Rev Irene Monroe

Obama is on the ‘down low’ with the LGBTQ community

Filed By Rev Irene Monroe | February 12, 2008 5:15 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Barack Obama, Democrats, election 2008, LGBT community, presidency, primaries, White House

Obama has “barack the vote” by getting disinterested and disenfranchised Americans involved in his campaign for the presidential bid. His promise to cease partisan politics and the old beltway boys’ bickering has not only raised the hope of the American public, but it has also brought out untold numbers of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Americans to cast our vote for him. With Obama’s win of the Democratic presidential primary in South Carolina last month, his inspiring victory speech, “Yes, we can,” proved that not only can he reach across this nation’s dividing lines, but we as Americans can too.

“This election is about the past vs. the future. It's about whether we settle for the same divisions and distractions and drama that passes for politics today or whether we reach for a politics of common sense and innovation, a politics of shared sacrifice and shared prosperity....

"Don't tell me we can't change. Yes, we can. Yes, we can change. Yes, we can. Yes, we can heal this nation. Yes, we can seize our future.”

As Obama helps the nation to seize a better future, “the same divisions and distractions and drama that passes for politics today” concerning LGBTQ Americans civil rights seem to either haunt him or come out of his campaign closet.

With news outlets reporting that in 2004 Obama asked to not have his picture taken with San Francisco's Mayor Gavin Newsom, because of the Mayor's support of same sex marriage, we must ask ourselves this question about Obama, as Obama challenges us- can he change?

"I gave a fund-raiser, at his [Obama's] request at the Waterfront restaurant. And he said to me, he would really appreciate it if he didn't get his photo taken with my mayor. He said he would really not like to have his picture taken with Gavin." former Mayor Willie Brown told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Four years later and a denial from the Obama campaign, Newsom told Reuters, "One of the three Democrats you mentioned as presidential candidates, as God is my witness, will not be photographed with me, will not be in the same room with me, even though I've done fund-raisers for that particular person -- not once, but twice -- because of this issue."

Newsom’s a staunch ally to our community. He has neither publicly veered away from photo-ops with us nor from our allies promoting marriage equality.

Many LGBTQ supporters of Obama, however, will argue that Obama, then like now, must tactically do what he has to do to shave off the vitriol of religious conservatives to win.


Nevertheless, how is he then the candidate of change? In addition, how does Obama’s political strategy reconcile with the words he spoke in South Carolina?

“We're up against the idea that it's acceptable to say anything and do anything to win an election. However, we know that this is exactly what's wrong with our politics. This is why people don't believe what their leaders say anymore. This is why they tune out. And this election is our chance to give the American people a reason to believe again.”


While it is true, in Obama’s case, that a picture with us would perhaps now say more than his eloquent equivocating words on behalf of us, Obama can’t risk the political fallout.

Matt Comer, owner and editor of stated in his article "President Obama' - Why Gays need to worry” that “If Obama wins the presidency the LGBT community is in for four (and possibly eight) years of being subjected to a dangerously employed “big tent” strategy that places an oppressed group of citizens at the same table as their oppressors. Obama’s presidency would see James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Donnie McClurkin and other anti-gay leaders sitting down with LGBT community leaders telling them how much they are evil and going to hell while Obama sits back and says, "We should work together and hope for change.”

While many of us will rationalize and embrace Obama’s “big tent” strategy, in truth, Obama is on the “down low” with the LGBTQ community. He has repackaged a softer and gentler anti-gay platform than the Republicans, which is perhaps why so many of us uncritically and defensively come to Obama’s defensive.

“You and the white gay establishment are holding Obama to a double standard that is ridiculous and disingenuous. What about Hillary Clinton? If you’re going to judge people by the company they keep, it should be across the board and not selective condemnation,” an avid critic of mine wrote me.

The argument that Hillary isn’t and Bill wasn’t any better on LGBTQ issues is true. However, that’s not the issue here.


Obama is the new guy on the block challenging the old establishment. He’s allegedly espousing a differently political platform, one where he says if,” we are met with cynicism and doubt and fear and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of the American people in three simple words -- yes, we can.”

Obama's “big tent strategy” to ascend to the White House and his elusive and “down low” promises to the LGBTQ community plays us like pawns on a chessboard. Consequently, if we neither hold him to his promises to us nor have him to expound on them we will then have participated in the closeting of ourselves and the disenfranchisement of our full and equal rights when he’s elected.

