State party leaders quizzed on gay issues

Thursday, October 2, 2008 6:38 AM EDT
By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

NEW HAVEN — Many national and local issues of concern for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people came to the forefront at a special election forum at the New Haven Pride Center Wednesday night.

Audience members quizzed state Republican Party Chairman Christopher Healy and Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo on topics from civil unions to health care benefits and the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

DiNardo and Healy also promoted the candidates they are supporting in the presidential election next month, Barack Obama and John McCain, respectively.

At the outset, DiNardo apologized that there was a need for the forum.

“I don’t think we should be here talking about all these issues that affect you because I think they should have been gotten rid of a long time ago,” she said. “You should have had equal rights a long time ago.”

Healy encouraged participants to look carefully at all the candidates in the upcoming election and reach out to Republican state legislators.

“There are a lot of Republicans out there who support a lot of your positions — not all of them, but many,” Healy said. “Politics is about compromise.”

He also pointed out that Democrats have a large majority in both the state House of Representatives and Senate, meaning that failures to advance legislation can fall to both parties.

“We hope to change those numbers this fall, but that has been the numbers for the last several years, which allows the Democrats and some moderate Republicans to pass any bill they want,” he said.

In a discussion about extending the benefits offered by civil unions, Healy said that he believes marriage should be defined as between a man and woman, but he encouraged people to contact their local legislators to express support or opposition for particular bills.

Several audience members expressed concern about a question on the November ballot that would convene a Constitutional convention, which would take up the issue of voter referenda. Some people at the forum expressed concerns that could lead to a referendum to ban gay marriage.

DiNardo said she is against the convention, while Healy said he is for it.

New Haven Pride Center Co-President John Allen noted that the forum was the first political event the group has held in its 12 years of existence.

“It’s a very exciting time,” Allen said.

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