Guest Blogger

Bill Richardson: I screwed up

Filed By Guest Blogger | November 30, 2007 11:52 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Politics
Tags: Bill Richardson, Democrats, election 2008, guest post, LGBT community, make an apology, New Mexico, presidency, White House

[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.

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I have a hard time believing that this is any more than another politician attempting to back pedal.

Sorry Bill. Until I see some real commitment from you to LGBT causes, you've lost my vote.

My understanding of his NM record is that what he's saying is true. I've said for a while that he has one of the best track records on LGBT issues of any of the D candidates, and early on considered supporting him. By the by, he's also got the deepest and most relevant resume of any candidate in the race, much of that experience being in foreign service.

Ultimately, though, I decided that I wouldn't support him because he also has a severe case of foot-in-mouth disease that makes the question of his qualifications a moot point.

Liz Stefanics | November 30, 2007 5:09 PM

As the first openly gay member of the NM State Senate in the early 90's, Congressman Bill Richardson supported me in my first race for elected office which was successful.

As the Governor of our state, he has supported my partner and I in our relationship and in our work for nondiscrimination, hate crimes, and domestic partnerships.

He has signed both a Hate Crimes bill and a Nondiscrimnation Bill that includes GLBTI - only a few states have included gender identity (NM was the 3rd state) and he made it happen.

He has made Domestic Partnerships a priority for two years and he will place it on his "Call of Topics" for the next legislative session - we lost by one vote in 2007 and he was and is poised to sign the bill into law.

He does not always say the right things at the right moment but he has been sincere - in his years in Congress and in his years as Governor.

He has also appointed several gay people to state boards and commissions as well as in full time employment as Secretaries, Deputy Secretaries, Directors, etc.

I would encourage you to think about what this candidate has done vs what others are promising to do - he has come through for us in NM and we do not doubt that he will continue to be there for the LGBTI community.

Thanks, Liz Stefaniacs

linda siegle | November 30, 2007 5:20 PM

Bill Richardson's actions speak louder than words. I have known him since his early days in Congress. Here is a guy who in the 80s did not need to be persuaded that supporting gays and lesbians was the right and only thing to do.

As the lobbyist for the GLBT community in new Mexico, I have worked closely with Gov Richardson for many years. When he became governor in 2003, he kept his campaign promise and helped us pass and signed the human rights act with sexualorientation and gender identity. He also helped pass and signed a hate crimes bill with SO and GI. He issued an executive order providing health insurance benefits for domestic partners. Now he is pushing probably the most comprehensive domestic partnership legislation in the country. We should have it passed and signed by Feb 2008.

Yeah he said gayness is a choice and later admitted his mistake. For some of us he was probably right the first time.

To me, the fact that Richardson went after the Gender ID protections as well as the sexual orientation shows that he's real. It's easy to say "What's in the bedroom stays in the bedroom", but to also want to protect people's gender performance on the job, a gender transgression that others will be forced to notice and deal with daily, shows that he's willing to go to the source of the problem.

It's of the things I like most about Richardson is also one of the things that makes me most nervous about him as a candidate.

We frequently hear him say "Here's what's doable..." or "Here's what I can do...". On the surface, that's a very honest and practical tack to take on social and civil rights issues. Yet, when you realize that's the very same excuse being used by Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi to justify throwing transpeople under the bus in regards to ENDA, that rights for transpeople aren't "doable", it makes me very wary of any candidate who insists on looking at things that way.

Am I saying Bill Richardson would do the same? The truth is, I don't know. I know his record, but frankly I'm not really convinced he's enough in tune with the LGBT community and our issues to be sure he wouldn't if he decides to accept the Frank/Pelosi/HRC rationale on ENDA.

Truth is, I'd much rather see him in office than Hillary, Edwards, or pretty much anyone running other than Kucinich or (maybe) Obama, but I find it difficult to feel confident he'd stand up for me and mine if Congressional leaders continue to actively sell out the poor and disenfranchised to pander for money and votes the way they are now. The feeling I get is that he's just a little too willing to accept compromise solutions rather than stand up for what is right but harder to accomplish, and that makes it difficult for me to be very enthusiastic about his candidacy.

ok now to shock you Governer Richardson is my prefered Democrate of the whole bunch.Besides his stand on our issues hes had way more government experience than any of the other folks running and that includes Republicans.

Richardson is the only candidate who has actually signed into law, or voted for, a T-inclusive employment rights law. Words are one thing, deeds are quite another. I know he's a long shot, but for now, he's my choice, with Kucinich and Edwards following.

If he truly believes in gay equality why would he not say if he would sign a marriage bill if bought to his desk by the New Mexico legislature? The moment he does that I support him but until that day it is Obama all the way.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | December 1, 2007 5:08 PM

Hmmm. I like your willingness to admit a mistake. And your positions on LGBT issues, although I'd prefer same-sex marriage to domestic partnerships. Your actual record on LGBT issues is impressive, too: it's not just talk. I'd been leaning heavily toward Kucinich until he mused out loud about picking Ron Paul for his VP. He lost me there.

I want the US out of Iraq as soon as possible, so I'm with you there.

The fact that you're of Mexican-American descent is a big plus, also. I'm 3rd generation Californian and that state would not be the amazing place it is were it not for its very large Mexican-American community, to which I feel a strong affinity even though I'm Anglo. I assume you speak Spanish--and perhaps French, too. It's past time we had an authentic Spanish speaking person in the White House and not that offensive poseur who resides there now.

But pro-death penalty, Gov Richardson? What the heck is that about? Not to mention, pro gun rights? The approach to gun-ownership in the US is crazy. Wikipedia also says you oppose a single-payer health system?

Those are some serious negatives.

"He has signed both a Hate Crimes bill and a Nondiscrimnation Bill that includes GLBTI - only a few states have included gender identity (NM was the 3rd state) and he made it happen."

Sen. Stefawnics,

First, thank you for your support.

I have a request, though: Define "few." In 2003, NM was indeed only the third state to be trans-inclusive. However, at last count, more states include gender identity than do not (13 with legit laws; 9 with gay-only ones.)

"I have consistently voted on your side from the start of my Congressional career."

What's with Richardson's use of the phrase, "YOUR side?" Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Heterosexual are to be treated equally. We're all on the same "side."