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Obama Reaches Out to Gay Supporters, Voters

by Steve Weinstein

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Sunday June 8, 2008

Barak Obama, having sealed the Democratic nomination for president of the United States, is now taking time to mend fences with former rival Hillary Clinton's constituencies, and to ensure that the various interest groups within the party unite in November.

Among those, he apparently counts LGBT voters and, not incidentally, donors.

Obama began his gay push with a general message to the gay community. Datelined Chicago, it advocated ending all discriminatory legislation. "I will never compromise on my commitment to equal rights for all LGBT Americans," the Illinois senator said. "But neither will I close my ears to the voices of those who still need to be convinced. That is the work we must do to move forward together. It is difficult. It is challenging. And it is necessary."

Teddy Roosevelt's famous "bully pulpit" was invoked by Obama to urge states to treat same-sex couples with full equality in their family and adoption laws. He advocated civil unions--not marriage, although he implied that he would support states that legalized gay marriage.

He went on to say that having the right positions on the issues is only half the battle: "The other half is to win broad support for those positions. And winning broad support will require stepping outside our comfort zone."

"I'm running for President to build an America that lives up to our founding promise of equality for all," the letter began, "a promise that extends to our gay brothers and sisters. It's wrong to have millions of Americans living as second-class citizens in this nation. And I ask for your support in this election so that together we can bring about real change for all LGBT Americans."

After citing his work on behalf of several gay-related bills, he concluded, "I believe that we can achieve the goal of full equality for the millions of LGBT people in this country. To do that, we need leadership that can appeal to the best parts of the human spirit. Join with me, and I will provide that leadership. Together, we will achieve real equality for all Americans, gay and straight alike."

Next, Obama made a call to 120 people in which he made a pitch to Hillary Clinton's gay supporters. As reported by Queerty, former and current head of the Human Rights Campaign Elizabeth Birch and Joe Somonese spoke passionately for Obama.

Well-known gay political operative David Mixner, who came to Obama after John Edwards dropped out, also spoke. "For the first time since the 1992 convention, we have an extraordinary opportunity to make history as a community," he said. "We have four months to do it, so we must gather and unite in our opposition to McCain and in an opportunity to really create something special in this country--not only for the country, but for ourselves and future generations of LGBT people."

Obama's deputy campaign manager Steve Hildebrand, who is openly gay, spearheaded the call.

Steve Weinstein has been a regular correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, the Advocate, the Village Voice and Out. He has been covering the AIDS crisis since the early '80s, when he began his career. He is the author of "The Q Guide to Fire Island" (Alyson, 2007).