Queer Town

Queer Town: Obama's Gay Moment

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Fri, Aug 29, 2008 at 3:40 PM

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama undoubtedly thrilled, and probably somewhat shocked, gays and lesbians last night when he spoke this line during his nomination speech in Denver:

“I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination,” he told a nationally televised audience.

The line shouldn't have been surprising.

click to enlarge Obama_in_Denver.jpg

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama in Denver, Colorado.

(photo courtesy of the DNC)

Obama has regularly mentioned gays and lesbians in his stump speech on the campaign trial, regardless of who stood before him or what town he was visiting. And when I attended an Obama fund raiser back in January in the Pacific Palisades, I asked the senator, as a private citizen, to do more work on reaching out to the gay community. Obama didn't squirm away. Instead, he stopped shaking hands with all of the famous people who were nearby, listened to me, and said, "You're right. I can do better." Seven months later, he was possibly the first presidential candidate to dedicate an entire paragraph to the rights of gays and lesbians in his nomination speech.

Now the gay press, like the Advocate and others, are caught up on Obama's gay marriage stance: the presidential candidate prefers civil unions and recently said marriage should be between one man and one woman. The Advocate, where I sometimes freelance, then writes that Obama is "clearly walking a fine line on LGBT issues." In fact, it's one issue, and the Democrat has come out against Proposition 8, the November ballot measure that would ban same sex marriage.

Obama has also made it clear throughout his long campaign that he would repeal the entire Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a federal law that actually undercuts any state gay marriage or civil union laws. And the presidential candidate said he would end the ban on gays serving in the military.

On the overall issues of gay equality, the positions are there and have been in place for some time. Maybe the Obama campaign needs to step up and let gay folks know exactly what he's all about. Thursday night was a good starting point, and maybe it's up to the gays to actually listen...or even learn about a man who's running against a Republican opponent who's now trying to get votes on the backs of gays by supporting Prop. 8, among other un-gay-friendly positions. An understanding can only come about if both sides participate.

Check out some gay Republican thoughts on Obama's speech at GayPatriot.net.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.

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