Our next candidate, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, has
served as secretary of Energy, ambassador to the United Nations and is
a congressman representing the 3rd District of New Mexico.
Welcome, Governor Richardson. (Applause.)
MS. CARLSON: Two times in a week.
Governor Richardson, welcome. It's great to have you with us.
GOV. RICHARDSON: Thank you. Nice to be here.
MS. CARLSON: Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post has some
questions for you.
MR. CAPEHART: Yes, Governor, thank you for being here.
In response to a question on same sex marriage at the CNN YouTube
debate, you said you would focus less on marriage and more on what's,
quote, "achievable" in terms of rights and responsibilities for same
sex couples. When will same sex marriage be achievable, and what will
you do to foster an environment where it would become achievable?
GOV. RICHARDSON: Here's my view. The nation, I believe, is on a
path to full inclusion. A president must lead that effort.
In my judgment, what is achievable is civil unions with full
marriage rights, with domestic partnership. I believe that's
What we also need to do is redress some of the gross imbalances
of the past. If I'm elected president, I would get rid of "Don't ask,
don't tell." I didn't vote for it when I was in Congress.
When you have an
America that is asking men and women to fight
and die, the last thing you need to do is give them a lecture on
sexual orientation. (Applause.)
Secondly, I would repeal another horrendous initiative that I
voted for and I regret now: DOMA. That would preclude a number of
the full partnership rights that I want to see with civil unions.
And third -- and there's another one that hasn't been focused on
today -- and that's No Child Left Behind. That has initiatives in it
that hurt diversity education.
That is achievable. Hate crimes laws are achievable. But we
have to bring the country to a position where there is public support.
All my life -- as a governor, as a congressman, as the U.N.
ambassador, as the secretary of Energy -- I'm known for getting things
done. And I'd like to get into that in some of the questions.
MR. CAPEHART: Governor, what was it about the time -- I believe
it was 1996 when DOMA was passed -- what was it about that time that
made it possible for you to actually vote for it?
GOV. RICHARDSON: Well, I was the chief deputy whip of the
Democrats at the time.
President Clinton was president. And at that time, the objective in
passing DOMA was to fight a huge assault for a constitutional
amendment in the Congress to ban marriage. It was sort of a cheap
political way to decimate a bad initiative.
Now on "don't ask, don't tell," I reached the point, even though
I was the deputy whip, that I voted against that, because it made no
sense to me. So my point is that we need to bring the country along.
You need to build public support.
You know, I like all these speeches here about how we're going to
do this or that. But what makes sense is to have a president that on
-- not only knows how to lead but how to get things done. And we need
a president too that recognizes that the country is moving in a
journey or a path of more inclusion. States are moving a lot faster.
And a president not only has to guide that but has to lead.
MR. CAPEHART: Governor, as a guest on the Don Imus show, Imus in
the Morning, in March 2006, you were asked by Imus in a gag on a
staffer if that staffer were a, quote, "maricon," which as you know is
Spanish for faggot. In your response, you repeated the epithet. But
you've since apologized and now you question -- I've seen you question
the timing of this issue coming up.
Do you not believe that you should be held responsible, held
accountable, for using that word, repeating that word?
GOV. RICHARDSON: Sure, you know, and I'm Hispanic. I felt the
sting as a kid of being stereotyped. And I apologized but I meant no
harm when I said that. It was, you know, one of those exchanges that
I was caught off guard.
No, I am not backing off. I apologize, but I think you should
look at my actions and not words.
Let me tell you what I've done as governor. All of these issues that
we've talked about today, Bill Richardson as governor has done.
Number one, I passed a hate crimes act that was based on non-
discrimination, on partnership, on -- I was the first governor to
include transgender. Number two -- (applause) -- I also passed
partnerships, domestic partnerships avoiding discrimination. I pushed
that and got it done. I'm the only governor that called a special
session to expand domestic partnership. We didn't get it done in the
last session in
New Mexico ; we will get it done in this next one.
I've appointed Cabinet members that are gay and lesbians. All through
my administration I have been inclusing -- inclusive of the
So, you know, you can talk about what mistakes people have made.
