John Edwards on Civil Rights
2004 Democratic Nominee for Vice President; Former Jr Senator (NC)
A: Yes. If they havenít been racially motivated, I donít know. Thereís no way for me to know whatís inside their head. But they have targeted the lowest income, most vulnerable families. If you are African-American, you are likely to have a net worth of about 10 percent of what white families have. This is not an accident. We can go put our heads against the wall and pretend that the past never happened, pretend that we didnít live through decades of slavery, followed by decades of segregation, followed by decades of discrimination, which is still going on today. That history and that legacy has consequences. The consequence has been that African-American families are more vulnerable to payday lenders, which is why we desperately need a national law, which would crack down on these predatory payday lenders. Itís not enough to do it state-by-state, because these predators just move from place to place to place.
A: Yes, absolutely. I want my children to understand everything about the difficulties that gay and lesbian couples are faced with every day, the discrimination that theyíre faced with every single day of their lives. Second grade might be a little tough, but even in second grade to be exposed to all of those possibilities because I donít want to impose my view. Nobody made me God. But what I will do as president is I will lead an effort to make sure that the same benefits that are available to heterosexual couples--1,100, roughly, benefits in the federal government--are available to same-sex couples; that we get rid of DOMA; that we get rid of ďdonít ask, donít tell.Ē
A: I would support them in every possible way, including on a personal and an emotional level, provide every bit of help and support that I possibly could in going through what they were going through. But the American people deserve to know, beyond your policy position, what your reaction is to it. Will you support them publicly? Are you willing to do whatís right, under the circumstances? And I can tell you, I know in my heart and soul that I would. Iíve had similar experiences when I was younger on issues of race that were extraordinarily difficult in the place where I grew up, where I did what I believed was right, where my family did what we believed was right. And I think thatís at least some indication of what I would do under these circumstances.
A: Well, I have to tell you, I shouldnít have said that, because I believe, to my core, in equality. It makes perfect sense to me that gay and lesbian couples would say, ďCivil unions, great; 1,100 federal benefits, great; give us these rights, we deserve these rights.ď And theyíre absolutely right about that. But it stops short of real equality. And the only thing I would say about the faith question is I think from my perspective it is wrong -- because we have seen a president in the last six-plus years who tries to impose his faith on the American people. And I think it is a mistake and I will not impose my faith belief on the American people. I donít believe any president should do that. I believe in the separation of church and state.
A: I shouldnít have said that, because I believe, to my core, in equality.
Q: If it is not your faith, then what is at the core of that resistance? I know that you said youíre on a journey, and Iím curious where and when you might end up on that journey.
A: I can tell you where I am. First of all, I think you deserve to know the truth, and the truth is that my position on same sex marriage has not changed. I do believe strongly in civil unions and the substantive rights that go with that. I believe we desperately need to get rid of DOMA. I think we need to get rid of ďdonít ask, donít tell.Ē I think we need to get rid of those things. Today I believe in all these other things, but I do not support same sex marriage. All I can tell you is where I am today. Thatís the best I can do. You deserve to know that from me.
A: Iím not for reparations. But I think there are other things we can do to create some equality that doesnít exist in this country today. Right here in Charleston, African Americans are paying more than their white counterparts for mortgages than any other place in America. What is the conceivable explanation for this, that black people are paying more for their mortgage? Itís not just low-income African Americans; itís high-income African-Americans. Thereís absolutely no explanation for this. It goes to the basic question [of a lack of equality]. To have a president thatís going to fight for equality, fight for real change, big change, bold change--we canít trade our insiders for their insiders. That doesnít work. What we need is somebody who will take these people on, these big banks, these mortgage companies. Thatís the only way weíre going to bring about change.
EDWARDS: I think what Elizabeth was saying was that there are very important issues facing women in this country. More women are affected by the minimum wage than men are affected by the minimum wage. There are more women in poverty than men in poverty. More women have difficulty getting the health care that they need than men do.
Q: So do you think youíre a better advocate for women?
EDWARDS: Listen, Senator Clinton has a long history of speaking out on behalf of women. She deserves to be commended for that. But I believe that on the issues that directly affect womenís lives, I have the strongest, boldest ideas and can bring about the change that needs to be brought.
CLINTON: I appreciate greatly Johnís comments. But I think itís terrific that weíre up here arguing about whoís going to be better for women, because isnít that a nice change for everybody to hear.
A: I do not believe thatís right. I feel enormous personal conflict about this issue. I want to end discrimination. But I personally have been on a journey on this issue. My wife Elizabeth supports gay marriage. I do not. But this is a very, very difficult issue for me.
