Michael Crawford

Barack Obama on LGBT Equality

Filed By Michael Crawford | January 31, 2008 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Barack Obama, campaign 2008, Democrats, LGBT rights

One thing is clear about the race for the Democratic presidential nomination between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton: by voting in large numbers LGBT voters can play a crucial role in deciding who will be our next president. Hillary Clinton would be a fine choice as president for LGBT voters. Barack Obama would be better.

Throughout the campaign Barack Obama has spoken out about his strong support for LGBT equality in front of gay and non-gay audiences and often unprompted by questions. No other candidate did this.

Here is one example from a discussion between young voters and Obama sponsored by MTV.

iPhone users: Click to watch video in YouTube App

When Obama speaks about LGBT people and our fight for civil rights he doesn't just speak about us in an isolated fashion. He weaves our lives, hopes and dreams into his vision of what the United States can be.

When he spoke at Ebenezer Baptist Church, the church that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led before his death, Obama spoke to a Black and Christian audience about homophobia, anti-Semitism and anti-immigrant hysteria. That’s something that no other presidential candidate has either the courage or vision to do.

Especially relevant are 9 min 4 sec -- 13 min 19 sec:

iPhone users: Click to watch video in YouTube App

Most recently in the Democratic debate in South Carolina, Obama talked about the importance of supporters of LGBT equality and reproductive rights to reach out to religious voters.

Especially relevant are 3 min -- 4 min 55 sec.

iPhone users: Click to watch video in YouTube App

Looking at all of this it is clear to me as a gay man that Barack Obama is the best presidential hope for the LGBT community.

Read Barack Obama's guest post for Bilerico.

Read Barack Obama's platform on LGBT issues.

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Michael Bedwell | January 31, 2008 12:38 PM

Michael, you have every right to campaign for any candidate.

But I am shocked that after all of the discussion here in the past few days you repeatedly insist on willfully mischaracterizing what Obama actually says. Others, not just myself, Alex for instance, have identified the difference between what he's said and what you and others have claimed.

An acceptable response would be, "Yes, that's true, but he MEANS 'gay rights'," but you, and others, keep trying to convince us that little green apples are big juicy oranges. This PATTERN, started by Obama himself, fed by his campaign, and perpetuated by his followers, even more than his failure to ACTUALLY INITIATE EXPLICIT discussion of gay RIGHTS not just mention gays, have turned me against Obama because it speaks to INTEGRITY or lack of it. And, unfortunately, one must preemptively add: Sen. Clinton's sins do not a priori buy Sen. Obama sainthood.

Yes, encourage people to reread the post Obama distributed ONLY to GAY media, but I would add, "with an objective eye."

Note how he calls for "FULL equality" and "real equality" while having said we have no right to gay marriage. Does he think we're STUPID? Or that we're children happy for a gum drop from Barack Claus while he gives everyone else a five-course dinner with figgy pudding and a Yule Log?

Note how he either does not understand DOMA Section 2 or willfully misrepresents it, for if the "federal government [now stood in] the way of states that want to decide on their own how best to pursue equality for gay and lesbian couples," then gays and lesbians would not NOW be getting legally MARRIED in Massachusetts and NOW have legal domestic partnerships/civil unions in California, New Hampshire, etc. And, note, he does not admit that he SUPPORTS the converse as well: any state's right to BAN such legal recognitions.

Note that he does not say that in its most critical hour he abandoned the fight for LGBT job protection "during [his] days in the Illinois legislature," not even signing on as a cosponsor to the bill that passed with only one vote. Note he does not say if he even tried to get his homohating close friend Rev./Sen. James Meeks to vote for it, or if he did why his self-proclaimed magical powers of persuasion failed even with someone so close to him.

Note how he preaches at us about how gays have been so unfair to the poor shat upon Antigay Industry, that we must open our ears to those who demonize and curse us and deny us first class citizenship in Jesus name. Note how he predicts the miracles he will perform of converting these lions of bigotry into lambs henceforth to frolic with us and throw rice instead of rocks at our still non-marriage ceremonies.

Note how, after someone apparently pointed out to him the arrogance he displayed in his desperate McClurkinggate damage-control interview with "The Advocate" so he inserted "leading" in the sentence, "No other leading candidate in the race for the Presidency has demonstrated the same commitment to the principle of full equality." I'm sure that made Sen. Kucinich, and others, feel better.

Note how HE is the origin of the myth, dare I say lie, that he has explicitly "been talking about GLBT EQUALITY on the stump, from rural farmers to Southern preachers" rather than talking around it. Or is he planning to promote a bill to guarantee us equality in hugs?

