Wife of presidential candidate John Edwards promises he would repeal 1,000-plus anti-gay laws
SAN FRANCISCO Elizabeth Edwards told a prominent gay rights group Saturday night, July 14, that her husband, presidential candidate John Edwards, would help repeal more than a thousand laws that discriminate against same-sex couples.
As she campaigns for her husband in California, Elizabeth Edwards has staked out an independent position on gay rights. She appeared last month at a breakfast before San Francisco’s gay Pride parade, where she announced her support for gay marriage.
The next day, her husband, John Edwards, said her position surprised even him. The former North Carolina Senator opposes gay marriage but supports civil unions.
Her speech Saturday to the Human Rights Campaign was an effort to reassure a crucial constituency with growing political clout that while her husband disagrees with her on gay marriage he would be a champion for legislation that would protect same-sex couples from discrimination.
Citing the story of a Sacramento man who died after witnesses said he was beaten to death by men who thought he was gay, Edwards slammed President Bush for not doing anything to help protect gays and lesbians against violence.
“This president talks a lot about good and evil and the need to seek out evil doers,” she told a packed auditorium. “But he doesn’t seem to recognize the evil in hate crimes. The right to live without the fear of being murdered for whom we love is not a special right.”
The death of Satendar Singh, 26, galvanized Sacramento’s gay community and others who saw it as an outgrowth of anti-gay rhetoric coming from local evangelical Christian Slavic churches.
According to Singh’s friends, the group that attacked him earlier this month as he was leaving a picnic at Lake Natomas were speaking Russian. Singh was punched once in the face and fell backward, hitting his head. He died July 5 after four days on life support.
Edwards said Singh’s story reminded her of Matthew Shepard, the gay college student who died after he was beaten and tied to a fence in Laramie, Wyoming, in 1998.
“We were in fact reminded again while we share the lingering memory of a fence post in Laramie, the sorrow of that image is now joined by a park at Lake Natoma in Sacramento,” she said. “And Matthew Shepard is joined by Satendar Singh as a martyr in that fight for justice.”
Scott Wiener, a member of Human Rights Campaign’s board of directors, said Elizabeth Edwards’ speech conveyed to him that her husband agrees with her on most of the issues that are important to the gay community except for one.
“He’s there with us 99.9 percent. It’s just on marriage, he’s not there yet,” Wiener said.
Associated Press Writer Laura Kurtzman contributed to this story.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 13, 2007