Q: The question is, why is it OK to cite religious beliefs when talking about why you donít support something?
A: Itís not. I mean, Iíve been asked a personal question, do I personally support gay marriage? The honest answer to that is I donít. But I think it is absolutely wrong, as president, for me to have used that faith basis as a basis for denying anybody their rights, and I will not do that when Iím president.
A: Inequality in America is at the heart & soul of why Iím running for president. The truth is that slavery followed by segregation followed by discrimination has had an impact that still is alive & well in America, and it goes through every single part of American life. These two Americas that Iíve talked about in the past--man, they are out there thriving every single day. We have two public school systems in America--one for the wealthy, one for everybody else. We have two health care systems, and we know that race plays an enormous role in the problems that African Americans face and the problems that African Americans face with health care every single day. And making sure that every single American, including people of color, are allowed to vote and that their vote is counted in the election. All of us have a responsibility to build one America that works for everybody, across all racial barriers that still exist in this country.
A: Iíve been in courthouses where Iíve seen the Ten Commandments. Iíve never had a strong reaction to it. But how would Muslims or Hindus feel if they went into that courthouse? So Iím sensitive to that. You know, of course it wouldnít offend me because Iím Christian. And Iím certainly not offended by the idea of expressing faith in that circumstance. But probably it causes more trouble than good.
A: Iím not an expert on sexual orientation. I think that thereís a real possibility that people are born gay, yes.
Q: Do you believe that homosexuality is a sin?
Q: Do you believe that openly gay men and women should be able to serve in the military.
Q: And you would do that as president?
A: I think itís from my own personal culture and faith belief. I struggle myself with imposing my faith belief. The question is whether I, as president, should impose my views on gay marriage because I know where it comes from. Iím aware of why I believe what I believe. And I think there is consensus around this idea of no discrimination, partnership benefits, civil unions.
A: We both believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. But we also believe that gay and lesbians and gay and lesbian couples, those who have been in long-term relationships, deserve to be treated respectfully, they deserve to have benefits. For example, a gay couple now has a very difficult time, one, visiting the other when theyíre in the hospital, or, for example, if, heaven forbid, one of them were to pass away, they have trouble even arranging the funeral.
I mean, those are not the kind of things that Kerry and I believe in. But we do believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman. Bush is proposing a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage that is completely unnecessary. Under the law of this country for the last 200 years, no state has been required to recognize another stateís marriage. North Carolina would not be required to recognize a marriage from Massachusetts.
A: There are a whole group of issues on which we can move the country forward. For example, the recognition of partnership benefits, changing our immigration and adoption laws, so that they provide equality to gay and lesbian couples, a re-examination of the ďdonít ask, donít tellĒ policy with our military leadership. There are fundamental things that we still havenít done.
A: No. I believe flag burning is a despicable act, but I do not support a constitutional amendment to prohibit flag burning.
EDWARDS: Yes, because what happened with the Defense of Marriage Act is it took away the power of states, like Vermont, to be able to do what they chose to do about civil unions, about these kinds of marriage issues. Massachusetts has just made a decision that embraces the notion of gay marriage. I think these are decisions that the states should have the power to make. And the Defense of Marriage Act would have taken away that power. And I think thatís wrong. That power should not be taken away from the states.
Q: Should other states be obliged to honor and recognize the civil union which Governor Dean signed?
EDWARDS: I think itís a decision that should be made on a state-by-state basis. I think each state should be able to make its own decision about what they embrace.
A: What Iíll do as president is, first of all, fund the legislation, and second, make sure that every single person in America gets a chance to be on a voter registration roll and that they get a chance to vote no matter what the level of the community that they live in. We need to make sure everybody gets an opportunity to both register and vote.
A: South Carolina, as a matter of compromise, displays the Confederate flag on a flagpole in front of the state capitol. Because I grew up in the South and believe that the Confederate flag is a very divisive symbol I have stated publicly a number of times that I believe that South Carolina should remove the flag from the state capital grounds.
EDWARDS: Dean still has not said he was wrong [to seek those votes]. Were you wrong to say that?
DEAN: No, I wasnít. People who vote who fly the Confederate flag, I think they are wrong because the Confederate flag is a racist symbol. But I think there are lot of poor people who fly that flag because the Republicans have been dividing us by race since 1968 with their southern race strategy. I am tired of being divided by race in this country. I want to go down to the South and talk to people who donít make any more than anybody else up north but keep voting Republican against their own economic interests.
