Reporting live from Denver: Highlights from sitting, aspiring senators

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I had an opportunity to chat with Sen. Bob Casey while in Denver and talked about an idea Rep. Barney Frank suggested — combining the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act into one legislative bill.

MS: Barney Frank has floated the idea among some other House leadership of combining the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” plus the nondiscrimination bill into one piece of legislation. Would you be supportive of that? BC: I think it’s definitely a way to move it forward. We Democrats, even though we got the majority, we have to be real creative to get around these legislative grills.

MS: That’s exactly his point. We lost the nondiscrimination bill [in the Senate] by one vote last time. He expects that we have enough Democratic senators this time to pull it through. BC: Barney did a remarkable job. We need to keep voting on it.

MS: What’s your guess on how many Democratic senatorial seats we’ll pick up? BC: I think there’s no question we will get four. The question is whether we can dramatically expand that. I think it’s going to be a really good year and it’s possible we’ll get more than four. I think getting to 60 will be a very tall order. MS: Have you noticed the 15 LGBT delegates here today in [the] Pennsylvania [section]? BC: I haven’t seen the actual list, but it’s got to be a record or one of the highest numbers.

MS: We’ve had an increase of 40 percent nationwide and the national LGBT delegation is larger than every other state except for California and New York. BC: That’s remarkable.

Another interesting encounter was with NBC’s Chris Matthews, who might possibly run against Sen. Arlen Specter for Pennsylvania’s other senate seat. Here’s the brief, lighthearted discussion we had.

MS: You’re running for Senate in Pennsylvania. As you know, there are some very important issues going on. We have a Republican in that seat, Specter, who voted two ways on the Defense of Marriage Act. So what would you be doing? CM: Well, first I’m not going to answer it that way. I always start with freedom. That’s where I start on every issue, whether it’s reproductive rights or it’s crime. There’s a constitutional right that starts with freedom and inherent rights, exclusive rights to the Constitution. But I really do believe that we always as Americans start with that. Then we work our way through things. Do you understand? It’s very important. Individual freedom has always been the way we start. First governments, sequestered governments like in England, always start with state power. This country has always started with individual freedom as the basis to work at what you allow the state to do. But obviously, this is an evolving thing; my thinking now is different from what it was 10 years ago. [For] a lot of people it’s been evolving, and for a lot of gay people it’s been evolving. A lot of gay people didn’t think marriage was going to be the issue. A lot of friends of mine didn’t think it was going to be an issue, because it was too far out. A lot of people are changing on these issues. I think a lot of people are going to work our way through these things.

MS: Well, where are you on the issue? CM: I have an open heart. I’ll have to live with it.

MS: In other words, you won’t answer the question. CM: I can answer it the way I have, which is any fucking way I want. I can answer in my way even if it isn’t your way.

Mark Segal is PGN publisher. He can be reached at [email protected].