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John Edwards on Civil Rights

Democratic Nominee for Vice President; NC Jr Senator


Allow gay couples to visit each other in the hospital

Q: Both you and Senator Kerry say you oppose gay marriage. Are you trying to have it both ways?

A: We both believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. But we also believe that gay and lesbians and gay and lesbian couples, those who have been in long-term relationships, deserve to be treated respectfully, they deserve to have benefits. For example, a gay couple now has a very difficult time, one, visiting the other when they're in the hospital, or, for example, if, heaven forbid, one of them were to pass away, they have trouble even arranging the funeral.

I mean, those are not the kind of things that Kerry and I believe in. But we do believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman. Bush is proposing a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage that is completely unnecessary. Under the law of this country for the last 200 years, no state has been required to recognize another state's marriage. North Carolina would not be required to recognize a marriage from Massachusetts.

Source: Edwards-Cheney debate: 2004 Vice Presidential Oct 5, 2004

Raising the minimum wage is a working women's issue

Women make up only 48 percent of the overall American workforce, but 61 percent of the people who will get a raise when we increase the minimum wage. People who live on the minimum wage do not get cost of living adjustments - every year that their costs climb but the minimum wage stays the same is another year people living on the minimum wage can afford less. Economists believe the primary reason the wage gap expanded between middle- and low-wage women in the 1980s was the erosion in the minimum wage.
Source: [Xref Kerry] Our Plan for America , p. 22 Aug 10, 2004

Embrace equal opportunities for all, like I had

I have had such incredible opportunities in my life. I was blessed to be the first person in my family to go to college. I worked my way through, and I had opportunities beyond my wildest dreams. And the heart of this campaign - your campaign, our campaign - is to make sure all Americans have exactly the same kind opportunities that I had no matter where you live, no matter who your family is, no matter what the color of your skin is. This is the America we believe in.
Source: Acceptance speech to the Democratic National Convention Jul 28, 2004

Talk about race everywhere and to every American

I saw the ugly face of segregation and discrimination. I saw young, African-American kids being sent upstairs in movie theaters. I saw "white only" signs on restaurant doors and luncheon counters. I've heard discussions about where and in front of who we ought to talk about race and equality and civil rights. I have an answer to those questions: Everywhere, everywhere, everywhere. This is not an African-American issue, not a Latino issue, not an Asian-American issue. This is an American issue.
Source: Acceptance speech to the Democratic National Convention Jul 28, 2004

I support affirmative action

I support affirmative action.
Source: 2004 Presidential National Political Awareness Test Mar 3, 2004

Opposes DOMA because states already can ignore gay marriages

Q: You oppose gay marriage?

EDWARDS: I do. But I believe that this is an issue that ought to be decided in the states. I think the federal government should honor whatever decision is made by the states. I would not support the Defense of Marriage Act today, if there were a vote today.

Q: You would not vote for it?

EDWARDS: I would not. I would not for a very simple reason. There's a part of it that I agree with, and there's a part of it I disagree with. The Defense of Marriage Act specifically said that the federal government is not required to recognize gay marriage even if a state chooses to do so. I disagree with that. I think states should be allowed to make that decision. And the federal government shouldn't do it. The part I agree with is the states should not be required to recognize marriages from other states. That's already in the law, by the way, without DOMA. The law today does not require one state to recognize the marriage of another state.

Source: Democratic 2004 primary debate at USC Feb 26, 2004

Enormous strides for gays and lesbians without gay marriage

Q: How is your stance on gay marriage moving the country forward on gay rights?

A: There are a whole group of issues on which we can move the country forward. For example, the recognition of partnership benefits, changing our immigration and adoption laws, so that they provide equality to gay and lesbian couples, a re-examination of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy with our military leadership. There are fundamental things that we still haven't done.

Source: Democratic 2004 primary Debate in Greenville SC Jan 29, 2004

Flag burning is despicable, but not a constitutional issue

Q: Should the Constitution be amended to prohibit burning the American flag?

