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Friday, February 01, 2008

Mike Ciresi Stonewall DFL Endorsement Questionnaire

This is the second of the US Senate Stonewall DFL Questionnaires to be posted at Lloydletta's Nooz. Stay tuned for Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer's Questionnaire later this weekend.

Candidate Name:

Mike Ciresi

Office you are seeking:

U.S. Senate, Minnesota

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

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

We will proudly display the Stonewall DFL endorsement the same way we display other constituency endorsements. The endorsement will be prominently featured on our website. We will list it on printed campaign materials that include endorsements. Our current endorsers included several openly gay Minnesotans, including former President of the Minnesota Senate, Allan Spear.

3) How is the LGBT community currently involved in your campaign?
The LGBT community is actively involved in our campaign as staff, endorsers, advisors and supporters. We have four openly gay staffers. Our four senior staff members include a lesbian and a gay man. LGBT members play prominent and influential roles in many areas of our campaign.

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

I will encourage LGBT constituents who support my candidacy to participate in the caucus process and work to become DFL delegates at the state convention in June. We will work with our supporters to build a strong network of activists that will help ensure a victory against Norm Coleman in November.

I have a long record of supporting organizations that fight for equality for LGBT community, including The Human Rights Campaign, Minnesota Lavender Bar Association, Lambda Legal, and Rainbow Families to name a few. I have participated in the festivities surrounding this year’s PRIDE parade and our campaign enjoyed marching as a team. I will continue this type of grassroots outreach throughout this campaign and as a U.S. Senator. I welcome your input on other ways to reach out to the community.

5. What experience do you have with LGBT issues and the LGBT community? I have numerous friends and colleagues in the LGBT community.

As an employer, I have provided equal rights and benefits within my firm. As a community leader, I proudly stand with the LGBT community for full equal rights and have fought for equality with you and for you through pro bono work, foundation grants and personal support, both nationally and in Minnesota for decades. Here are a few examples of the efforts I have pursued to make change a reality:

  • My law firm, Robins, Kaplan, Miller and Ciresi (RKMC) is one of two businesses in Minnesota that is a member of HRC’s Business Coalition for Workplace Fairness, a group of U.S. employers that support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. ENDA is consistent with my firm’s practice of treating all employees the same, with fairness and respect. I have supported the Twin Cities Human Rights Campaign dinner, both personally and through my firm, since the dinner began over a decade ago.

  • In 1994, RKMC challenged “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” When The United States Air Force threw out a Gulf War veteran and top Captain for admitting he was gay, my law firm stepped in and defended Captain Richenberg. We believed that it was inexcusable for the Air Force to kick out an extremely talented officer who defended this nation with distinction in the first Gulf War just because he was gay.

  • Still fighting in 2007 for Equality at Maple Grove High School. RKMC fought for student equality at Maple Grove High School where the student group, “Straights and Gays for Equality” (SAGE) was not given the same rights as other student clubs. My law firm made sure that LGBT students and their allies were not marginalized.

As your next United State Senator, I will work hard to make equality a reality. I will work to pass ENDA, the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, make sure that the Ryan White CARE Act is properly funded and work to make sure that any attempt to write discrimination into our Constitution fails.

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?

The bottom line: all Americans are entitled to equal protection under the law. When any person is discriminated against, for whatever reason, I will work to correct and prevent it from happening again. As an attorney, I have fought issues of discrimination and won. As your U.S. Senator, I will fight to make sure that all citizens are treated fairly and equally. No exceptions. I will work with you to make sure that our existing laws are working and enforced. I will sponsor and build support for legislation that is needed to ensure fairness.

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. Bisexual and transgender people often face discrimination at work, including wrongful termination.

As I mentioned earlier, my firm has supported the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. As your Senator, I would work hard to make sure that ENDA, in its original form, would pass the Senate. I believe it is a basic civil right hold a job and to be evaluated on your professional accomplishments and experience.

8) 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 believe that same-sex couples deserve to have the same economic and legal rights that are currently granted to heterosexual couples. The language is secondary to the legal rights. As your Senator, I will fight to defeat or repeal any legislation that is discriminatory.

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?

I support health care reform, including mental health parity. I will fight for universal health care, with a focus on preventative care. If people are able to get the help they need to address the underlying issues, substance abuse can be prevented or alleviated. I support education, community outreach and specific aid to at risk communities.

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?

All Americans are entitled to equity on these issues. Health care is a right, not a privilege. I will fight to enforce existing laws and work to amend those laws where inequity exists.

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?

The Ryan White Care Act is the payer of last resort for people suffering from AIDS. Funding for this important program must be distributed in BOTH the urban and rural areas. We must make sure that funding does not become a political football, moving to different areas depending on who controls Congress. Funding should be available to whoever needs it, wherever they are. For many people suffering from AIDS, both straight and gay, this money is vitally important.

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?

I am the recent co-chair of the Hennepin County Commission to End Homelessness. Children and young adults make up largest percentage of the homeless population in Hennepin County. It is critical to get young people off the streets immediately, particularly before they become victims of sexual abuse. The root causes are complex, but for LGBT youth, homelessness is a frequent outcome of coming out to non-supportive family members, or feeling unable to come out to them. We must develop support mechanisms to help young people through this difficult process, and to identify children who will need to find an alternative home before they become homeless. A child in an unsafe home can be placed with a gay-friendly foster family while issues at home are resolved.

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?

All Americans are entitled to equity on these issues. Health care is a right, not a privilege. I will fight to enforce existing laws.

14) What are your views on the US military “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy?

My law firm challenged this policy in 1994 when the U.S. Air Force threw out a Gulf War veteran and top Captain for admitting he was gay. It is inexcusable for the Air Force to discharge and talented officer who defended our nation with distinction. As your Senator, I will fight to end this policy that jeopardizes our national security.

15) Which version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act do you support and why?

I support H.R. 2015 because it is the most comprehensive and inclusive. I will fight for full protection that includes all workers. Total inclusion is vital because every single person is entitled to full and fair protection under the law. My law firm is one of the original signers of a letter to Congress encouraging comprehensive, inclusive legislation to outlaw workplace discrimination, and we are a member of the Business Coalition for Workplace Fairness.