLOMONESE: That certainly does count, and you were such a

champion on attempting to get domestic partnership done in
New Mexico .

But following up on the point that you made about the states

moving in the right direction and the will of the people needing to be

there, if the
New Mexico legislature handed you a marriage bill, would

you sign it?

GOV. RICHARDSON: (Short pause.) The
New Mexico legislature, I

am pushing it very hard to expand domestic partnership. It's the same

thing, Joe. It's a question of going through a path that is


Now, you know, I'll give the most flowery speeches like several

that have done here. I am in this business to get things done, to

lead, to pass legislation, to bring coalitions together, to bring the

country together.

MR. SOLOMONESE: And you have been a hero on a number of issues.

I think what we're trying to get a sense of here is, when you say

the country needs to come along, we need to move people and it's

happening in the states, then if it's happening in a state and the

legislature hands you that piece of legislation, in your heart, where

are you on that issue in that sort of a circumstance?

GOV. RICHARDSON: Well, you know, in my heart, I'm doing what is

achievable. And I'm not there yet. And the country isn't there yet.

New Mexico isn't there yet. We have to bring the country on. We have

to move in the direction of making this happen.

That doesn't mean that I'm closed on this issue. It means that

you do what is achievable.

MR. SOLMONESE: I want to get to one of the other issues that you

mentioned. Under our current immigration laws, one spouse can sponsor

another to become a
U.S. resident. Same-sex couples are not covered

by this law. What would you do to help binational couples, couples

who are playing by the rules, gay and lesbian couples who are playing

by the rules, but whose families are being torn apart by the current

immigration system?

GOV. RICHARDSON: Well, I believe that when you have expansion of

domestic partnership, of civil unions, it should be to all people,

regardless of where you are -- overseas, underseas, anywhere.

MR. SOLMONESE: (Chuckles.)

GOV. RICHARDSON: So there's a bill in Congress, which I have

already said I would support, to include -- because it's currently in

the immigration issue -- I know of friends of mine that have partners

Mexico , that -- when I signed in
New Mexico an executive order

expanding domestic partnership, one of my constituents has a partner

Mexico , and my own constituent, because of the immigration law, and

his partner cannot come together. I think that's wrong. I think

that's discrimination.

MS. CARLSON: Thank you, Governor.


MS. ETHERIDGE: Thank you.

Do you think homosexuality is a choice, or is it biological?

GOV. RICHARDSON: It's a choice. It's --

MS. ETHERIDGE: I don't know if you understand the question.

(Soft laughter.) Do you think I -- a homosexual is born that way, or

do you think that around seventh grade we go, "Ooh, I want to be gay"?

GOV. RICHARDSON: Well, I -- I'm not a scientist. It's -- you

know, I don't see this as an issue of science or definition.

I see gays and lesbians as people as a matter of human decency. I see

it as a matter of love and companionship and people loving each other.

You know I don't like to categorize people. I don't like to, like,

answer definitions like that that, you know, perhaps are grounded in

science or something else that I don't understand.

MS. ETHERIDGE: Well, it's hard when you are a citizen of a

country that tells you that you are making a choice when you were born

that way, and your Creator made you that way. And there's a document

that was written 200 years ago that says you are entitled to certain

rights that you are not given.

How can there be anything other than absolute equal rights for


GOV. RICHARDSON: Well, that's -- that's always been my view, as

I said. As a Hispanic, I grew up with people thinking because of my

darker skin and my -- you know, I didn't -- I wasn't fully speaking

English at a time, that I was not equal. So I understand that issue

of inequality, and so across the board I've always felt that every

human being desires the same rights, desires the same niche in our

society. And you know, I've -- all my life I've striven very hard to

deal with the civil rights issue, on immigration issues affecting

families. I've always held these ideals very high, and my record

speaks for it.

MS. ETHERIDGE: I've lived in your state. I've lived in Santa

Fe, beautiful, beautiful place. How's the bark beetle infestation

going? (Laughter.)

GOV. RICHARDSON: It's still a problem.


GOV. RICHARDSON: They're still a problem.

MS. ETHERIDGE: That's -- environmentally, I hope you can do


MS. CARLSON: Governor Richardson, can I interrupt the bark

beetle? (Laughter.)

I wanted to ask you, people who are opposed to equality for gays

and lesbians say it's a lifestyle choice and that it can be cured or

changed, and it's just chosen, it's not how you're born.

So therefore you don't get equal rights because, you know, you're just

choosing to be a certain way.

What do you say to those people that would take away rights

because it's just like, you know, choosing anything else and you can

choose back if you want? Why should it be a civil right?