Therefore, the real question on the table is can we get Obama to change.

I am going to throw caution to the wind and say, “Yes Obama can!”

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I’m not from San Francisco, but I think it’s worth pointing out that Gavin Newsom has a history of slashing funds for homeless folks and anti-queer police brutality. When Gay Shame showed up to protest Newsom’s fundraiser at the LGBT Center, the SFPD was called and brutally beat a few of the protestors.

Mattilda tells that story here.
Look under the sections "Gavin Newsom’s Quality of Life Campaign" and "Hot Pink".

Not that this excuses Obama, but it's important to clarify that Newsom is not a great ally.

Michael Bedwell | February 12, 2008 6:11 PM

Thank you for your continuing courage in displaying "critical thinking," Rev. Monroe, which too many think autmatically means "criticizing" or, worse, is simply heresy and sacrilege in the presence of the divine. It was a commentary written by you about the same person approximately a year ago that first made me wonder what was "behind the curtain."

Gentle advice:

Duck and cover.

Michael Bedwell | February 12, 2008 7:30 PM

Ah, the oldest tactic of all: shoot the messenger.
Though, in this case, note that Newsom, far more gallant than the candidate who took the funds raised for him and ran, did not confirm which of "the three Democrats" it was until after Willie Brown revealed it. And, before someone claims that that revelation was a part of a Clinton-Newsom-Brown cabal's attempt to smear Sen. Obama, note I DO live in San Francisco and have for years. NO ONE tells Brown what to do. He is such a maverick Democrat that he virtually endorsed Schwarzenegger for reelection.

But back to Newsom and the charge that he's "no ally," the least of the irresponsible and objectively undocumented libels written above about him. I would agree that he's no ally of loons such as those in so-called “Gay Shame” whose name better describes themselves than those they criticize. If you’ve lived in San Francisco as long as I have you’re likely to conclude that, whatever California is, Sodom by the Sea is the “land of fruits and nuts”—often the same person.

Gavin Haterade is manufactured and pedaled by many of the same people that produce Hillary Haterade. Note especially their shared ingredient in the linked diatribe—he’s a “racist.” Hillary had Vince Foster killed. Gavin has gay protestors brutally beaten by police even on the steps of the LGBT community center. Poppypenis!

Not only did Newsom not simply “slash funds for homeless folks” but replaced one of the most absurd “here’s your check” giveaway programs in the country with programs that are still growing to get thousands more than the nearly 7000 they already have off the streets and into permanent housing.

He is a national leader in city government mandated environmentally-sound programs from banning city departments from purchasing water in bottles made from gas and petroleum to promoting a local carbon offset plan, a 100% biodiesel fleet, landmark solar incentives, green collar jobs tax credits and innovative green building requirements. He has personally picketed WITH striking hotel workers and San Francisco is now the first city in the nation to provide universal health care for its uninsured residents.

I doubt if Sen. Obama’s rare picture shyness was in his mind when he made these recent remarks but they relate nonetheless:

“San Francisco has made itself a world center by making people from all over the world feel at home. There are some in our own country who are frightened by this. They deride what they call “San Francisco values.” But we know that these values inspire many more than they frighten. We saw how San Francisco can be a beacon for the world when we led the fight for marriage equality. The world didn’t become worse when over four thousand lesbian and gay couples were allowed to express their love and responsibility for each other right here in this building. It became better. The world didn’t become worse when we extended the protection of our laws to transgendered San Franciscans. It became better. The world didn’t become worse when we stood up and made San Francisco a Sanctuary City to protect all of our residents, regardless of their immigration status. It became better.
On the most important issues of the day, San Francisco is providing leadership for our nation and the world. I know that’s why we are so proud of our city. It is more than the beauty of our hills and the bounty we enjoy. It is more than the diversity of our people and our neighborhoods. It is what our diverse population has done that distinguishes us as San Franciscans.”

Tomorrow night, I’ll be among many rising to once again applaud this great man and those couples at the four-year anniversary celebration of those marriages—which Gavin Newsom is still fighting to uphold in court. A new documentary about those days of courage and love which brought him over 1400 death threats—“Pursuit of Equality, The Unfinished Work of American Freedom—will be shown. You can watch the trailer at the link below. Perhaps someone could forward it to Sen. Obama. All candidates, in fact.

I have had the pleasure of working with Senator Obama and his staff on HIV/AIDS issues on the federal level - behind the curtain - and as a gay man living with HIV, continue to find him to be fantastic on our issues.

