AL FRANKEN FOR SENATE
Stonewall DFL Questionnaire
Submitted: January 12, 2008
1. Do you plan on abiding by the DFL endorsement if there is one for your race?
Yes. I will abide because I believe we need to unite behind a candidate as early as possible in order to beat Norm Coleman. I also have tremendous respect for the DFL endorsement process, and have enjoyed participating in it.
2. If endorsed by Stonewall DFL, how will you display that endorsement in campaign materials?
We’ll issue a press release announcing the endorsement, as well as announcing the news on the front page of our website as “Breaking News” (or possibly even “BREAKING NEWS!!!”). In addition, we’ll add Stonewall DFL to our endorsement list, both online and in print, and we’ll consider adding “Stonewall DFL endorsed” to signs and literature.
3. How is the LGBT community currently involved in your campaign?
We’re proud to have the support and guidance of leaders like Sen. Scott Dibble, Ambassador James Hormel, Elizabeth Birch, Alan Hooker, and Phil, Randi, and Jake Reitan, among others. We have many staff, interns, and volunteers who identify as LGBT, and are working to set up a “LGBT for Franken” group, possibly with a catchier name.
4. How will you actively encourage LGBT constituents to contact or become involved in the political process?
First, as we will for every community, we’ll devote time, energy, and resources to reaching out to the LGBT community by holding and attending events in the community, being visible in our support for the community, and standing with the community when it counts. That means voter registration events, LGBT-specific literature, and issue-focused discussions – all geared towards energizing the community and building lasting relationships.
Second, we’ll stand up for the community, both during the campaign and when I’m in the Senate. I firmly believe in a political culture that doesn’t give into phony debates or fear and smear tactics, and I won’t let LGBT issues be used as a wedge. I’m for equal rights in marriage, and I’ll never be afraid to say so, because I’m right and I know I’m right. I believe that I would be the first U.S. Senator to hold that position. But I’ll also work hard to champion issues like ENDA. Doing this will help move the debate, I hope, but it will also serve to remind the community of what’s at stake in this election and encourage people to take part in the process.
5. What experience do you have with LGBT issues and the LGBT community?
I am a longtime supporter of organizations like the Human Rights Campaign and have frequently spoken at HRC events. I am a proud recipient of the HRC 2006 Humanitarian Award. And I have made a point of supporting political candidates and organizations that support the LGBT community.
But most of the experience I’ve had has been as an advocate for LGBT issues in my books and on my radio show. One of the things I’ve spent a long time doing is trying to change our political culture to eliminate the phony debate surrounding LGBT issues. I believe that telling the truth is an important part of making progress on those issues, and I have tried to use my talents as a satirist to get to the truth.
I've read Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, and I don't recall much about Gays in that book. I've also listened to Franken's show from time to time, and don't recall a time when he has covered a gay issue on his show. Ed Schultz, Stephanie Miller and other Air America Hosts have done much more on that topic.
6. LGBT men and women of color are often victims of multiple layers of discrimination. How would you use your office to identify and address these problems?
This is an important question (and I would add disabled members of the LGBT community to the equation).
I think there are two important ways I can use the office. First, it can serve as a platform for me to speak out on important issues and raise awareness of inadequacies in the system that lead to discrimination. For instance, the African-American community has suffered disproportionately from the AIDS epidemic – this problem receives far too little attention today. Second, I will provide constituent service so that people who are the victims of discrimination can use my office to access help and support quickly. I want my office to be someplace people feel they can turn when they are victimized.
7. Public awareness of Lesbians and Gays has increased in the last 20 years; however, there remain some unique and misunderstood issues faced by Bisexual and Transgender communities. Please identify a specific issue(s) and how you would use your elected office to support these communities.
It can take a frustratingly long time for our country to come around. Sixty years ago, there were parts of this country in which it was illegal to marry a person of a different race. As recently as thirty years ago, only a third of Americans were comfortable with mixed-race marriage.
So it goes with LGBT issues. While I believe the country is headed towards a day where discrimination against members of the LGBT community seems as antiquated as miscegenation laws, it’s taking longer than I’d like. I believe that Americans look to their leaders to forge a path forward. And if I’m a U.S. Senator, I won’t forget that that is part of my job.
I’ll give you an example: ENDA. While I respect that some Democrats supported the weaker version of the law in order to get it passed, the truth is that anyone who opposes discrimination against gays and lesbians should also oppose discrimination against transgendered Americans. I read that the city manager of Largo, Florida was fired for being Transgender. That’s wrong. And if I were a Senator, I would absolutely stand up and say so. I would say that if that city manager had been fired for being black, we would be outraged, and that we should be so outraged regardless of which form of discrimination was at play.
