Q-Notes was able to pose several questions to Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Below are her responses.
Q-Notes: Senator, you have lots of support in the LGBT community. How does that figure into your campaign in North Carolina and the rest of the nation?
SENATOR CLINTON: I am proud and grateful of the support I have received from members of the LGBT community throughout the country. I have worked hard for the trust and votes of people in states that have already held their primaries and caucuses, and I am doing the same in North Carolina. Since the earliest months of my campaign, I have had an inclusive campaign, which includes the LGBT community, because I wanted to reach out and listen to all Americans. I hired a full-time National Director of LGBT Outreach and I created a national LGBT steering committee whose members provide me with advice, counsel, and feedback on issues important to the LGBT community.
Q-Notes originally endorsed Sen. John Edwards. Part of our reasoning was that we felt he understood what it is like to grow up in and around working class people in the South. As a woman who has held positions of power and influence for decades, how do you plan on really connecting with and representing the needs and concerns of small town, working-class Americans?
For more than a year, I have been traveling to small towns throughout our great country to listen to the concerns of hard-working Americans who, after seven years of the Bush administration, are looking for a President who will fight for them and stand up for them. In the coming weeks, I will continue to go to towns in North Carolina and elsewhere in order to connect with residents, hear what they have to say, and share my solutions to address the big challenges ahead of us. As I travel to small towns in America, I often think about my own roots: My grandfather was a factory worker from Scranton who went to work in the lace mills when he was 11 years old. As President, I will be committed to issues that are important to Americans living in small towns. I will ensure that all Americans have access to quality, affordable health care, including the nearly 1.6 million North Carolinians who currently do not have insurance. I will also work to improve our schools and support our students and teachers; I have a plan to provide pre-K to all four-year-olds, attract and retain outstanding educators, and make college more affordable to everyone. And I will work to make investments in our economy to create millions of good, high-wage jobs in the United States.
You told the Philadelphia Gay News that you would “do everything to eliminate any disparities in any benefit or rights under our law at the federal level.” If you are unable to capture the nomination, will you return to the Senate and introduce legislation repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act?
I have long been on record supporting equality in benefits and eliminating discrimination against gays and lesbians. I support repealing the provision of the Defense of Marriage Act that may prohibit the federal government from providing benefits to people in states that recognize same sex marriage. I strongly support ensuring people in stable, long-term same sex relationships have full equality of benefits, rights, and responsibilities.
I support repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Courage, honor, patriotism and sacrifice – the traits that define our men and women in uniform – have nothing to do with sexual orientation. I’m concerned that the military is discharging people with critical skills – including desperately needed Arabic language skills. Our close allies, Great Britain and Israel, have changed their policies to allow gays to serve in the military without dire consequences. This is a matter of national security and I will fix it.
At this time LGBT Americans do not have access to marriage or civil unions at the federal level. Basic familial rights – inheritance, hospital visitation, etc. – are out of the grasp of most gay couples, like those here in North Carolina. How will you address the basic human rights of these families?
I believe gay and lesbian couples should have all the same rights, responsibilities, and benefits as all Americans. As President, I will work to ensure that all Americans in committed relationships have equal benefits – from health insurance and life insurance, property rights, and more – through civil unions.
According to the CDC, men who have sex with men account for nearly 50 percent of all new HIV/AIDS cases in the U.S. Despite this, many in the gay community feel that the government continues to turn a blind eye to the crisis. How will you strengthen HIV/AIDS prevention efforts and funding relative to gay men, in particular?
I have proposed a comprehensive plan to address HIV/AIDS in the United States and around the world. I have promoted increased funding for the Ryan White program, sought to expand Medicaid eligibility to people living with HIV, and worked to help youth gain access to scientifically accurate information about HIV/AIDS and reproductive health. As President, I will work to tie all of these efforts together and bring federal agencies to the table to develop a single, comprehensive national strategy, which will allow for better cooperation among programs that have been underfunded and downgraded during the Bush Administration. Also, under my health care plan, every single American, including Americans living with HIV, will have access to quality, affordable health care. My plan will prohibit insurance companies from discriminating people based on pre-existing conditions.
I will also work to halt and reverse the recent increase in infection rates among gay men, young people, and people of color. I will seek to address the factors that contribute to high risk behavior, such as the use of drugs like crystal meth, which is impacting both rural and urban areas, and the use of which is on the rise in the gay community. I was a proud co-sponsor of the Combat Meth Act of 2005, which was signed into law on March 9, 2006. This law tightens restrictions on how pseudoephedrine is sold to ensure that it is not being trafficked, and provides resources for prevention, education, and treatment. As President, I will work to see that this law is implemented effectively.
In recent decades, we have seen the President’s Cabinet become more diverse and more representative of the American people. As President, will you make an effort to appoint an out lesbian or gay to your Cabinet?
When I am President, I will ensure that my administration is as diverse as our country. I will appoint and nominate qualified and experienced people of all backgrounds, including those from the LGBT community. Throughout my life – from when I was First Lady in Arkansas to First Lady in the White House to a member of the U.S. Senate to now a candidate for President – I have surrounded myself with people from all different backgrounds and I have benefited tremendously from them. I have put together perhaps the most diverse presidential campaign in American history, and I am committed to having the most diverse administration in our history. I will ensure that our government – in the White House, throughout all departments, and on the courts – truly reflects America’s diverse backgrounds and values.
Here in North Carolina, we have our first female candidate for Governor. As the first serious female contender for the White House, what advice do you have for Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue?
My advice for any candidate – woman or man – is to remember that the election should be about the voters, not about us. Women candidates may get more attention to what we wear or how we wear our hair – but when voters make their decision, they want to know about our ideas for our country, and our track record for getting things done. So try to keep your conversation focused on the issues – and keep your sense of humor on the campaign trail!
The mainstream media has hounded you for alleged exaggerations made during some of your speeches and campaign stops. Do you think the media has scrutinized Sen. Obama’s comments to the same degree? If not, why not?
I think all Democrats want someone who can win in the November and that means withstanding the Republican attack machine. After 15 years of being scrutinized by the media and being on the receiving end of the Republican attack machine, I’ve shown that I can not only survive but win. And that’s exactly what I’ll do in the general election. I’ve been in this arena for a long time. I have a lot of baggage, and everybody has rummaged through it for years. And so therefore, I have an opportunity to come to this campaign with a very strong conviction and feeling that I will be able to withstand whatever the Republicans send our way.
With the debut of the NCAskMe commercials and website, it appears that you are interested in hearing what’s on the minds of everyday North Carolinians and are looking for thoughtful political engagement. At the same time, your campaign has been criticized for being too quick to attack or always on the defensive. Plus, the intense bickering between you and Sen. Obama has been a distraction at times. What will you do to ensure that the remainder of this race focuses on the issues that matter to LGBT Americans and LGBT North Carolinians?
For the remainder of this race, I will continue to meet and speak with as many Americans, including LGBT Americans, as I can. I believe that is the best way to ensure that this race is focused on the issues that matter most to people today. When I joined this race, I said I wanted to begin a conversation. That is what I have been doing, in-person on the campaign trail and through efforts like NCAskMe. My campaign launched NCAskMe so that we could respond to the concerns of North Carolinians. As of this week, more than 11,000 questions have been submitted. We – my campaign staff, volunteers, and I – are working to answer every question and ensure that North Carolinians voices are heard. We will continue to do so in the following weeks.
Ed. Note: With the cooperation of her campaign staff, these questions were submitted to Sen. Clinton via email. The responses we received were expressly credited to the candidate.