Michael Crawford

The LGBT Case for Barack Obama

Filed By Michael Crawford | October 14, 2008 9:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Barack Obama, Democrats, Don't Ask Don't Tell, ENDA, hate crimes against LGBT people, LGBT Rights

There has never been a presidential nominee from either political party that is as supportive of LGBT civil rights as Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee. He has long fought for civil and equal rights for minorities including the LGBT community. And, in the presidential campaign, Sen. Obama has included LGBT Americans numerous times in his speeches.

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After the jump is a list of Sen. Obama's positions on LGBT issues.

[ED NOTE:] I've crossposted this on Bilerico-Indiana to supplement my "With Friends Like These..." post from yesterday responding to a gay Republican's question, "Is this the leadership you want?" Feel free to visit that post too and leave your own reasons why you're voting for Obama.

Sen. Obama's strong support for LGBT civil rights did not begin with his decision to run for the presidency. As an Illinois State Senator, Senator Obama's advocacy on behalf of minorities included championing the equal rights of LGBT people when he became the chief co-sponsor of the Illinois Employment Non-Discrimination Bill which eventually became Illinois law.

Here are Sen Obama's position on key LGBT issues:

Sen. Obama supports passage of an inclusive ENDA and the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act

Sen. Obama wrote in A Call For Full Equality:

I will also place the weight of my administration behind the enactment of the Matthew Shepard Act to outlaw hate crimes and a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act to outlaw workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. I have supported fully inclusive protections since my days in the Illinois legislature, when I sponsored a bill to outlaw workplace discrimination that expressly included both sexual orientation and gender identity.

Sen. Obama supports repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell

Sen. Obama wrote in A Call For Full Equality:

I will also fight to repeal the U.S. military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, a law that should never have been passed, and my Defense Department will work with top military leaders to implement that repeal.

Sen. Obama supports the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act

Sen. Obama wrote in an open letter to the LGBT community:

While some say we should repeal only part of the law, I believe we should get rid of that statute altogether. Federal law should not discriminate in any way against gay and lesbian couples, which is precisely what DOMA does.

Sen. Obama has committed to developing a national AIDS strategy

Sen. Obama told the Washington Blade:

If elected, during my first year in office, I will develop and implement a comprehensive national HIV/AIDS strategy that includes all federal agencies. That strategy will reduce HIV infections, increase access to care and reduce HIV-related health disparities. Congress should pass the JUSTICE Act to combat infection within our prison population. And, as President, I will continue to confront the stigma -- too often tied to homophobia -- that continues to surround HIV/AIDS.

Sen. Obama supports civil unions with equal federal benefits for same-sex couples

Sen. Obama wrote in A Call For Full Equality:

As President, I will use the bully pulpit to urge states to treat same-sex couples with full equality in their family and adoption laws. I personally believe that civil unions represent the best way to secure that equal treatment. But I also believe that the federal government should not stand in the way of states that want to decide on their own how best to pursue equality for gay and lesbian couples - whether that means a domestic partnership, a civil union, or a civil marriage.

Sen. Obama opposes anti-gay state constitutional amendments such as those pending in California, Florida and Arizona

Sen. Obama wrote in letter to the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club:

As the Democratic nominee for President, I am proud to join with and support the LGBT community in an effort to set our nation on a course that recognizes LGBT Americans with full equality under the law. That is why I support extending fully equal rights and benefits to same sex couples under both state and federal law. That is why I support repealing the Defense of Marriage Act and the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, and the passage of laws to protect LGBT Americans from hate crimes and employment discrimination. And that is why I oppose the divisive and discriminatory efforts to amend the California Constitution, and similar efforts to amend the U.S. Constitution or those of other states.

Sen. Obama voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2006

Sen. Obama would appoint fair-minded justices to the Supreme Court

Sen. Obama's positions are a stark contrast to John McCain's long record of opposition to LGBT civl rights. For anyone who cares about LGBT people, it has to be clear that a vote for John McCain is a vote for discrimination against LGBT people.

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Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | October 14, 2008 9:10 AM

There is no doubt he is superior to McCain, but will he spearhead FEDERAL recognition of same sex marriages/partnerships through congress and let the states catch up. Marriage is the only thing I can think of, (I am sure someone will correct me) that a state confers, that delivers Federal benefits.

Michael, thank you for your posting.

Robert -

Marriage benefits aren't only derived from the federal government, but the biggies are (income tax, SS, etc). But I think your point is correct. Of course you could get into something of a semantical discussion about birth. That is, states issue birth certificates, but your citizenship is derived from the federal government.

