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February 2, 2007
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Volume 35
Issue 05
 
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Gay vote, rights likely to play a role in presidential campaigns
Gay vote, rights likely to play a role in presidential campaigns
by Lisa Keen - SGN Contributing Writer

Early polling suggests the 2008 presidential election could very well come down to a one-point margin of victory -a development that lends more import to the votes of minorities such as Gays. And though campaign trails are as hazardous to the reputations of prognosticators as they are to those of candidates, the likely survivors suggest a real possibility that Gay voters may have to choose between a Democrat and a Republican who are relatively equal on Gay civil rights issues.

Since June of last year, every national poll has shown former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani at the top of the Republican roster of hopefuls. Since November 2004, U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton has been at the top of the Democratic heap. A Newsweek poll January 16-19 showed that a match-up between the two would go 47 percent Giuliani, 49 percent Clinton, with a three-point margin of error.

Both are popular with the Gay community and both have generally supportive records with occasional missteps. Neither has officially announced a run for the White House but both have announced the formation of "exploratory committees" -a step candidates often take to draw attention and money before tossing their hat into the ring. Clinton formed her committee last weekend. She is one of a dozen Democrats who have announced (six), formed an exploratory committee (three), or become the subject of talk about a presidential bid (three). Giuliani, who formed his committee in November, is atop a field of 14 -eight who have formed exploratory committees and six who have either been visiting key primary-caucus states or talking up the possibility.

But the race for victory in November 2008 is truly a horse race -there may be favorites, but even a horse with great odds can stumble and fall, especially given that this time the length of the campaign is almost two years long. So far, even the most hardcore Gay political activists aren't ready to put their money on anybody.

"I'm not supporting any of the candidates thus far," said Dorie Clark, who signed on early as the Gay outreach coordinator for Howard Dean during his unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination in 2004. "None are speaking to me the same way I thought Howard Dean did. Dean was a pioneer on Gay issues with his support for civil unions in Vermont and his aggressive outreach to the Gay community.

"This time around," noted Clark, "support for civil unions seems to have become a standard among presidential candidates, and that's great news. But society has moved forward and marriage is the new standard for a great presidential candidate."

The marriage issue is also a great illustration of how tricky it is to be a great presidential candidate. Although an audience member in New Hampshire last month beckoned to former U.S. Senator John Edwards (D-NC) to "be honest" in responding to a question about same-sex marriage, there is an unstated presumption that -instead-candidates are trying to be strategic on the hot button issues. Each must satisfy his or her party constituents to win the primary and yet leave enough room to satisfy a broader audience to win a general election.

What does that mean for marriage? A CBS/New York Times poll of more than 1,000 adults nationwide in October found that 57 percent would favor allowing Gay couples to obtain legal recognition for marriages or civil union, 38 percent opposed both; 5 percent weren't sure how they felt about it. But among those who identified as Democrats, 68 percent were for marriage or civil unions, and among Republicans, 41 percent were.

That means Democratic candidates need to show considerable willingness to support some legal recognition for Gay relationships and be in a position to temper that somewhat in the final stretch, while Republicans need to demonstrate some reluctance now and grow into a more supportive position for the general election.

Meanwhile, marriage is not the only issue for Gay voters who will be sizing up candidates in both the primaries and the general election.

John Marble, communications director for National Stonewall Democrats, said members of that organization seem most interested in how candidates stand on a federal bill to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment (ENDA) and one to increase penalties for anti-Gay hate crimes. Following that, he said, they're interested in immigration reform and ending the military's "don't ask/don't tell" ban on Gays.

Patrick Sammon, president of Log Cabin Republicans, said Gay Republicans, too, are studying the field. He declined to say whether they are beginning to lean toward some candidates and added that while a candidate's position on a constitutional ban to same-sex marriage is important, Gay Republicans will also be paying attaching to the "language they use to talk about" Gay-related issues.

"Republican candidates," he said, "should remember that the country wants a candidate who presents a hopeful and optimistic vision for the future, and the politics of division are going to turn off the independent voters who ultimately decide this election."

So far, the only issue showing up on the campaign trail seems to be marriage. Often, it is coming from the audience attending public forums, as with Edwards, and sometimes, more quietly behind-the-scenes -as last week when a college student approached Democrat Tom Vilsack, former governor of Iowa, following an appearance in New Hampshire to ask about his support for civil unions.

And sometimes, the marriage issue is being used as fodder to knock down a candidate. The most recent recipient of such an attack is Republican Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, who has made opposition to same-sex marriage a prominent part of his pitch to Republican voters. Ever since the Boston Gay newspaper Bay Windows dug up interviews from his 1994 Senate bid -interviews in which he said he could make a better champion of Gay civil rights than Sen. Ted Kennedy-right-wing activists have been openly challenging his conservative credentials. Just before he left office earlier this month, some of them sent a letter asking him to rescind his order to state officials to enforce the state supreme court's ruling in the landmark marriage case. He didn't. And within a few days, U.S. Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) released a list of anti-Gay marriage activists in Massachusetts who are supporting him, not Romney.

Log Cabin's Sammon said his group doesn't plan to comment every time Gay issues come up on the campaign trail but it will be watching closely and looking for a candidate who is welcoming.

And there will be plenty of other measures to take of all the candidates. For the 11 candidates who are or have been in Congress, voting records will provide some help in judging the field, though mostly it will serve to separate the Republicans from the Democrats. Four of the five potential Republican candidates have rated only a zero and U.S. Senator John McCain garnered only a 33 on the Human Rights Campaign's scorecard of Congressional votes on Gay-related issues. Democrats have scores ranging from 78 for U.S. Senator Joe Biden to 100 for Senator Christopher Dodd and Rep. Dennis Kucinich with a 100. Kucinich has the best overall record, with successive 100 scores across the last three sessions. But, as Clark pointed out, his previous bid in 2004 indicates he's not a likely victor.