EDWARDS: The last thing we need in the South is somebody like you coming down and telling us what we need to do. I grew up in the South. I grew up with the very people that youíre talking about. The vast majority donít drive around with Confederate flags on pickup trucks.
EDWARDS: I support dramatic revision of the PATRIOT Act. The last thing we should be doing is turning over our privacy, our liberties, our freedom, our constitutional rights to John Ashcroft. First, the very notion that this administration can arrest American citizens on American soil, label them an enemy combatant, put them in prison, keep them there indefinitely-this runs contrary to everything we believe in this country. The notion that they are going to libraries to find out what books people are checking out, going to book stores to find out what books are being purchased. What we have to remember-and I will when I am president-is what it is we are supposed to be fighting for, what it is we are supposed to be protecting. These very liberties, this privacy, these constitutional rights-thatís whatís at stake in this fight. And we cannot let people like John Ashcroft take them away in an effort to protect ourselves.
EDWARDS: I believe there is a fundamental right to privacy. I do not believe the government belongs in peopleís bedrooms. I think that applies to both gay and lesbian couples and heterosexual couples.
MOSELEY-BRAUN: I absolutely agree that gay-lesbian, transgender and bisexual people are entitled to privacy as everybody else.
LIEBERMAN: I donít [support that law]. In fact, the law relates not only to gay couples, but to heterosexual couples as well, and itís a violation of the right of privacy. There is a case right now before the Supreme Court regarding a similar Texas law. I hope and believe itíll be struck down because Lord knows the prosecutors have more important things to do than prosecute cases like this. They ought to be prosecuting drug peddlers and criminals and all the rest.
EDWARDS: I share that very serious concern. [But] the problem with the PATRIOT Act is not the law itself, itís the way itís being administered, particularly by Attorney General Ashcroft. We have had consistent problems with this. It is why I have proposed taking away from the FBI the responsibility of fighting terrorism and simultaneously setting up an independent watchdog group to make sure that none of us are losing our civil liberties.
GRAHAM: One of the things that I would do, is to see that we put the Civil War behind us. Frankly, we Southerners have allowed the most extreme groups within our society to steal the images of the Confederacy and then use them as sources of division and hatred within our population.
EDWARDS: I do. But I believe that this is an issue that ought to be decided in the states. I think the federal government should honor whatever decision is made by the states. I would not support the Defense of Marriage Act today, if there were a vote today.
Q: You would not vote for it?
EDWARDS: I would not. I would not for a very simple reason. Thereís a part of it that I agree with, and thereís a part of it I disagree with. The Defense of Marriage Act specifically said that the federal government is not required to recognize gay marriage even if a state chooses to do so. I disagree with that. I think states should be allowed to make that decision. And the federal government shouldnít do it. The part I agree with is the states should not be required to recognize marriages from other states. Thatís already in the law, by the way, without DOMA. The law today does not require one state to recognize the marriage of another state.
Strengthen Americaís Common Civic Culture
The more ethnically and culturally diverse America becomes, the harder we must all work to affirm our common civic culture -- the values and democratic institutions we share and that define our national identity as Americans. This means we should resist an ďidentity politicsĒ that confers rights and entitlements on groups and instead affirm our common rights and responsibilities as citizens. Multiethnic democracy requires fighting discrimination against marginalized groups; empowering the disadvantaged to join the economic, political, and cultural mainstream; and respecting diversity while insisting that what we have in common as Americans is more important than how we differ. One way to encourage an ethic of citizenship and mutual obligation is to promote voluntary national service. If expanded to become available to everyone who wants to participate, national service can help turn the strong impulse toward volunteerism among our young people into a major resource in addressing our social problems. It will also help revive a sense of patriotism and national unity at a time when military service is no longer the common experience of young Americans.
Our ratings are based on the votes the organization considered most important; the numbers reflect the percentage of time the representative voted the organization's preferred position.
Amends the Small Business Act with respect to the women's business centers program to provide Small Business Administration funding authority for nonprofit organizations conducting projects for the benefit of small businesses owned and controlled by women. Increases from 30 to 54 the percentage of appropriated women's business center funds to be used during FY 2004 for sustained women's business center projects.
|Other candidates on Civil Rights:||John Edwards on other issues:|
GOP: Sen.John McCain
GOP V.P.: Gov.Sarah Palin
Democrat: Sen.Barack Obama
Dem.V.P.: Sen.Joe Biden
Constitution: Chuck Baldwin
Libertarian: Rep.Bob Barr
Constitution: Amb.Alan Keyes
Liberation: Gloria La Riva
Green: Rep.Cynthia McKinney
Socialist: Brian Moore
Independent: Ralph Nader