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Sen. Mike Gravel Headshot

Why I Wasn't Invited to the Debate on Gay Issues

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Yesterday the Human Rights Campaign announced that it will not invite me to the first-ever presidential debate on gay issues because I didn't raise enough money. To say that I'm shocked is an understatement. I can confidently say, of all presidential candidates, I've been the most outspoken advocate for gay rights.

My record speaks for itself.

On Gay Marriage:

This week The Advocate praised me for being "unabashedly pro-gay marriage." But apparently this didn't matter to HRC, which invited Clinton, Edwards and Obama who all join George Bush in opposing marriage equality.

On Don't Ask:

Not only do I want to repeal Don't Ask, I wrote a Huffington Post lambasting Clinton for her refusal to call Don't Ask a mistake. No other candidate has dared to take on Hillary for her repeated whitewashing of Don't Ask as benign "transition policy." Let's be clear, Don't Ask was a cowardly political calculation that reaffirmed the military's unjust discharge policies. I have also challenged my fellow candidates to join me in publicly pledging that whoever gets elected, he or she will issue an apology on behalf of the federal government to the 100,000 gays and lesbians who were discharged by the military for their sexual orientation. No other candidate has joined me in that pledge.

On General Peter Pace:

Obama, Edwards and Clinton at first refused to denounce General Pace's statement that homosexuality is immoral. I immediately called for that homophobe's resignation. Hillary had to be repeatedly pressed before she finally conceded that homosexuality wasn't immoral. I told the press "love between a man and a man or a woman and a woman is beautiful."

On Gay Pride:

I proudly joined this year's San Francisco gay pride march and was the first major party presidential candidate to participate in a pride parade.

Why am I so committed to gay rights?

Fighting for a hated minority is a pretty dumb way to get elected president. And obviously it hasn't helped with my fundraising. But I want to live in a country where there are no second-class citizens. As long as our nation deprives gays and lesbians of basic rights, including marriage, we have not fulfilled the promise of the Declaration of Independence guaranteeing life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to all Americans.

So why wasn't I invited to the gay rights forum?

According to a HRC spokesperson, I didn't raise enough money and therefore my candidacy did not meet their standard of "viability." But that's strange -- CNN, PBS, NBC and the NAACP invited me to their debates without evaluating my financial viability. Ironically I think the real reason why HRC didn't invite me is that I'm too vocal in my advocacy of gay rights. None of the top tier candidates would have been comfortable facing an opponent who consistently points out their refusal to embrace true equality for gays and lesbians. HRC simply bowed to the star factor. It's just a shame that this travesty was perpetrated in the name of the LGBT community. (Dennis, I'll be rootin' for ya.)

Yesterday I got an email from a grateful supporter who worried that this snub would make me bitter and less committed to gay rights. Far from it, in fact I'm going to rejoin the battle with even more determination to advance the gay rights discussion during the other debates. So stay tuned, because this old soldier has only just begun to fight.