A: No. I believe flag burning is a despicable act, but I do not support a constitutional amendment to prohibit flag burning.

Source: Associated Press policy Q&A, "Flag Amendment" Jan 25, 2004

Let each state decide about civil unions and gay marriage

Q: President Bush said in the State of the Union address that the Defense of Marriage Act is not strong enough to protect the institution of marriage. Would you have voted against it in 1996?

EDWARDS: Yes, because what happened with the Defense of Marriage Act is it took away the power of states, like Vermont, to be able to do what they chose to do about civil unions, about these kinds of marriage issues. Massachusetts has just made a decision that embraces the notion of gay marriage. I think these are decisions that the states should have the power to make. And the Defense of Marriage Act would have taken away that power. And I think that's wrong. That power should not be taken away from the states.

Q: Should other states be obliged to honor and recognize the civil union which Governor Dean signed?

EDWARDS: I think it's a decision that should be made on a state-by-state basis. I think each state should be able to make its own decision about what they embrace.

Source: Democratic 2004 Primary Debate at St. Anselm College Jan 22, 2004

Economic and educational equality are needed

Q: Is the Confederate flag an acceptable symbol of anything to an American?

A: The things I have seen growing up -- segregation, discrimination -- are a part of everything I am today. We still live in two Americas, and we should be willing to tell the American people that. We have two economies. We have two tax systems. Until we have economic and educational equality in America, we're never going to be able to do things we need to do for African-Americans.

Source: Iowa Brown and Black Presidential Forum Jan 11, 2004

Fund the Help America Vote Act

Q: What will you do to assure elections officials that the federal government is committed to making the Help America Vote Act work as Congress intended?

A: What I'll do as president is, first of all, fund the legislation, and second, make sure that every single person in America gets a chance to be on a voter registration roll and that they get a chance to vote no matter what the level of the community that they live in. We need to make sure everybody gets an opportunity to both register and vote.

Source: Iowa Brown and Black Presidential Forum Jan 11, 2004

Confederate flag is divisive-Dean is wrong to cite it

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards called rival Howard Dean's Confederate flag remark elitist. Dean, who has since apologized for the remark, said he was trying to state his intention to make the party more inclusive and bring poor Southern whites back from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party. But Democratic rivals, like Edwards, seized on the comment as condescending and even accepting of people who are racists. He said he has talked personally to Dean about his concerns.

Edwards said the flag is a "very divisive symbol" and it is wrong to stereotype Southerners. "It's like saying to any group of voters, `you don't know what's best for you. We know what's best for you,'" Edwards said. "There's an elitism and condescension associated with that attitude that's enormously dangerous to us" and that voters want to be "treated with respect."

Source: CNN.com Nov 9, 2003

Remove Confederate flag from South Carolina state house

Q: Do you believe the Confederate flag should be displayed at state government buildings?

A: South Carolina, as a matter of compromise, displays the Confederate flag on a flagpole in front of the state capitol. Because I grew up in the South and believe that the Confederate flag is a very divisive symbol I have stated publicly a number of times that I believe that South Carolina should remove the flag from the state capital grounds.

Source: Concord Monitor / WashingtonPost.com on-line Q&A Nov 7, 2003

Most southerners don't drive around with Confederate flags

Q: Are you saying that the votes of those who fly the Confederate flag are too loathsome to even accept?

EDWARDS: Dean still has not said he was wrong [to seek those votes]. Were you wrong to say that?

DEAN: No, I wasn't. People who vote who fly the Confederate flag, I think they are wrong because the Confederate flag is a racist symbol. But I think there are lot of poor people who fly that flag because the Republicans have been dividing us by race since 1968 with their southern race strategy. I am tired of being divided by race in this country. I want to go down to the South and talk to people who don't make any more than anybody else up north but keep voting Republican against their own economic interests.

EDWARDS: The last thing we need in the South is somebody like you coming down and telling us what we need to do. I grew up in the South. I grew up with the very people that you're talking about. The vast majority don't drive around with Confederate flags on pickup trucks.