"He seems like a very nice man but he's not going to be our next president," said Clark. "He doesn't have the ability to raise the money or garner the support to become a major contender."

But at least some of the early jostling in the presidential campaign field is as much an effort to sort out potential vice presidential candidates as it is to pick the top of the ticket.

That would seem to be true, for instance, for former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack. While fellow Democrats John Edwards and Barack Obama have been greeted by standing-room-only crowds on the campaign trail, Vilsack's audiences on a recent campaign day in New Hampshire, were small enough he could shake every person's hand. But Vilsack, who has a strongly supportive record on Gay civil rights issues, can appeal to middle America -both geographically and politically. He has roots in the big states of Pennsylvania and New York, a compelling personal story, and a reputation for cutting budgets, not raising taxes. So, too, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson is an acknowledged underdog for the Democratic presidential nomination. And, like Vilsack, is a strong supporter of Gay civil rights. Richardson, who would help attract the Latino vote, has considerable experience in foreign diplomacy and is reportedly an adept fundraiser.

In the Republican field, Brownback is a virtual unknown to most of the country and abysmal when it comes to equal rights for Gays. But if a popular, relative liberal, like Giuliani, got the party's nod, he might be persuaded to appeal to conservatives through his choice of a running mate. If so, he'd have a have at least a dozen GOP presidential candidates to choose from, including Romney who is vying for the conservative mantle, too.

But beyond the usual considerations of politics, there is undeniably something very different about this presidential race -the field includes a viable female candidate, a viable African American candidate, and a viable Hispanic candidate.

"Even if none of these candidates win the nomination," writes black Gay activist Keith Boykin on his website keithboykin.com, "it seems inevitable that one of them almost certainly will be chosen at least as the party's vice presidential candidate." by Kelly Stevens - SGN Contributing Writer

A Quebec government audit revealed 5.3 million (CDN) deficit for the 2006 Outgames on a 15 million total budget on November 13, 2006. On December 7, 2006 Montreal Outgames filed for bankruptcy protection. of the deficit, 3.1 million is loans from the government of Montreal and Quebec. Another 2.2 million is due to private companies and individuals. The web site for the Outgames was shut down. The company that runs the website is listed as one of the companies due payment.

GLISA issued a statement to its members distancing GLISA from the financial problems in Montreal. The GLISA web site gives no mention of the problems or assistance to the vendors who are asking to be paid..

Lousie Roy, Director of the Outgames and Outgames Co-President Mark Tewksbury are also both on the GLISA board.

Outgames Director Louise Roy was quoted after the Outgames saying that the Outgames should have a $200,000 surplus. This statement was given to the press, even though reports now show that the Canadian government was asked for 1.3 million in emergency funding in the weeks preceding the Outgames.

Others in the 1st Outgames organization were making similar statements. "There's no way we're going to lose money," agreed Outgames Press Secretary Pascal Dessureault. "Our budget forecasts a small surplus. Our financial statements are being audited every month by the federal and provincial governments. We're really conscious not to have any deficits at all," he said.

Openly Gay Olympic gold medalist Mark Tewksbury, the Outgames' co-president, said it is critical that the Montreal games not end up in the hole financially.

It is not clear how such a large debt could not have been know, but the Quebec government audit revealed no theft or misappropriation of money. What is clear is Montreal Outgames was aware of the financial problems, but did not want the public to know about the financial problems and hoped the Canadian government would pick up the remaining debt.

The Quebec government has stated that they will not pay the 2.2 million vendor debt because the governments was already owed 3.1 million in loans.

Some of the well known creditors are Martina Navratilova who is owed $20,000. Cirque du Soleil is owed $48,209.30. The Montreal International Marathon is owed $25,902.14. Marketing Signa Inc. is owed $217,872.15.

The grand total is 2.2 million to various vendors that supported the Outgames. Outgames bankruptcy protection ends this month and a settlement will be offered to some vendors. Some of the creditors were secured creditors and they will be paid first. Many of the small vendors will likely not be paid.

Sport officials that were promised free hotel stays for officiating games in Montreal, found full charges on their credit cards from the hotel 90 days after Outgames did not pay the hotel bills. The officials signed agreements and were only to pay for incidentals at their hotel.

2009 OUTGAMES
GLISA has announced that Outgames 2009 in Copenhagen will go ahead as scheduled and that the city of Copenhagen has offered almost 4 million (USD) to the Copenhagen Outgames. Montreal Outgames was given over 7.5 million (CND) from Montreal and Quebec governments.

GAY GAMES VII FINANCIALS
Chicago Gay Games 2006 reported approximately $200,000 (USD) debt after the Gay Games, with a budget of 10 million. A Chicago couple offered $100,000 in matching funds to money raised to pay off the debt. Chicago Gay Games is reporting that approximately $30,000 was still being raised at the end of December 2006. They expect to be completely paid off by the final budget reports due in April 2007. Donations may be given online at www.chicagogaygames.org.

In December, Chicago Gay Games announced the release of the Chicago Gay Games official DVD. It can be purchased from the Chicago Gay Games web site or for $17.96 from Wolf Video at www.wolfevideo.com. Proceeds from the DVD go to retire the remaining $30,000 debt.

The next Gay Games will be in Cologne Germany in July 2010.

Kelly Stevens is the co-chair of Team Seattle.

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