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Richardson Stumbles

Jim Burroway

August 10th, 2007

The internet is a buzz. On last night’s Democratic forum sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign and broadcast on LOGO, Melissa Etheridge asked New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson whether he thought people were born gay or if it was a choice. He answered, “It’s a choice.” She rephrased the question, thinking Richardson misunderstood her, but Richardson repeated that he thought it was a choice. He then followed that with a rambling monologue about not seeing people with labels, but none of it was convincing with his deer-in-the-headlights look. At one point he said, “I don’t like to answer questions like that.”

Understanding the terrible damage his performance inflicted, Richardson issued this clarification after the debate:

Let me be clear — I do not believe that sexual orientation or gender identity happen by choice. But I’m not a scientist, and the point I was trying to make is that no matter how it happens, we are all equal and should be treated that way under the law. That is what I believe, that is what I have spent my career fighting for.

But video from last night’s forum is hitting the airwaves hard on this morning’s news programs, swamping his clarification. This comes as Richardson is still trying to recover from his “maricón” incident, where he used the Spanish anti-gay slur on the Don Imus show in March, 2006.

Gay bloggers are all over the map this morning as to who won last night’s forum. Everyone has their favorites. But they all agree on one thing. Richardson inflicted very serious damage to his campaign as far as the gay community is concerned.

Update: Bill Richardson will appear on the Michelangelo Signorile show on Sirius OutQ 109 4:25 pm EDT (1:25 PDT) try to clarify this further.

Update: With all the focus on Bill Richardson’s stumble in the forum last night, it’s worth noting his record on gay rights:

  1. Expanded anti-discrimination laws to include sexual orientation. [Senate Bill SB 28, 2003 Legislature]
  2. Signed into law the state’s first hate crimes legislation for acts including those based on sexual orientation. [SB 38, 2003 Legislature]
  3. Provided state health insurance for domestic partnerships. [Executive Order 03 010]
  4. Signed the Billy Griego HIV and AIDS Act, which was designed to ensure that consumers are the focus of the funding and services provided in all the state’s HIV and AIDS cases. [Senate Bill 314, 2005 Legislature]
  5. Created the state’s first HIV and AIDS Policy Commission charged with reviewing and making recommendations on state HIV and AIDS policies. The commission also studies and makes recommendations on all factors affecting the availability, quality and accessibility of health services for persons with HIV and AIDS. [Senate Bill 313, 2005 Legislature]
  6. Called a Special Session of the NM State Legislature to push for Domestic Partnerships Legislation, among other issues, after it failed by one vote in the Senate during the Regular Session. Governor Richardson has pledged to push for the legislation again during the next Legislative Session.



August 10th, 2007 | LINK

Does it really matter how biologically constrained being gay is? I don’t think the political solution to getting legitimate equality hinges upon the “nature v nurture” question.

After all, isn’t religion, to some extent, chosen? And we offer protections there.

Yes, he fumbled in not taking the answer he “should” give, but the answer I read (at FoucaultBlog) showed that he got the point was about political protection, not about science.

Timothy Kincaid
August 10th, 2007 | LINK

It does raise the question:

Would I rather have a President who thinks I chose my orientation – or even is willing to mock me – but fights for me to be treated equally anyway; or would I rather have a President who claims to see me as equal and is always respectful but is willing to compromise on issues involving my equality and does not expend political capital to see I have the same priveleges as they do?

In an ideal world I would not have to choose between the two.

August 10th, 2007 | LINK

Personally, I’m almost pleased to see someone declaring that homosexuality is a choice – it’s better to buck the trend by giving an outrageous, unexpected answer than to automatically, mindlessly provide the answer someone wants.

August 10th, 2007 | LINK

I cannot see any reason to be pleased with that answer. Whether it is inborn, determined in early childhood, or determined in early puberty is irrelevant – the point is that it is not a conscious choice that one makes.

He fumbled. Badly.

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