His seven years as a state senator in Illinois - which most of you know NADA about, clearly - he worked tirelessly on HIV/AIDS and guess what, GAY RIGHTS in a state that took 30 years to get a gay rights bill.

Behind the curtain and in front, this is the guy who has always had my vote of confidence and my vote at the polls.

Please, take a look at his record, his work.

I don't think this "critical thinking" is much more than a dislike for O. Which is fine, dislike him - but c'mon, I could start on a 500 page rant about HillBilly and all their sneaky, dirty shenanigans and how they screwed gay people - not by refusing to stand in a photo op, but through real and devastating policy.


Michael Bedwell | February 13, 2008 11:40 AM

Apparently, Jim, you were distracted while Obama STOPPED tirelessly working for gay rights in Illinois—at the moment when his help would have been most crucial. I can give you citations for official state documents that prove it, but, love him or hate him, here are the objective facts:

Four months after someone else introduced HB101, Obama signed on as a cosponsor. That bill, like two later ones that he belatedly signed onto, died in committee. SB3186 was the bill that [for whatever reason as it was virtually identical to the others] finally passed. Nine months went by between the time it was introduced and Obama being elected to the US Senate but he could not, repeat NOT, be bothered to take the few seconds required to merely add his name [and prestige and clout and overall fantasticity] to the bill. And before you suggest that he was probably feverishly working behind the scenes, consult, as I have, the accounts of passage by both Equality Illinois and "Windy City Times"—neither of which mention his name at all while identifying senators who did contribute to its passage including crossover Republicans.

This was not merely taking the money and running from having his picture taken with the internationally gay-rights identified man who help raise it for him, but had the potential for real, devastating damage as, after 30 years, the bill only passed by one vote. And, one of those who voted against it was Obama's close friend the Rev. and state senator James Meeks who is, like Donnie McClurkin, just as rabidly homohating as he was before ever meeting Barack Obama.

Those are the objective facts of his sponsorship and final abandonment of gay rights bills in Illinois. But being suddenly missing in action when he was needed most gives rise to speculation. Could it be that he decided campaigning for higher office, the US Senate, was more important? Just as, after promising at least twice not to run for President during his first Senate term, he apparently decided yet another campaign was more important?

In the Senate, Sen. Clinton has cosponsored every gay-related bill that Sen. Obama has. Spare us the tired rant: she had no elected office when her husband was making gay-rights related mistakes [as well as advancing gay rights in many other areas including the first gay US ambassador, the first gay federal judge, an executive order banning discrimination among gay federal employees, and appointing Supreme Court Justices that helped overturn an antigay bill in Colorado and sodomy laws nationwide] and he's not on the ballot now.

I will agree with you that Obama has done some great work in the area of HIV/AIDS, as has Sen. Clinton. But would ask why he only proposes adding five billion dollars to fight them while she would add TWENTY billion?

Michael Bedwell | February 13, 2008 1:05 PM

PS: I forgot to mention that even worse than abandoning Illinois LGBTs just as a rights protection bill was finally viable, Obama bald-faced lied to "The Advocate" in October saying that he had been a "chief cosponsor" of it, when as I demonstrated he a cosponsor of no kind, and "passed" the bill when it was one he couldn't even vote on as he was no longer in the Illinois legislature when it came up for vote.

We don't just need a new kind of Washington, we need a new kind of Obama.

BelovedCommunity | February 13, 2008 4:41 PM

Rev Monroe,

I have great respect for you and value your perspectives on the current political campaign as well as on many other matters.

I regret however that whenever you post a commentary one or two other folks take it as an opportunity to post numerous anti- Obama comments and to assail anyone who offers anything positive regarding Obama or anyone who offers an alternative perspective to such criticism.

All in all, I think it is producing far more heat than light and very little geniune understanding or changes of heart.

As one who also strives to move us toward the Beloved Community I believe there may be more productive uses for all our energies.

Yours in Christ,

Charles Keener

Rev Monroe,

I have great respect for you and value your insights on the political process and many other matters.

I regret however that every time you post a new critique of Senator Obama one or two others immediately post comments attacking Senator Obama and aggressively rebutting anyone who posts any comment even slightly supportive of Senator Obama.

I fear this pattern is only adding to the polarization and divisiveness already run rampant.

I wonder if this is really the best was to foster understand, change minds AND HEARTS , and help to build the Beloved Community we dream of.

Blessings & Shalom....

Charles Keener