My understanding of Obama's position on marriage rights is that he supports them on the federal level *as long as it isn't called marriage*, and isn't imposed on religious institutions. What constitutes spearheading is always a matter of debate.

It can be argued that federal marriage benefits are worth more, regardless of what they're called, than the recognition of a marriage by any given state. But of course its loss in CA. would be devastating, and should be avoided.

Without Obama though, those marriages won't be recognized in other states, or by the federal government.

There are **many** other reasons we desperately need to elect Obama, but I've only mentioned the marriage issue because it's my sense that this article is something of a rebuttal to Karen Ocamb's.

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | October 14, 2008 9:39 AM

I think that first up will be hate crimes, an inclusive ENDA, repeal of DADT and a national AIDS strategy. Those are the issues that right now that would have the most impact on the lives of the most LGBT people.

Electing Obama won't magically make these bills become law. We will still have to get the bills through Congress. But, it will damn sure help to have a president who has a record of supporting LGBT civil rights.

If Prop 8 passes in California, Obama's promise to repeal DOMA will mean very little to anyone who lives here.

In fact, his promise won't mean much to any same sex family living in a state that does not have some form of relationship recognition.

Without some elucidation of how a repeal of DOMA would happen - let alone how and to whom it would apply - Obama is full of words with no real action to back up his sales pitch.

It is one thing for him to throw us a verbal bone while he is vying for office. It is something else entirely for him to put his words to the test and actually show what it means to make a principled stand against bigotry.

If Obama is worthy of our support he will take some of the abundant money he has collected and give it to help defeat Prop 8. If he has any understanding of what it feels like to be subject to public scorn, misrepresentation, and the possibility of being stripped of constitutional consideration he will go further than simply delivering his pitch and take an undeniable stand against Prop 8 - and he should do it repeatedly.

In fact, he should promise to do it every time he comes to California to collect more of our money.

Otherwise he is no different than any other used car salesman / Democrat candidate that uses our struggles to his own benefit and any LGBT person that gives their unconditional support to this historically significant candidate is culpable when Prop 8 passes.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | October 14, 2008 10:02 AM

He won't support "8" because it could cost him elsewhere. Just another price we all pay for the electoral college.

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | October 14, 2008 10:13 AM


Sen. Obama has spoken out against amendments like Prop. 8 and he has done so clearly.

You seem to be pointing a finger at him and saying that it his fault if Prop. 8 passes. That is absolutely not true. And you are blaming LGBT supporters of Obama if Prop. 8 passes. That makes no sense at all.

I am guessing that you live in California, a state that has the strongest protections for LGBT people of any state in the union. It is easy for you to dismiss Sen. Obama's record of support for LGBT issues.

But, what about the LGBT people that live in states where they are not protected from being discriminated against in employment? What about the LGBT people who live in states without hate crimes laws or the LGBT people who are serving in the military?

Those people have little chance of achieving even minimal protections without federal laws and having Obama as president definitely will help us to passage pro-LGBT legislation.

We know what to expect from McCain. Four more years of anti-LGBT politics and no progress for the majority of LGBT people.

Maybe I should reiterate, Michael.

I said: "any LGBT person that gives their unconditional support to this historically significant candidate is culpable when Prop 8 passes."

I used the word unconditional. Pretending that it is acceptable to support a candidate - let alone a candidate with historical associations to the concept of equal protections - without demanding that he make a financial and rhetorical contribution to the preservation of constitutional citizenship to a minority group does not make his Presidency any more hopeful than what we learned after electing Bill Clinton.

Obama is not released from responsibility for defending equal protections because he sent a letter to an LGBT political organization in San Francisco.

In your laundry list of crumbs Obama has tossed at us, you leave out all of the Senator's inconsistent statements about marriage and the creation of a separate but equal institution for one segment of the population.

In the same way that people voted for George Wallace because of his vow of segregation forever, support for Obama is a promise of the same for same-sex families unless he speaks to the general public about why initiatives like Prop 8 must be defeated.

No matter how nice his words have been occasionally in the recently past, he cannot look the other way while Prop 8 passes and not have his fingerprints all over the Mormon promoted amendment.

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | October 14, 2008 11:36 AM

Wow! So now you are comparing Obama to George Wallace? Ummm, okay....