GOV. RICHARDSON: Well, I don't think it's a matter of

preferences. It's a matter of equality. I would say that, you know,

gays and lesbians -- I've seen some of those -- I've gotten a lot of

letters, because I've been very outspoken on this issue, that gays and

lesbians are seeking special preferences. I don't believe that's the


I think it's a matter of full equality. And this is why in my

public life, I not only have spoken about these issues, I've done it.

That's the point that I'm trying to convey, that I have issues

relating to domestic partners, issues relating to hate crimes, issues

relating to signing executive orders to protect all state employees,

issues relating to "don't ask, don't tell." I will strive to move

this country in the direction of full equality for everybody.

MS. CARLSON: Thank you, Governor. We're just about out of time.

Would you like to make a closing statement? If you want to address

the bark beetle, you may. (Laughter.)

GOV. RICHARDSON: Before I do that, I want to just say to

Melissa, I admire your efforts on behalf of fighting your fight

against breast cancer. I loved your movie, "Inconvenient Truth," the

Oscar you got.

MS. ETHERIDGE: My movie? (Laughter.) Thank you.

GOV. RICHARDSON: Just tell Al Gore not to run, please.

(Laughter.) I'm moving up. I'm moving up. I don't --

MS. ETHERIDGE: You're moving up. You're getting there. All

right. He says it's too soul-sucking. He won't do it again. So --


GOV. RICHARDSON: I want to lead this country because I believe I

have the most experience and because I represent change. I also

believe I'm electable.

Now I notice how a lot of these candidates have talked about all

the things that they want to do and where they stand.

I want you to look at my record as a governor, as a congressman, and

see what I have done. The full range of issues that have been

discussed here, I've delivered on as a governor. And I would do the

same as president.

The issue is, how can we bring this country together to achieve

the goals of full equality? And the best barometer of that is your

record, not your speeches. The best barometer of that is who has

delivered, not your 10-point plans.

And with that closing, I ask for the support of the many people

here that support in this country full equality. (Applause.)

MS. CARLSON: Thank you, Governor. Thanks.


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dude has done legit stuff but puts me to sleep! about as inspiring as a turnip.

Leland Frances | August 9, 2007 10:40 PM

WAIT! "don't follow electoral politics," "lack of investment in the central questions"?????

Why are YOU there? I would gladly have donated money to help pay for Bil's plane ticket.

Well, I live in LA -- and I'm here to provide my queer perspective -- which is much more concerned with radical challenges to oppression than assimilation to oppressive institutions. It's not the perspective of everyone at Bilerico, which as I understand it is part of the Bilerico design.

Don't worry Leland, Jessica is completely qualified to be there. She's part of the LGBTQueer and has a unique perspective that I'm really enjoying reading.

I'm loving the commentary, Jessica, keep it coming!

I can't follow the debate here b/c of tech difficulties so I'm waiting for the next transcript.... I've just gotten some emails from listserves and I think that I really want to hear about this choice Richardson is talking about.

Leland Frances | August 9, 2007 11:37 PM

Hmmmm. Those still foggy responses about "choice" are still troubling—at least as they appear here so far. But, practically speaking only because they're being made publicly by a person of influence. I've always said I don't CARE what people think about me—the gay equality movement shouldn't be about getting them, as Bayard Rustin so eloquently put it, to luv us but about staying the fuck out of the way of our legal rights and "pursuit of happiness." And, save marriage, he seems committed to that. So, in a vacuum at least, I don't care what he thinks about gay etiology. I'm still more troubled by both his use of the word "maricon" a couple of years back on the Imus show and his recent defense of it based on some kind of alleged ignorance about its usage and force as a slur.

Yet, is that enough to get me to not vote Democratic if he ends up as the VP running mate [the very best he stands a chance for in a brokered convention recognizing the power of the Hispanic vote]? No.

I think that Jessica's take on the forum was unique and definitely not what you'll find everywhere else. Plus, fellow contributor Pam Spaulding was also live blogging the event. You can find her post on it here. One of the benefits to having contributors from all over the country is that we get to see events through different eyes. While I might have covered other aspects, I would have missed some parts Jessica picked up on automatically. I like having the ability to challenge some of what I thought about the forum.

The guy may be a good legislator, but he's not very articulate... and tends to stick his foot in his mouth every time he speaks.

I am bothered by the people who are worried about the choice comment. So what, if it IS a choice, it's MY CHOICE. Religion is a choice too, and it's still a protected right.

Who knew that Melissa Etheridge would talk about her "Creator" making her *that* way... my lord, I mean my Creator, no I mean the beauty and potential impossibility of queer identity for me lies in the possibility of encouraging and enabling everyone to CHOOSE their gender, sexual, social and political identities...