Last edited: February 14, 2005

Bill Bradley Wows Crowd at New York Gay Community Center

LGNY Online

By Duncan Osborne

Bill Bradley, the former U.S. Senator from New Jersey, brought a crowd of roughly 300 to their feet more than once as he stumped for votes in the March 7 Democratic primary at the New York City Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center on February 16.

"Equality should not be just for some people, equality should be for all Americans," Bradley said to loud applause and cheering late in his 25-minute speech.

"I am totally committed to making sure that we have a domestic partnership law in this country that would accord to gay couples the same rights that we accord to heterosexual couples in this country across the board."

Bradley noted that Vice President Al Gore, his opponent for the Democratic nomination for president, had announced he would establish a task force to weigh the impact of federal laws on domestic partnership and then drew loud cheers and laughter with a poke at Gore.

"I understand today that Al Gore said he was going to appoint a task force to look at this issue," he said. "I don't need a task force. The way I see this is if Microsoft can do it, if Disney can do it, if American Express can do it, if IBM can do it, the federal government ought to be able to do it."

Bradley also laid out his opposition to the Clinton administration's "don't ask, don't tell" policy that has resulted in thousands of lesbians and gay men being dismissed from the military.

"To me it's pretty simple," Bradley said. "If you are a gay American and you can serve openly in the Congress, in the judiciary, in the treasury department, in the White House, you ought to be able to serve openly in the military. If gay Americans can be doctors, athletes, plumbers, policemen, artists, lawyers, why can't they be sergeants, why can't they be lieutenants? This in my mind is common sense, it's just common sense and we will find a way to do it."

Bradley made the same point when discussing guarantees of legal protections for gay men and lesbians. He chose a simple solution.

"Now on the issue that I've taken some heat on which is adding sexual orientation to the 1964 Civil Rights Act," Bradley said. "That's where we deal with discrimination in AmericaäThat covers everything. Then you don't have to go down the list of every possible activity with a separate actä We can simply take care of it with two wordsä That's where I think you should take care of it by adding that - sexual orientation - to the Civil Rights Act."

That act banned discrimination based on a number of categories, including race or national origin, in employment, public accommodations, housing, and other areas. Queer activists have opted to pursue that goal in a piecemeal fashion. For instance, the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act would ban discrimination in employment on the basis of sexual orientation.

Throughout the speech, Bradley appealed to his audience with straightforward statements and rhetoric undeniably resonant with the queer community.

"It is also that we extend our collective humanity a few feet forward," Bradley said describing his American dream. "That we get deeper than skin color or eye shape or sexual orientation or ethnicity to be able to see the individual that stands before you. That is what I'm committed to in this campaign." Bradley also won loud cheering early in his speech when he discussed his healthcare proposal.

"We should fix our roof while the sun is shining," he said. "That means we should take a look at the 44 million Americans who don't have health insurance and make sure we provide them with health insurance."

The candidate was joined by City Councilmembers Phil Reed and Margarita Lopez, longtime community activists Ethan Geto, Allen Roskoff, and Alan Fleishman and onetime candidates for office Karen Burstein and Daniel O'Donnell. Bradley has been endorsed by the Stonewall Democratic Club, the Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn, and the Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens, three of the city's gay political clubs.

Later in a 20-minute question and answer session with gay reporters, Bradley gave more detail on his plans. Allowing queers to serve openly in the military would mean a broad review of all the Pentagon's policies, such as sodomy laws, that might have an impact on gay soldiers.

"If you were going to make sure that gays could serve openly in the military then you would be reviewing all elements of that policy," Bradley said.

His proposal on domestic partnership would be broad and require changing tax, immigration, and a slew of other laws. Asked if his domestic partnership scheme would effectively be the equal of marriage with a different name Bradley said "Essentially."

One looming obstacle to Bradley's plans, assuming he takes the White House, is the Republican Party that may continue in the majority in the Senate and the House. How would he get his plans past them?

"It will be a difficult road, but that is taking the current political context which you don't have to take," Bradley said. "The idea is if you're a leader you try and change the political context."

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