Yes, everyone please read Obama’s platform on LGBT rights—even if not a syllable of it can be found in his equivalent of the Sermon on the Mount, his 64-page “Blueprint for Change—Barack Obama’s Plan for America.”

An objective eye will note how creaky a platform it is for it supports nothing meaningful that Sen. Clinton does not also support.

“Obama believes the Employment Non-Discrimination Act should be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity.” Note that whoever wrote this apparently doesn’t understand that the bill already includes sexual orientation.

“Obama sponsored legislation in the Illinois State Senate that would ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.” Actually he was only a COsponsor of bills introduced by others and, as noted above, but mysteriously did not bother to cosponsor the one that barely passed.

“Obama voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment….” A platform is supposed to focus on what a candidate promises to DO in the future not take bows for what he, like Sen. Clinton, did in the past.

“Obama will work with military leaders to repeal [DADT]….” Uh, where’s Congress? It’s their law. Military leaders have been the ones dug in to keep it.

Obama has been a global leader in the fight against AIDS. … Obama worked to reauthorize the Ryan White CARE Act, one of the largest sources of federal funds for primary health care and support services for HIV/AIDS patients.” Sen. Clinton worked even harder on the latest Ryan White CARE act reauthorization while having the courage to challenge the Bush Reich’s attempt to spread less money among more people. Sen. Clinton want to add TWENTY billion dollars to global HIV/AIDS funding. Sen. Obama suggests only adding FIVE.

Where are his positions on gay adoption and immigration of foreign-born partners of gay Americans? Actually, his positions are the same as Sen. Clinton’s, but why are two issues so important to many Gay Americans missing even from his “platform” as they are his “Blueprint for Change”?

Apparent confusion about what proposed laws actually say; alleged confusion about what existing laws do; clear confusion about where he would need to focus to overturn others; a paltry increase to already inadequate AIDS funding; absence of some key LGBT-related issues from his Post-It-like “platform,” and all of them missing entirely from his “Plan for America.”

Based on these facts, why should any self-respecting LGBT person with open eyes and ears vote for Sen. Obama?

Ye Olde Fart | January 31, 2008 5:00 PM

Michael: I'm not going to write a long essay here. But, will simply affirm that I do agree with your position.
I have not forgotten what the Clinton's have given us: DOMA and DADT, plus any number of lies and betrayals at times when they could have done more. When the chips are down, they disappear.

Personally, I tend to think of Hillary as a mini-Bill Clinton. She's paying us lip service and won't be unfriendly. But she won't really do much for us either that would require her to be out front.

Obama I tend to think of more like Dennis Kucinich. It would be great if he gets elected, but once he's there what is he really going to do? I think he'd be up to his neck so far that there wouldn't be time to remember us.

Edwards was the only member of the big 3 that I thought would actually step forward for LGBT issues, I guess. He was always looking for a fight instead of waiting for the fight to come to him.

I worry that Obama won't have the political support/savvy to be able to bring his grand words to life. I worry that Clinton will benefit from the status quo so she'll keep it that way.

I dunno.

Michael B., the addition of gender identity and expression protections isn't "meaningful"? I think the thousands of gender-variant Americans who would be protected by the inclusion of those protections and the millions who have come out in public support of those protections would disagree with you there. I know I certainly do.

As far as the rest of it goes, I do think they both are for the most part pretty much even on support for LGBT rights, with the single exception of DOMA. What makes or breaks it for me, and what puts me firmly in support of Obama, is that he proactively speaks on these issues publicly, Clinton does not.

When push comes to shove, I'm going to go with the candidate who at least has the courage to not only put himself on the record in principle, but also goes out of their way to discuss these issues publicly instead of running away and avoiding them. I think we've had more than enough of that kind of politics. If a candidate wants my support, they have to ask for it. Obama has done that, repeatedly, Clinton has not. In my opinion, that, in and of itself, speaks volumes about the kind of President they'll be for LGBT people.

Michael Bedwell,

I don't even need to reply. You've said it all for me.

Michael Bedwell | January 31, 2008 10:38 PM

I'm sorry, Rebecca, that I was not more clear. I absolutely support the inclusion of gender identity, etc., And, as I pride myself on trying to be fair even to those I disagree with in other ways, I trust that Sen. Obama is sincere about the inclusion.

My point was that the sentence should have read, "Obama believes the Employment Non-Discrimination Act should be expanded to include gender identity," or "to include both sexual orientation and gender identity." As written, one must conclude either of two things: the writer [naturally not Obama] is either a poor one or doesn't, in fact, understand the proposed law as is.