8. What legal recognitions should be available to LGBT people in committed relationships and how would you use your office to advance these equality issues; specifically, do you favor Domestic Partnerships, Civil Unions, Marriage, or Other?
I believe that any two Americans who want to get married should be able to get married. And while I want to see other issues advanced, as well, I really don’t see the need to compromise on this one. I’ve been married for 32 years. Same-sex marriage doesn’t threaten my marriage. So I don’t believe I have any business standing in the way.
9. Alcoholism, crystal methamphetamine, and other chemical abuse is a public health problem in the LGBT community, which correlates to increased rates of HIV transmission. If elected, how would you use your office to address these problems?
First, I’d push to invest more in prevention through education. We need to do a better job of informing people about these dangers through research-based community interventions.
Second, I believe we should focus more on treatment. Right now, we tend to “treat” people by putting them in jail. I’ve written two movies (When a Man Loves a Woman and Stuart Saves His Family) about the family disease of addiction, and it’s a subject I care about deeply. I would support more rehabilitation in place of prison, but also more rehabilitation in prison. Simply locking people up doesn’t help them get better.
10. What policies would you support to provide equity for LGBT Minnesotans with respect to both public and private health care benefits and imputed tax implications?
Simple: LGBT couples should be treated the same as heterosexual couples. That starts with the legal recognition of same-sex marriage and, by definition, includes equity for benefits and tax purposes.
11. The funding for programs such as the Ryan White Act was recently redistributed into rural, less populated (red) states and away from urban populated (blue) states where the majority of AIDS patients are located. What are your thoughts on this funding change?
Something is wrong when we need to choose between needy communities – I support funding these programs sufficiently so that we don’t have to do so. That said, while I’m not sure this change was a good idea, we should keep in mind that there are needs in every state and affected individuals in rural America, too.
12. A recent study of urban homeless youth found that in some metropolitan areas over 40% identify as LGBT. A key finding of this study was that homeless LGBT youth are more vulnerable to sexual abuse, substance abuse and mental health struggles. What root causes of this complex issue can you identify and how would you use your office to address these problems?
The root causes of this heartbreaking issue (I’ve read that up to 2,000 Minnesota youth are homeless) include drug abuse and addiction, certainly, but also foreclosures, health care costs, and domestic violence. In the LGBT community, there is also an issue with young people feeling unwelcome at home or in school and parents having a tough time communicating with their children.
Part of what we need to do is help families work through those issues together. And we need our leaders to step up and be voices for ending the societal stigma about discussing these issues. But we also need an increased investment in shelters and transitional housing, and a way to help young members of the LGBT community find local support networks if they do not feel comfortable or welcome in their homes.
13. What would you do, if elected, to ensure that lesbian and bisexual women have access to a diversity of reproductive health options, including birth control, in-vitro fertilization, and abortion?
I think we have to ensure that ALL women have access to birth control and family planning services. And since, thankfully, we recognize the right of gay and lesbian couples to have and adopt children, there should be absolutely no discrimination against LGBT couples when it comes to having access to the services of in-vitro fertilization clinics.
14. What are your views on the U.S. military “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy?
I’ve done seven USO tours over the last nine years – four to Iraq and Afghanistan. And I can tell you from experience that this has become something of a non-issue among our servicemen and women. Right now, the military is having so much trouble recruiting that it’s giving “moral waivers” and waivers to people who are of “lower cognitive ability.” My experience is that our troops would rather be in battle with the brave gay soldier to their right and the brave lesbian soldier to their left whom they’ve been serving with for the last year than someone who was accepted on a “moral waiver.”
I talk about this issue when I’m on my tours and actually get cheers from the troops. Last year, I did a show in Kabul, Afghanistan, at Camp Phoenix. At the end of the show, the general who commanded the base presented me with a flag in a beautiful Afghani frame, grabbed the microphone, and said to me, “Keep talking about don’t ask, don’t tell. I think you’ve got a lot of fans here.” He then pointed to a group of lesbian soldiers who had cheered every time I mentioned the issue, and they cheered again.
So, I have absolute confidence that I am right when I say that “don’t ask, don’t tell” will soon be history.
15. Which version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act do you support and why?
I’m glad that ENDA passed, and I understand why Democrats who supported the alternate version did so. That said, I would have preferred the original version as written – the one that is inclusive of transgendered Americans.
The Drama Queen posted this video of Al Franken speaking to Stonewall. Brodkorb being a narcissist, was so excited that Franken mentioned MDE 3 or 4 times during this segment, that he missed the larger point, that Franken repeated one of his "jokes" about Elton John.