And, if you want to talk about responsibility for defeating Prop. 8, you should be pointing the finger at the wealthy LGBT people like Elton John and Ellen DeGeneres who have not given a dime to defend marriage in California.

The bottom line for me is that having Obama as president will put us in a far better position of advancing pro-LGBT legislation than having McCain in the White House. You are welcomed to disagree.

Patrick -

Obama has come out in opposition to Prop. 8. And you're overlooking his call for federal marriage rights for same sex couples, regardless of state law.

But your standard of unconditional support is unrealistic and unachievable for any politician on any issue. It is more than self-defeating to expect it, and will actively harm any group for which you demand it. By your standard, we would have *literally* never become a country.

And your invocation of Wallace's name in relationship to Obama's is obviously nothing more than being provocative for its own sake.

speaking of being provocative for it's own sake, you suggest that Obama is going to create some kind of federal marriage scheme that overrides the states marriage laws?

Now that is really a stretch. You are aiding and abetting the passage of Prop 8 by promoting a red herring.

Demanding Obama's support of the defeat of 8 does not mean that I want McCain to win. This is not an either/or proposition. Why do you sell your candidate short? Don't you think he knows how to manage the difficult task of defending the constitution?

Why are you so willing to hand over your responsibilities as a citizen in exchange for nothing?

Maybe I'm forgetting that God is in the mix here and I should be more like the Uncle Tom gays and just assume that Obama's got our back because that is what I want to believe.

History repeats itself...as the homos pick the lint out of their navels.

"speaking of being provocative for it's own sake, you suggest that Obama is going to create some kind of federal marriage scheme that overrides the states marriage laws?"

Being provocative for it's own sake is saying something designed to inflame without advancing any information to the discussion. Pointing out a political position does add information to this subject, and there is nothing inflammatory at all about saying Obama supports federal benefits for same sex couples. So this is bogus charge.

Since Obama/Biden believe that same sex couples should get equal rights in federal marriage benefits, but do not support marriage per se, that inherently means that there would be a separate mechanism outside the states' purview. Presumably, a type of registry. It wouldn't override state law because it wouldn't be "marriage".

"Now that is really a stretch. You are aiding and abetting the passage of Prop 8 by promoting a red herring."

A red herring is using an argument that has no relevance to the issue at hand to dissuade a viewpoint. Federal marriage benefits are clearly relevant in a discussion about marriage rights. And since Obama and I oppose the passage of Prop. 8, accusing me of aiding its passage is nonsensical.

"Demanding Obama's support of the defeat of 8 does not mean that I want McCain to win."

You are not demanding Obama's support for No on 8, for he already supports it. You are demanding his "unconditional" support, and for GLBT people to not support him without it. Failure to support Obama - should I say, unconditionally? - might lead to McCain's win. So, it would be fair to say that your philosophy indicates an acceptance of his presidency.

"This is not an either/or proposition."

Ah, but it is. If Obama doesn't win, that means that McCain will. So your admonition against supporting Obama is tantamount to supporting McCain.

"Why do you sell your candidate short? Don't you think he knows how to manage the difficult task of defending the constitution?"

I'm not sure I understand your point. I'm assuming you're referring to the constitutionality of CA. same sex marriage. In that case, no, he's not in a position to defend the constitution. The ruling was based on the state constitution, and the president doesn't enforce that.

"Why are you so willing to hand over your responsibilities as a citizen in exchange for nothing?"

I don't even know what that means. All any citizen can do is vote for what they believe. There are never any guarantees that it's ever in exchange for anything. Supporting No on 8 and Obama should have the desired effect.

"Maybe I'm forgetting that God is in the mix here and I should be more like the Uncle Tom gays and just assume that Obama's got our back because that is what I want to believe."

Once again, invoking a term like "Uncle Tom" is deliberately inflamatory, designed to only bring heat and not light to an argument.

I have no idea why you have referenced God, unless it was to amp up the provocation. Nobody mentioned it in the discussion. And you can believe whatever you like, but that doesn't alter what's best for the GLBT community, which is for Barack Obama to be president.

There is something inflammatory about your promotion of Obama's false proposal to create a federal marriage scheme for same sex couples. This is complete fantasy on Obama's part and it is used to attract voters that are desperate for "change" when it is nonsense.

How exactly would a federal civil union work in a state like Ohio? I would tell my employer that I have a federal union and although the state won't recognize it the feds will and that means what?? There has been no explanation given about what the hell a federal civil union is or to whom it would apply or how.

