My fascinating and lengthy chat with Las Vegas mayoral frontrunner Carolyn Goodman will find its way into several different pieces I'm working on in coming days, of course. But because this morning I reported the strange responses to the DREAM Act and domestic partnership questions from Councilman Steve Ross and County Commissioner Larry Brown at a Hispanic Democratic group's forum on Wednesday, both also candidates in the April 5 primary, I decided to post this transcript with Oscar Goodman's wife.
These are important issues not because any Las Vegas mayor has the power to enact federal immigration legislation or to repeal a state gay partnership law but because if this race goes to a head-to-head general, it could come down to interest groups like Hispanics (and their unionize allegiances) and gays who may or may not be motivated to do the grassroots work that turns the tides of close, low-turnout contests.
It also matters because County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, who seems to have a 50-50 chance along with Brown of going one-on-one with Goodman after next week, is a staunch supporter of both the DREAM Act and fully legalized, federally recognized marriages for gay couples. Chris G. is by far the most effective grassroots campaigner in serious contention, and she can use this to fire up these groups on her behalf.
Also, as I explained earlier, it could be bad for Vegas, which has pushed hard to court valuable gay travel dollars, if the mayor is seen in any way as anti-gay. True, the mayor does not have jurisdiction over the Strip, but the national press and certainly the gay media and gay tourists won't care.
So, without further ado, here's what Goodman told me:
Friess: Do you know what the DREAM Act is?
Friess: And what do you think of it?
Goodman: You know, it was something I read about the other day and to be perfectly honest with you I remember reading it. I remember something came across my computer and should I do this and could I participate and I couldn’t because we had another event. And I thought, this issue, it’s an embryonic something and it’s something that just started and it needs addressing and exploration.
Again, as with Ross' remark yesterday, I'm puzzled how this topic has not come to the attention of prominent candidates for public office before. And given that Goodman has made her reputation as an educator and school founder, the fact that the DREAM Act is all about education makes it surprising she thinks it's an "embryonic" topic. Appealing to Hispanic voters was a deciding factor in Harry Reid's win over Sharron Angle last year and his support of the DREAM Act was a key part of that. Angle also ran menacing, fearmongering anti-immigrant ads that accelerated her demise.
Now onto the gay marriage/domestic partnership discussion:
Friess: The other question asked of all the candidates [at the mayoral panel] was whether they would support repealing the state’s domestic partner law. And of the people on the panel, Commissioner Brown and Councilman Ross said yes, they would like to stop the state from recognizing domestic partners.
Goodman: A crystallized commentary on that for me is difficult because you know I am about the rights of the human being but I’m also about legal rights. I’m certainly accepting of anybody and anybody’s rights to determine for themselves their own lifestyle as long as it’s not causing problems for anybody else and it’s legal. One of the things I remember asking years ago of my uncle who is a very astute lawyer because I didn’t understand, I had many friends and I’ve had friends all my life who are gay. I said I don’t understand why a legal contract wuldn’t suffice to bind two people together. You and I would have a legal contract, same sex let’s say, and I would agree that everything that’s mine it’s 50-50. If I die you would get everything, split down the middle. All I would say is why a legal binding contract wouldn’t work for a couple.
Friess: Well, because the federal government doesn’t recognize it.
Goodman: No, no. you and I are a same sex couple. And we enter into a legal – I’m not talking marital – but I’m saying. Understanding and wanting to hear everything. You and I are both guys and we’ve been together let’s say 20 years. I want to enter into a contract with you where I will say. We are 50-50 partners in everything. Everything. If I die, in my legal document, I say I want you to have everything.
Friess: Right, but I still wouldn’t get your Social Security. I still wouldn’t get your pension...
Goodman: [laughs] And at this point, what’s in there? But lookit, those are finite details. I’d like to know before I would even discuss it, what are the issues we’re dealing with here? My first question is, why wouldn’t a legal binding contract that you and I….
Friess: Well, let me ask you this. You’re a heterosexual couple, you can just go to City Hall and get married. I’m a gay couple, I have to go to lawyer and spend thousands of dollars to approximate the same arrangement. Is that right?
Goodman: Oh, you mean you have to spend the money to have the contract drawn.
Friess: The state law now, the domestic partner law, it allows for the same rights for gay couples as straight couples or any rights the state provides to gay couples.
Goodman: Oh, OK.
Friess: And that was the question. The question was, would you support repealing that?
Goodman: I would not support anything until I knew more and would give that thought. I have always believed in the right of the individual to determine his own life interactions and lifestyles. At this point, you know, you’re saying about Social Security, what other things are there. Why is it that I would be intent if I were a gay couple to have this? Then again, that’s not me. I’m so easily…
Friess: Why’d you get married?
Goodman: Probably because it was a religious thing, I think. I don’t know. That’s the way we were just raised. This is what you do if you’re going to have a family. Today, I think so many people live together, they don’t marry.
Friess: Let me just ask you directly. Do you support or don’t support legalized gay marriage in this country?
Goodman: I cannot answer one way or another at this point because I haven’t spent enough time looking at the whys and wherefores one way or another. What I do know is that I think everybody has the right to their own determination, how they live. Should I get further in questioning that for myself and getting advice both legally and emotionally from people, I would come to a conclusion. I can’t tell you I have one at this moment because I don’t. Were you my son and were you gay, I would say you and your partner must do everything you can to make your life meaningful and as rich as you want it to be. It’s up to you to do this. If that is paramount, and what are the reasons for this, I would want your input. I know I would talk to a lawyer to help you in your determination in your own life. And I can’t tell you because first of all I’m not a lawyer and second, I don’t have the full amount of information that I would give a binding statement one way or the other.
OK. So, this evening her campaign manager, Bradley Mayer, texted me to clarify Mrs. Goodman's position:
Huh. But then why didn't she just say so? Again, as with the DREAM Act, I just don't understand how people who believe themselves to be up on current events -- let alone leading candidates for a major public office -- don't have clear views on important issues of the day. Gay marriage is not a new topic. It's fully legal in five states and D.C. now, although the feds don't recognize it except for when the IRS can make a play for grabbing higher taxes from same-sex partners. Why didn't Carolyn's astute lawyer uncle explain to her the problems with private contracts, the history of courts invalidating them and various institutions -- schools, hospitals, cemeteries, etc -- ignoring them?
I had a great time with Mrs. Goodman and Commissioner Brown and I have great respect for both of them. But it seems like these sorts of moments show candidates that have surprisingly not participated in or considered the predominant cultural dialogues of our time. That's just strange.
P.S. Mayer needs to get with Carolyn on the use of the term "lifestyle." It's one of those things that drives GLBT people bananas. See the NLGJA Stylebook here for why.
P.P.S. Proving that Vegas remains a small town at heart, Mayer was the campaign manager for Mark Manendo, the successful state senate candidate who I covered extensively here because his opponent, Grandmother Kathy McClain, sent out a blatantly gay-baiting mailer. Who ran her campaign and was responsible for that malicious hit job? Gary Gray. He's both Chris G.'s husband and campaign manager.