Assuming the former more benign excuse, we saw the same kind of sloppiness in the press release distributed after the McClurkin concert. According to, as I recall, "The Washington Post," one page claimed that McClurkin doesn't really think gays are doing bad things or whatever [I don't remember the specifics] and the other said that "Sen. Obama disagrees with Donnie McClurkin" which, in that juxtaposition makes it sound like Obama does think all those bad things of us which, of course, even I agree he does not.

The abandoning of the LGBT rights bill in Illinois just as it was teetering on the edge of passing or failing, the failure to vet McClurkin in the first place, the unnecessarily sloppy language in some of his LGBT-related materials, and the complete ABSENCE of any reference to LGBT issues in his "Blueprint for America" says far more to me than all the air kisses blown at us in speeches here but not necessarily there.

I will vote for Sen. Obama if he gets the nomination, but I urge everyone with a primary still to come to vote for Sen. Clinton so that that won't be necessary. With his background in community activism with the poor in Chicago, I look forward to Obama being the greatest Secretary of Housing and Urban Development we've ever had.

Bill Perdue | February 1, 2008 1:08 AM

GLBT supporters of the Democrats are as relentlessly naïve as Log Cabin Republicans. They correctly scream about how bad the Republicans are but their party has only cosmetic differences with the Republicans. Democrats have consistently voted and maneuvered against GLBT rights. They overwhelmingly voted in favor of DADT and DOMA which Clinton eagerly signed them into law. Rubbing salt on wounds, he then ran campaign ads flaunting his bigotry for signing them.

They’ve controlled Congress for two years but they’ve not only refused to repeal DADT and DOMA and they’ve gone on the attack by gutting ENDA. Then they dropped both it and the Matthew Shepard hate crimes bill so they wouldn’t be campaign issues. The Democrats, including Bill Clinton and Diane Feinstein, nominate and support gay bashers to the US Circuit Courts of Appeal and for Attorney General.

The Democratic Party is polluted with bigotry, whether it’s race baiting against Obama or gaybashing christian bigots in the leadership of the DNC. DNC Chief of Staff Leah Daughtry, like Obama and the Clintons’ is a bitter opponent of same sex marriage. Like Hillary, she’s a fundamentalist christian and says “I believe, as the church believes, that marriage is intended for one man and one woman.” Daughtry wants us to believe that she leaves her bigotry at home when she’s acting as the Chief of Staff of the Democratic National Committee.

If you oppose gay bashers you’re in the wrong party. If you oppose the war in Iraq you’re in the wrong party. If you oppose union busting you’re in the wrong party. If you want socialized medicine and a better standard of living you’re in the wrong party. If you vote for the Democratic (sic) Party you’re wasting your vote on a party of bigots. And if you think that electing Clinton or Obama is a step forward you’re fooling yourself.

"The abandoning of the LGBT rights bill in Illinois just as it was teetering on the edge of passing or failing...."

Well, by the time that the bill that did become law came up for the vote that sent it to the governor, Obama had taken office as U.S. Senator.

I realize that there was some odd maneuvering during that session of the Illinois Legislature - particularly that which brought the bill up for a vote on the last day of the session, but I've never heard anything about Obama 'abandoning' the bill that he had co-authored (and certainly not an abandonment in the Barney Frank sense.) If he did, I want to know - so please elaborate.

Michael Bedwell | February 1, 2008 11:51 AM

Kat, I never claimed he didn't vote on it, though I wonder if he, in fact, had no choice but to resign his state seat so close to the vote on the bill when that vote might have been the one that prevented it from failing. Fortunately it passed "by the mininum margin."

In any case, you can Google an Illinois government site [sorry I don't have time to find it for you but I've seen it myself] which has both the text of the bill that passed and every action on it along the way. You will see that Obama is NOT listed as a cosponsor even tho he was still an Illinois senator when it was introduced.

While it passed by a wider margin in the other house there is NO excuse for Obama not at least adding the influence of his name to the list of cosponsors no matter how busy he was running for US Senator given that he had to know, if he was paying attention, how paper thin the margin of support was in the senate. Hell, how much would that have required—simply signing a piece of paper?

As for his being a "coAUTHOR" of any of the bills, please present your proof.

Thank you.

Only someone who blindly excuses

SB 3186 was the bill that became law.

Obama was *not* a co-sponsor/author of that bill. If I recall the procedural maneuver accurately, that bill had been introduced (on 2/6/04) as something completely different than a civil rights bill but, during the final days of the session - in Jan. 2005, after Obama was in the US Senate - the bill as it stood was gutted and its text replaced by civil rights act language.