So - yes - that is a red herring (it is luring in the desperate and sycophantic) and it is provocative because it is a lie that defies practical definition. Many states not only refuse marriage rights but also any relationship recognition. There are so many nuances to this dilemma that you ought to be able to have enough sense to see the holes in your BFFs plan.

Your talk of a separate mechanism outside of marriage as a solution for same sex families is directly opposed the concept of equal protections. Read the CA Supreme Court decision. Is Obama's position that same sex families are an exception to equal protections or is he saying that he just can't put himself in the position of having to defend us?

In either instance his background - in identity and education - make his posturing disingenuous and unacceptable. Yet you are willing to accept it for him even though you are abdicating your status as a citizen. Why do you find it impossible to support your canddiate yet not also expect him to be courageous, principled and open with his support of our right to have legitimate families?

He can do that by saying - to an audience that is not comprised solely of LGBT political groupies but to an audience that MUST start to give money and vote against 8 - that he wants his supporters to vote Yes on Obama and NO on 8 in California.

Why do you think your citizenship is worth less than that? The unconditional support I complain about is not his - it is YOURS.

How dare you give away my right to have a family by ushering your candidate out the back door and making excuses for his timid and hollow positions?

What exactly is an Uncle Tom? Would it be an inept way to categorize your willingness to accept an incongruous position? I think it fits you to a T.

I brought up God for the same reason Obama did. The line was his. If God doesn't belong in this conversation, tell that to him.

If you have a spine at all, you will.

Michael -

thanks for the run-down. You couldn't be more correct that an Obama administration will forward LGBT rights around the country. In addition to his own stated positions, I am confident that we'll see a greater number of community members in his administration than ever before. Based on his campaign, we'll also see community members in more prominent positions than ever before.

And these are just a few of the many reasons to actively support Obama/Biden. If we all keep at it, we'll definitely have something to celebrate in a couple of weeks.

Of course your notes of caution are well made. Those of us deeply concerned about the state of the country (from a number of related perspectives) absolutely have to give Obama and his administration the space they need to work (while making clear our priorities) before we become disillusioned with the slow pace of Washington. We are in a heap of trouble right now on any number of fronts and are unlikely to dig out of it before the end of his first term.

Everyone who has read my posts on the extremist religion coming to power in the U.S. if McCain and Palin win, will not be surprised when I say that I'm voting for Obama in spite of any shortcomings he may have on the civil-rights front. Hopefully, once he and the Democrats are in office, there will be the possibility of improving our position.

I used part of your last post on "Gays Don't Let Friends Vote McCain" for an entry on Bilerico-Indiana in response to a local gay blogger who's anti-Obama. Mind if I cross-post this one there if I add an editor's note to the bottom?

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | October 14, 2008 3:16 PM

Go for it Bil.

That Gary queen who is raving against Barack is a real piece of work. I don't understand how he can be so pro-McCain when McCain has opposed every single piece of pro-LGBT legislation that has come his way.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | October 14, 2008 3:07 PM

Obama doesn’t deserve our support – he deserves our contempt. He's openly bigoted about same sex marriage and isn’t ashamed of forgetting his training as a constitutional lawyer in favor the rancid superstitions that also motivate McCain, Palin, the Clintons and Daughtry on this question.

The problem is not just Obama, it’s his party too. They didn’t hesitate for a second when they decided to gut ENDA to please business bigots, when they refused to repeal DOMA and DADT or when they discarded an urgently needed hate crimes bill to placate superstitious bigots.

At this point Obama's supporters are reduced to pie in the sky hopes that things might get better if he wins based on the clueless belief that politicians can tell the truth. That’s as likely as coming across a troop of elephants dancing around a may pole on the night of a blue moon. I mean, that could happen. Maybe. Well, possibly. I mean, nothings impossible, right?

Wrong, that’s just fantasy. The only reliable judge we have is what they do not what they say. Believing the election year promises of a Clinton clone and hustler like Obama is beyond naive, it’s self destructive. When Obama gets elected he’ll keep his promise to try to win an unwinnable war, he’ll impose harsh austerity measures to pay the debts of the rich and he’ll treat us with the same contempt he and his party always have.

The difference is that anger about the war, austerity, and bigotry will peak faster and higher when people see they’ve been lied to again. Sweet.

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | October 14, 2008 3:14 PM

It wouldn't a typical day at Bilerico without your usual ravings Bill.