Source: CNN "Rock The Vote" Democratic Debate Nov 5, 2003

Patriot Act is being abused by the Attorney General

Q: The PATRIOT Act is two years old. There has been criticism of John Ashcroft for enforcement of legislation you authored. Shouldn't those who wrote the legislation take responsibility?

EDWARDS: There are provisions, which get no attention, which did good things. The reason we need changes is because it gave too much discretion to an attorney general who does not deserve it. The attorney general told us that he would not abuse his discretion. He has abused his discretion. We know that now.

Source: Democratic Presidential 2004 Primary Debate in Detroit Oct 27, 2003

PATRIOT Act removes liberties that it's supposed to protect

Q: Do you support revision or repeal of the PATRIOT Act?

EDWARDS: I support dramatic revision of the PATRIOT Act. The last thing we should be doing is turning over our privacy, our liberties, our freedom, our constitutional rights to John Ashcroft. First, the very notion that this administration can arrest American citizens on American soil, label them an enemy combatant, put them in prison, keep them there indefinitely-this runs contrary to everything we believe in this country. The notion that they are going to libraries to find out what books people are checking out, going to book stores to find out what books are being purchased. What we have to remember-and I will when I am president-is what it is we are supposed to be fighting for, what it is we are supposed to be protecting. These very liberties, this privacy, these constitutional rights-that's what's at stake in this fight. And we cannot let people like John Ashcroft take them away in an effort to protect ourselves.

Source: Congressional Black Caucus Institute debate Sep 9, 2003

Support the Patriot Act with rigorous review

Q: Would you revise or repeal the Patriot Act?

A: I supported the Patriot Act because it contained provisions needed to strengthen our security, but I also believe this administration has abused its powers in implementing the law. One key provision of the act requires Congress to revisit key provisions of the law. I opposed efforts to repeal that "sunset," and Congress must rigorously review the Patriot Act-as well as any new legislation-to see whether it advances our security and honors our values.

Source: MoveOn.org interview Jun 17, 2003

Governments don't belong in bedrooms, including gay bedrooms

Q: Here in South Carolina, it's a felony for two gay men to have sex in their own home. Do you support that law? Or is there a fundamental right to privacy that protects that right?

EDWARDS: I believe there is a fundamental right to privacy. I do not believe the government belongs in people's bedrooms. I think that applies to both gay and lesbian couples and heterosexual couples.

MOSELEY-BRAUN: I absolutely agree that gay-lesbian, transgender and bisexual people are entitled to privacy as everybody else.

LIEBERMAN: I don't [support that law]. In fact, the law relates not only to gay couples, but to heterosexual couples as well, and it's a violation of the right of privacy. There is a case right now before the Supreme Court regarding a similar Texas law. I hope and believe it'll be struck down because Lord knows the prosecutors have more important things to do than prosecute cases like this. They ought to be prosecuting drug peddlers and criminals and all the rest.

Source: [X-ref to Lieberman] Democratic Debate in Columbia SC May 3, 2003

PATRIOT Act ok, if watchdogs protect civil liberties

MOSELEY-BRAUN [to Edwards]: Ben Franklin once said, "They that can give up essential liberties to obtain a little safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." I have real concerns that the PATRIOT Act vastly expending government power of surveillance, wire taps, arbitrary detention, investigation, and arguably violates [six] amendments to the Constitution. You voted for this bill. Will you vote to repeal it, or will you vote to restore the civil liberties guaranteed to the Americans, and privacy guaranteed to the Americans by the Constitution?

EDWARDS: I share that very serious concern. [But] the problem with the PATRIOT Act is not the law itself, it's the way it's being administered, particularly by Attorney General Ashcroft. We have had consistent problems with this. It is why I have proposed taking away from the FBI the responsibility of fighting terrorism and simultaneously setting up an independent watchdog group to make sure that none of us are losing our civil liberties.