I've made plenty. And I've probably said things that I regret across
the board. But we should look at what we've done. It's not just the
speeches and the 10-point plans, but what we've done. And as a
governor, as a congressman 15 years on gay issues, I was there.
I was there at the United Nations, too. You know, we should talk
about human rights around the world, the Iraqis that are being
discriminated and targeted today. We should talk about international
issues relating to HIV and AIDS. I was there. I have fully funded in
my state HIV, AIDS initiatives across the board.
I think -- so, you know, when you ask me a question like that --
which I accept, obviously -- you should look at my record. Action
speaks louder than words.
MS. CARLSON: Yeah. Governor, I think everyone gets one mistake
on Imus. (Laughter.) (Applause.) Since I myself made one.
Before I go to Joe, I wanted to -- you're said you're calling a
special session for domestic partnerships in --
GOV. RICHARDSON: No. I did.
MS. CARLSON: Oh, you did. And how did it go?
GOV. RICHARDSON: It didn't pass.
MS. CARLSON: Yeah. Why did --
GOV. RICHARDSON: We lost by one vote.
MS. CARLSON: So I now know the answer to my question of why you
didn't call a special session for same sex marriage because you can't
get domestic partnership through.
GOV. RICHARDSON: No. Here's another thing that I did, all
right? How many states don't have DOMA? There are six;
New Mexico is
one. I kept it off, I fought it. So I've done it, too -- DOMA. It
New Mexico , it isn't in five other states, it's in the rest
of the country. I kept it off. I kept it off. We killed it, so
shouldn't that count for something? (Laughter, applause.)
MS. CARLSON: Indeed. We're going to count it, okay?
GOV. RICHARDSON: All right.
MS. CARLSON: Joe -- Joe's going to count it.
MR. SOLOMONESE: That certainly does count, and you were such a
champion on attempting to get domestic partnership done in
New Mexico .
But following up on the point that you made about the states
moving in the right direction and the will of the people needing to be
there, if the
New Mexico legislature handed you a marriage bill, would
you sign it?
GOV. RICHARDSON: (Short pause.) The
New Mexico legislature, I
am pushing it very hard to expand domestic partnership. It's the same
thing, Joe. It's a question of going through a path that is
Now, you know, I'll give the most flowery speeches like several
that have done here. I am in this business to get things done, to
lead, to pass legislation, to bring coalitions together, to bring the
MR. SOLOMONESE: And you have been a hero on a number of issues.
I think what we're trying to get a sense of here is, when you say
the country needs to come along, we need to move people and it's
happening in the states, then if it's happening in a state and the
legislature hands you that piece of legislation, in your heart, where
are you on that issue in that sort of a circumstance?
GOV. RICHARDSON: Well, you know, in my heart, I'm doing what is
achievable. And I'm not there yet. And the country isn't there yet.
New Mexico isn't there yet. We have to bring the country on. We have
to move in the direction of making this happen.
That doesn't mean that I'm closed on this issue. It means that
you do what is achievable.
MR. SOLMONESE: I want to get to one of the other issues that you
mentioned. Under our current immigration laws, one spouse can sponsor
another to become a
U.S. resident. Same-sex couples are not covered
by this law. What would you do to help binational couples, couples
who are playing by the rules, gay and lesbian couples who are playing
by the rules, but whose families are being torn apart by the current
GOV. RICHARDSON: Well, I believe that when you have expansion of
domestic partnership, of civil unions, it should be to all people,
regardless of where you are -- overseas, underseas, anywhere.
MR. SOLMONESE: (Chuckles.)
GOV. RICHARDSON: So there's a bill in Congress, which I have
already said I would support, to include -- because it's currently in
the immigration issue -- I know of friends of mine that have partners
Mexico , that -- when I signed in
New Mexico an executive order
expanding domestic partnership, one of my constituents has a partner
Mexico , and my own constituent, because of the immigration law, and
his partner cannot come together. I think that's wrong. I think
MS. CARLSON: Thank you, Governor.
MS. ETHERIDGE: Thank you.
Do you think homosexuality is a choice, or is it biological?
GOV. RICHARDSON: It's a choice. It's --
MS. ETHERIDGE: I don't know if you understand the question.