It goes without saying that I disagree with you about Obama. Of course, everyone knows that's not going to stop you.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | October 14, 2008 3:28 PM

Try to argue with my politics and analysis, Crawford, instead of calling me a lunatic motivated by bitterness. That kind of personal attacks is the last defense of those who've lost the argument. As you do, every time you post about Obama.

And please, try to come up with some new material to prove, by actions, not promises, that your beloved candidate is not a bigot. Try to define bigotry as something that excludes superstitious adherence to religious bigotry about same sex marriage. Come on, you can at least try.

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | October 14, 2008 6:20 PM


I haven't lost an argument about Sen. Obama. I am not arguing with you. I am simply stating what I believe which is that he is a far better candidate on LGBT issues than McCain and for that reason, among others, I am urging people to vote for him for president.

And I urge people to vote for him too - AND to not abdicate their responsibility to defend marriage and the rights of same sex families to have equal protections in California and throughout America.

These are not mutually exclusive points.

Don't let Obama get a pass.

He can win and defending our rights will not stop his victory.

Michael, you did argue for Obama using press clippings from his spin machine. And as you've done in the past, you used personal attacks on his critics in lieu of facts and analysis. That’s an admission of failure.

By now everyone should understand that candidate’s promises are worth their weight in bat guano. And those candidates are hustlers in the game for the money.

As they say around the Texas Legislature, if you can't drink their whiskey, screw their women, take their money, and vote against 'em anyway, you don't belong in office. Molly Ivins, journalist, 08 30 1944 to 01 31 2007

The only vote that counts is the vote exercised in building movements for fundamental change. Change never comes from the vote - it can't because both parties, including yours long ago became the property of the rich. They outvote you a billion to one at least. Voting is an exercise in futility unless it’s a protest vote or on proposition like those in Arizona, California and Florida.

I have never had a vote, and I have raised hell all over this country. You don't need a vote to raise hell. You need convictions and a voice.
Mother Jones, labor organizer, 08 01 1837 to 11 30 1930.
Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | October 15, 2008 1:22 AM

Goodness, he is going off someone besides me for a change. I feel as though I should sue for alienation of aggression. :)

This horse has been beated to death on all the blogs. Who cares about a few queens who are not going to vote for Obama, like their few votes are really going to matter. The gay community has no power in vote numbers. We all know this. Obama is the only one for us. I voted for him in the primaries and just yesterday in a mail in ballot, but I haven't donated money and don't intend to. Who cares? His coffers are very rich. I had rather give any disposable income to VoteNoOnProp8 and gay causes such as TruthWinsOut.com .

Obama's various stands on aspects of family law and health care policy would benefit families headed by same-sex couples. And he'd appoint better judges, so I think the issue of queer family issues falls squarely on his side.

There's no point to expanding marriage for it's own sake - it's supposed to improve our lives. Obama will improve our lives more than McCain, same-sex marriage or not.

Although there's a lot of language coming from the campaign about marriage that there's no need for, so I can understand where some queers are coming from.

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | October 15, 2008 9:17 AM

The varied and often heated comments to this thread represent a pretty representative microcosm of the eternal struggle between unbridled idealism and soul-less pragmatism. As one who continues to find himself in the trenches in a state in "flyover country" where the nuances of such things as "marriage" vs "civil unions" seem detached from the political realities of having to fight just to keep an amendment that would send any hope for either to the bottom of the abyss, I continue to wonder if many of us aren't worshiping the perfect at the expense of the good. I suspect that if Proposition 8 passes in California there will be a shock wave and some unfortunate finger-pointing about whether or not things progressed "too fast too soon". "Purists" will blame "incrementalists", and the latter will fire back. There are parallels in the black civil rights movement, but there are also differences. We need to see both. And we need to continue to appreciate that there is a valid role for both philosophers/visionaries and politicians, with neither becoming so demonized as to, in the end, do irreparable damage to the causes both groups aspire to. Take a deep breath, everybody.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | October 15, 2008 1:21 PM

"Unbridled idealism" vs.“soul-less pragmatism” is an inaccurate formulation of the real dichotomy which is principled politics vs. unprincipled politics. It’s principled to fight for equality and unprincipled to vote for those who repeatedly and openly deny it.

In our case the principled fight for ENDA, same sex partnering and hate crimes legislation were all consistently opposed or sabotaged by the leadership of the Democratic Party. A basic rule of politics says that words are meaningless if actions contradict them. Actions, not words, are the best clues to predict behavior and examine motives.

As for collaborators and assimilationists like Barney Frank, Sam Adams said it best;

If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen."