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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Bob Olson's Stonewall DFL Questionnaire

Candidate Name: Robert A Olson
Office you are seeking: U.S. Congress, 6th district, Minnesota, 2008

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1) Do you plan on abiding by the DFL endorsement if there is one for your race? YES

I have committed to abiding by the DFL endorsement.

2) If endorsed by Stonewall DFL, how will you display that endorsement in campaign materials?

With pride! Stonewall will be listed on any of our campaign material that lists endorsements. We will list Stonewall's endorsement on our website.

3) How is the LGBT community currently involved in your campaign?

Of the 5 key members of my campaign staff, 3 are active in the LGBT movement.

3. How will you actively encourage LGBT constituents to contact or become involved in the political process?

Throughout the history of this country, we have experienced prejudice and inequality and we have struggled to make this a better place for all people. There is only one group of Americans that still suffer legally sanctioned discrimination: LGBT people. I am public, vocal and proud in my support for LGBT rights. I believe the best way to activate the LGBT community is to champion their causes and I intend to do that.

We are running against Michele Bachmann and we intend to tell the whole community who this woman is and what she stands for. This is an opportunity to remind the LGBT community that we still have a lot of work to do.

We already have strong support from LGBT people because I am the only candidate in this race who is unambiguous on these issues. I oppose a constitutional marriage amendment. I support civil unions with full kinship rights and responsibilities. I support the Employee Non-Discrimination Act, and I know it's time to come up with a better military policy than 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'.

This is a fight to oust Michele Bachmann. She used fear and bigotry to propel her to victory. You have no bigger enemy in congress. She is strong, tough and a great campaigner. To defeat her we will need all of us working together. I ask not just for your endorsement. I ask for your active and visible participation.

Stonewall and HRC were treated poorly by both DFL candidates in this race last election. Far too often a candidate wants the money from the LGBT community but is unwilling to be associated with it. These actions are insulting and counterproductive.

The idea that a candidate must play up to the prejudices of the voters instead of challenging them only advances the cause of our foes. I intend to win with you standing by me.

4. What experience do you have with LGBT issues and the LGBT community?

I have the same experience that most people have – close friends, family and loved ones who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. I am a friend and ally. I have attended and participated in HRC events, and marched in the TC Pride parade.

5. 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?

First of all, I understand and recognize that this is true. I don't have all the answers and I'm smart enough to seek out those that have more experience. I will follow the lead of civil and human rights activists, such as Barney Frank, Maxine Waters and Tammy Baldwin, and I hope Stonewall will offer guidance on these difficult issues.

I will provide dedicated constituent service in my District, as this has been an issue, even recently, at St. Cloud State University. There are several people active in our campaign who are personally committed to this.

6. 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.

The best I can offer is my commitment to being openly and strongly supportive of this entire community. I support ENDA and hate crimes legislation. I issued a press release after the hate crime bill stalled which stated my support and also questioned the Democratic leadership for their clumsy handling of this bill.

7. What legal recognitions should be available to GLBT 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 support civil unions (or domestic partnerships) with full kinship rights and responsibilities like taxes, medical decision making, property, Social Security and other benefits sharing, inheritance, and portability between states.

8. 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?

We have to recognize that this is a public health issue, not just a law enforcement issue. First we must improve access to good affordable health care. We must increase funding for outreach programs that promote HIV and AIDS awareness and prevention. And we must end, once and for all, the stigma and discrimination that is the root cause of disproportional rates of depression and suicide in the LGBT community, especially youth.

9. 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?

I support legal recognition of civil unions with full kinship rights and responsibilities, including benefits and taxes. I support same-sex benefits for public employees. We offer same-sex benefits to our employees at St. Stephen State Bank, and it makes good business sense for other private companies to do the same.

10. 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?

The real problem is that this country has never adequately funded HIV and AIDS prevention or cures. If we can afford to spend a trillion dollars in Iraq then we can afford to address the health care problems in this country.

11. 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?

There are many causes for this problem. Ignorance, bigotry and religious intolerance all combine to create a hostile home environment for too many of our children. Schools do not have the resources to deal with these problems.

Another issue is the way we treat mental illness in this country. Currently employers are allowed to opt out of mental health care coverage, and insurance companies are allowed to offer mental health care and substance abuse coverage at reduced lifetime expenditures and higher deductible rates. Treatment facilities are inadequate to keep up with the increasing demand and are out of reach for many middle and poorer working families.

I will advocate against discrimination, and I will support legislation that provides universal access to healthcare, including mental health coverage.

12. 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?

Once again the problem is the way we deliver health care coverage. Wealthy or insured lesbian and bisexual women have access to these services. It's the working poor and middle class without health insurance that are experiencing these inequities.

A woman's right to choose is being challenged every day. The problem is even greater in rural areas in this country. I am committed to preserving a woman's right to reproductive freedom.

13. What are your views on the US military "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy?

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is a detrimental policy that is harmful to individuals and counterproductive to the military that should be replaced immediately.

14. Which version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act do you support and why?

I support the inclusive version because it's the right thing to do.

Cross posted at Dump Michele Bachmann.

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