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LGBT

QUEER TOWN: Obama and the Gays

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Mon, Jun 2, 2008 at 10:39 AM

On Tuesday, the Democratic Party will finally wrap up its long, hard fought primary season. There will be a lot of talk about who will ultimately be the best candidate to defeat Senator John McCain on Election Day, but gays and lesbians--in California and anywhere else--may want to consider something else: Who will draw the most voters to sink the expected anti-gay marriage ballot measure in November? According to Democratic political strategist Darry Sragow, Senator Barack Obama is that person.

Sragow says that since the man from Illinois attracts young and educated voters--the same voters, according to recent polls, who overwhelmingly support gay marriage--an Obama presidential candidacy sets up the most favorable conditions for defeating the anti-gay marriage initiative. Not only that, but the fight over the ballot measure may also help Obama win California.

"With Obama turning out the young and educated," says Sragow, "(the anti-gay marriage initiative) obviously adds fuel to the fire."

Sragow believes leaders in the gay community have already reached out to the Obama campaign, but the senator will have to consider his position carefully. "He's running to be president of all 50 states," says the political strategist. In other words, Obama needs to gauge how any kind of support for gay marriage will affect him throughout the United States, not just the Golden State.

Sragow says if Obama played it right, he would create a "floor" and a "ceiling," telling voters on the campaign trail that civil unions--the "floor" and Obama's current position--should be available to all gay couples, with marriage--the "ceiling"--to be determined by the states.

Obama has already seemed to take that line. On the day of the California Supreme Court ruling that made gay marriage legal in this state, the senator released this statement: "Barack Obama has always believed that same-sex couples should enjoy equal rights under the law, and he will continue to fight for civil unions as president. He respects the decision of the California Supreme Court, and continues to believe that states should make their own decisions when it comes to the issue of marriage."

David Mixner, a longtime political operative in the gay rights movement as well as the Democratic Party and supports the Illinois senator, also points to an additional statement made by the Obama campaign, which says, "On the issue of constitutional amendments, Senator Obama has been on record for some time: He opposes all divisive and discriminatory constitutional amendments, state or federal. That includes the proposed amendments in California and Florida."

As of late, Obama has been spending precious time and resources duking it out with Senator Hillary Clinton, and he will need to quickly set up strong, grassroots support for his candidacy in California. If gay marriage leaders can offer some crucial help in that area, they may be able to leverage a few things from the senator this November and beyond. It's the kind of power position gays haven't always been accustomed to, or realized they could operate from. It brings to mind the old Latin phrase written by the Roman poet Horace, "Carpe Diem." In English, it has been roughly translated into this: "Seize the Day."

Read more about Obama and his two major fund raisers in California, who are also a gay couple based in Los Angeles.

Tips? Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.

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