Current state treasurer and U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias recently unveiled a platform that focused on rights he feels the LGBT community should have.
His list included marriage equality; the right to serve openly in the military; and protection against hate crimes as well as discrimination on the job.
The statement began with, "Everyone is part of the American family, regardless of sexual orientation, and must be treated equally under the law. All Americans should enjoy the same freedoms and share the same responsibilities. As a U.S. Senator, I will do everything I can to protect those rights."
Windy City Times: How did you craft this policy? How did you come to put this together?
Alexi Giannoulias: I think it's a matter of equality and fairness, which are the core principles of this country. I believe that all Americans should have the same freedoms and share the same responsibilitiesand allowing gay and lesbian couples the right to marry, much like heterosexual couples [ can ] , is the right and fair thing to do.
WCT: I understand you spoke with several leading LGBT community leaders before putting this platform together.
ALEXI GIANNOULIAS: Yes; I just wanted to discuss my thoughts and feelings. I sat down with people such as Art [ Johnston ] and Rick [ Garcia ] a while ago, and get their ideas. [ Note: Among others Giannoulias has spoken with, according to his campaign staff, are advocate Brandon Neese, and politicians Debra Shore and Greg Harris. ]
WCT: Let's talk about parts of the platform. So are you saying that you're in favor of federal recognition of same-sex marriage and a total repeal of DOMA [ the Defense of Marriage Act ] ?
ALEXI GIANNOULIAS: Yes. I recognize that individual states should give same-sex couples the right to marry, and that the federal government recognizes the repeal of DOMA.
WCT: I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but Windy City Times ran an item earlier this year in which it turned out that a friend of yours, Barack Obama, supported same-sex marriage back in 1996, when he ran for the state senate. He has since changed his tune, although he supports civil unions. What assurances do we have that you won't change your mind?
ALEXI GIANNOULIAS: It's pretty simple: I stick to my principles. And while the president and I may not agree on this issue, I think it's extremely important. Again, it's about what this country was founded on: fairness and equality. And, as far as I'm concerned, this is reflective of other equal-rights struggles. Regarding the struggle for racial equality, JFK said, "We are confronted primarily with a moral issuethat all Americans should be afforded equal rights and equal responsibilities."
WCT: You have also included "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in your platform.
ALEXI GIANNOULIAS: Yes. I think it sends the wrong message when he ask our brave men and women to serve, fight and even die for their countrybut only if they deny who they are. We're fighting two wars and dealing with the constant threat of global terrorism, and we can't afford 13,000 otherwise-qualified soldiers dismissed simply because of their sexual orientation. The U.S. military and the people of this country deserve the best and the brightest people who are willing to serve.
WCT: Let's talk hate crimes. There is a school of thought that criticizes hate-crimes laws. Some people feel that punishing people additionally because of this particular motivation does no good; in fact, they contend that adding years onto a person's sentence can actually reinforce their hateful behavior. What do you think?
ALEXI GIANNOULIAS: Well, let me say that everyone in this country is entitled to live in dignity without fear of violence. I would work to pass the Matthew Shepard Act, which would expand the federal hate-crimes law to include crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation or disability. Hate crimes target individuals but inflict pain on entire communities, and everyone is entitled to live without fear and justice.
WCT: And you're supportive of a fully inclusive ENDA [ Employment Non-Discrimination Act ] ?
ALEXI GIANNOULIAS: Yes, and you may remember that I ended years of misguided policy by extending healthcare coverage to same-sex partners of office employees for the first time in the state treasurer's history.
WCT: I want to ask about something that's not on your platform. What is your position regarding HIV-positive individuals still not being allowed to enter this country?
ALEXI GIANNOULIAS: Can I study that and get back to you? This issue doesn't come up that often. [ A statement from the deputy manager that was sent later read, "Alexi obviously believes that nobody with HIV should feel stigmatized or discriminated against because they have a disease. This tracks closely with his believe in the dignity of every human being and that we all must be treated equally under the law.
"Alexi supports the repeal of the HIV travel ban and would work to speed up any efforts to implement the rule. I know it's stuck in comment period right now, so after the rule is adopted, he'll closely monitor the situation to make sure that smart regulations are in place and will work on any necessary technical tweaks to the law." ]
See www.alexiforillinois.com .