Source: [X-ref from Moseley-Braun] Democratic Debate in Columbia SC May 3, 2003

Affirmative Action needed 40 years ago & still needed today

EDWARDS [to Graham]: You and I are both from the South. I believe it's really important for people from the South to lead, not follow, on Civil Rights, that I think it's important for us to have judges that we know will enforce our civil rights laws. I believe the president is wrong about [opposing] the Affirmative Action program at the University of Michigan. What do you believe we as Southerners can do to lift up and embrace people who today, not 40 years ago, today, still suffer the effects of discrimination every minute of their lives?

GRAHAM: One of the things that I would do, is to see that we put the Civil War behind us. Frankly, we Southerners have allowed the most extreme groups within our society to steal the images of the Confederacy and then use them as sources of division and hatred within our population.

Source: [X-ref to Graham] Democratic Debate in Columbia SC May 3, 2003

Ashcroft erodes liberties in the name of protecting America

EDWARDS: John Ashcroft, in the name of protecting America, in the name of fighting a war on terrorism, is eroding our right to privacy, eroding our civil liberties, eroding the very heart and soul of what makes this country great. It's all around the edges. It's creeping. But we have to be so careful and so vigilant to make sure that America does not lose what makes America great.

MOSELEY-BRAUN: We have to take very seriously the assault on our civil liberties that Ashcroft and the Bush administration have begun and that Congress opened the door for with the PATRIOT Act. That act arguably violates the First, the Fourth, the Fifth, the Sixth, the Eighth, and the Fourteenth amendments of the Constitution, have opened the door to e-mails being tapped and phones being tapped and searches and people disappearing in this country for the first time. We have a real crisis in America when it comes to our civil liberties, and I do hope that this act will be repealed.

Source: [X-ref to Moseley-Braun] Democratic Debate in Columbia SC May 3, 2003

Voted YES on adding sexual orientation to definition of hate crimes.

Motion to Invoke Cloture on S. 625; Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act of 2001. The bill would expand the definition of hate crimes to incorporate acts committed because of a victim's sex, sexual orientation or disability and permit the federal government to help states prosecute hate crimes even if no federally protected action was implicated. If the cloture motion is agreed to, debate will be limited and a vote will occur. If the cloture motion is rejected debate could continue indefinitely and instead the bill is usually set aside. Hence a Yes vote supports the expansion of the definition of hate crimes, and a No vote keeps the existing definition. Three-fifths of the Senate, or 60 members, is required to invoke cloture.
Bill S.625 ; vote number 2002-147 on Jun 11, 2002

Voted YES on loosening restrictions on cell phone wiretapping.

Motion to table (kill) the amendment that would provide that in order to conduct roving surveillance, the person implementing the order must ascertain that the target of the surveillance is present in the house or is using the phone that has been tapped.
Bill S1510 ; vote number 2001-300 on Oct 11, 2001

Voted YES on expanding hate crimes to include sexual orientation.

Vote on an amendment that would expand the definition of hate crimes to include gender, sexual orientation and disability. The previous definition included only racial, religious or ethnic bias.
Bill S.2549 ; vote number 2000-136 on Jun 20, 2000

Rated 60% by the ACLU, indicating a mixed civil rights voting record.

Edwards scores 60% by the ACLU on civil rights issues

We work also to extend rights to segments of our population that have traditionally been denied their rights, including Native Americans and other people of color; lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered people; women; mental-health patients; prisoners; people with disabilities; and the poor. If the rights of society’s most vulnerable members are denied, everybody’s rights are imperiled.

Our ratings are based on the votes the organization considered most important; the numbers reflect the percentage of time the representative voted the organization's preferred position.

Source: ACLU website 02n-ACLU on Dec 31, 2002

Increase subsidies for women-owned non-profit business.

Edwards sponsored the Women's Business Center Safeguard Act

Amends the Small Business Act with respect to the women's business centers program to provide Small Business Administration funding authority for nonprofit organizations conducting projects for the benefit of small businesses owned and controlled by women. Increases from 30 to 54 the percentage of appropriated women's business center funds to be used during FY 2004 for sustained women's business center projects.

Source: Bill sponsored by 11 Senators 03-S2266 on Mar 31, 2004

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