(Soft laughter.) Do you think I -- a homosexual is born that way, or
do you think that around seventh grade we go, "Ooh, I want to be gay"?
GOV. RICHARDSON: Well, I -- I'm not a scientist. It's -- you
know, I don't see this as an issue of science or definition.
I see gays and lesbians as people as a matter of human decency. I see
it as a matter of love and companionship and people loving each other.
You know I don't like to categorize people. I don't like to, like,
answer definitions like that that, you know, perhaps are grounded in
science or something else that I don't understand.
MS. ETHERIDGE: Well, it's hard when you are a citizen of a
country that tells you that you are making a choice when you were born
that way, and your Creator made you that way. And there's a document
that was written 200 years ago that says you are entitled to certain
rights that you are not given.
How can there be anything other than absolute equal rights for
GOV. RICHARDSON: Well, that's -- that's always been my view, as
I said. As a Hispanic, I grew up with people thinking because of my
darker skin and my -- you know, I didn't -- I wasn't fully speaking
English at a time, that I was not equal. So I understand that issue
of inequality, and so across the board I've always felt that every
human being desires the same rights, desires the same niche in our
society. And you know, I've -- all my life I've striven very hard to
deal with the civil rights issue, on immigration issues affecting
families. I've always held these ideals very high, and my record
speaks for it.
MS. ETHERIDGE: I've lived in your state. I've lived in Santa
Fe, beautiful, beautiful place. How's the bark beetle infestation
GOV. RICHARDSON: It's still a problem.
MS. ETHERIDGE: Yeah.
GOV. RICHARDSON: They're still a problem.
MS. ETHERIDGE: That's -- environmentally, I hope you can do
MS. CARLSON: Governor Richardson, can I interrupt the bark
I wanted to ask you, people who are opposed to equality for gays
and lesbians say it's a lifestyle choice and that it can be cured or
changed, and it's just chosen, it's not how you're born.
So therefore you don't get equal rights because, you know, you're just
choosing to be a certain way.
What do you say to those people that would take away rights
because it's just like, you know, choosing anything else and you can
choose back if you want? Why should it be a civil right?
GOV. RICHARDSON: Well, I don't think it's a matter of
preferences. It's a matter of equality. I would say that, you know,
gays and lesbians -- I've seen some of those -- I've gotten a lot of
letters, because I've been very outspoken on this issue, that gays and
lesbians are seeking special preferences. I don't believe that's the
I think it's a matter of full equality. And this is why in my
public life, I not only have spoken about these issues, I've done it.
That's the point that I'm trying to convey, that I have issues
relating to domestic partners, issues relating to hate crimes, issues
relating to signing executive orders to protect all state employees,
issues relating to "don't ask, don't tell." I will strive to move
this country in the direction of full equality for everybody.
MS. CARLSON: Thank you, Governor. We're just about out of time.
Would you like to make a closing statement? If you want to address
the bark beetle, you may. (Laughter.)
GOV. RICHARDSON: Before I do that, I want to just say to
Melissa, I admire your efforts on behalf of fighting your fight
against breast cancer. I loved your movie, "Inconvenient Truth," the
Oscar you got.
MS. ETHERIDGE: My movie? (Laughter.) Thank you.
GOV. RICHARDSON: Just tell Al Gore not to run, please.
(Laughter.) I'm moving up. I'm moving up. I don't --
MS. ETHERIDGE: You're moving up. You're getting there. All
right. He says it's too soul-sucking. He won't do it again. So --
GOV. RICHARDSON: I want to lead this country because I believe I
have the most experience and because I represent change. I also
believe I'm electable.
Now I notice how a lot of these candidates have talked about all
the things that they want to do and where they stand.
I want you to look at my record as a governor, as a congressman, and
see what I have done. The full range of issues that have been
discussed here, I've delivered on as a governor. And I would do the
same as president.
The issue is, how can we bring this country together to achieve
the goals of full equality? And the best barometer of that is your
record, not your speeches. The best barometer of that is who has
delivered, not your 10-point plans.
And with that closing, I ask for the support of the many people
here that support in this country full equality. (Applause.)
MS. CARLSON: Thank you, Governor. Thanks.
GOV. RICHARDSON: All right.