Bill Bradley Wows Crowd at New York Gay Community Center
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
"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
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
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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