I do not imediately know if the substituted text was *exactly* the same as SB 101, which was the civil rights bill introduced earlier in the session (on 1/29/03.) The lead sponsor was Carol Ronen, but Barack Obama was a co-cponsor. That bill never got to a floor vote in the Senate.

As can be found on the Illinois General Assembly's website (www.ilga.gov), the key language (for me and, I presume, all trans people) is:

From SB 101:

(O-1) Sexual orientation. "Sexual orientation" means having or being perceived as having an emotional, physical, or sexual attraction to another person without regard to the sex of that person or having or being perceived as having an orientation for such attraction, or having or being perceived as having a gender-related self-identity, appearance, expression, or behavior, whether or not traditionally associated with the person's designated sex at birth.

From the enacted version of SB 3186 (Public Act 093-1078):

(O-1) Sexual orientation. "Sexual orientation" means actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or gender-related identity, whether or not traditionally associated with the person's designated sex at
birth. "Sexual orientation" does not include a physical or sexual attraction to a minor by an adult.

The text is slightly different - but (1) Obama did indeed co-sponsor/author one of them, and (2) both were trans-inclusive.

Michael Bedwell | February 1, 2008 7:48 PM

We fear, you continue to err, Kat. First, since when do bills about one topic get entirely “gutted” and replaced with another topic right before they’re voted on, let alone keep the same bill number????? "Kids, forget the pot roast in the oven; let's order pizza!"

RE other attempts: the fight for gay job protection, et al., goes back to the 70s in Illinois.

Obama joined the Illinois Senate in 1997 but it was apparently not for another four years that he became involved in any LGBT-related legislation, NOT authoring but joining as one of several cosponsors in April 2001 to HB101 nearly five months after it had been filed in December of the previous year. It died in committee.

SB101 was introduced by Sen. Ronen on January 29, 2003, and died in the Rules Committee that summer. Obama did not become a cosponsor until a week later, 2/4/03, so it is illogical to assume that he was a “co-author.”

SB2597, for whatever reason, was introduced on the same day as SB3186, and died the same day that 3186 passed. While Obama became a cosponsor of 2597 it was A MONTH after it was introduced on February 6, 2004, so it’s, again, absurd to believe he was a “co-author.”

As for SB3186, as one can see from the official timeline at the link below, several cosponsors were added along the way over the nearly year it existed before being voted on, even on the day it passed. Obama had NINE MONTHS to become a cosponsor. Interestingly, Obama’s replacement, Sen. Kwami Raoul, became a cosponsor of the bill Obama chose not to.


Yes, Obama was checking out his new office in DC a week before 3186 came to vote, but, again, his influence was still needed back home; the kind members of Congress or a President typically gives when close votes on state legislation important to them. Apparently, gay rights in Illinois was no longer important enough to US Sen. Obama. According to the “Windy City Times,” Chicago’s gay paper, “There was not one vote to spare.” And, “State Sen. James Meeks , pastor of Salem Baptist Church, was lobbied intensely by organizations such as Equality Illinois and by the Black LGBT community to vote for the bill’s passage. However, Meeks voted against the measure.” Where was Obamo? [sic] Meeks close friend, who consults Meeks on “spiritual” matters?

Neither “Windy City Times” nor Equality Illinois mentions any effort by Obama to see that 3186 was passed. Praise Obama all you want for what he did before, but why keep praising him when he was missing in action when he was most needed? That was not the only time he chose his own interests over those of the people who elected him. He promised twice after being elected to the Senate that he would serve his full term; not run for President. We saw how long he kept that promise.

"We fear, you continue to err, Kat."


I proved the point I was making: Despite perhaps being a bit loose in interchanging the terms 'co-sponsor' and 'co-author', Obama did co-sponsor a GLBT rights bill during his last session in the Illinois Legislature - meaning that he has done more for trans rights (and probably more for GLBT rights overall) than HRC's HRC.

Perhaps you proved yours as well, as I'm not sure that they are mutually exclusive, though, at this juncture, I'm also not entirely sure what point it is that you're trying to make.

"Obama joined the Illinois Senate in 1997 but it was apparently not for another four years that he became involved in any LGBT-related legislation, NOT authoring but joining as one of several cosponsors in April 2001 to HB101 nearly five months after it had been filed in December of the previous year. It died in committee."

So you're upset at him for eventually seeing the light? In 1975 in Minnesota Sen. Allan Spear was one of the strongest opponents of trans-inclusion; by 1993, when the state passed a trans-inclusive law, he was on board. If he was running for president today, would I be expected to hold 1975 against him even though he did the right thing in the end?