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Obama picks up major LGBT endorsement, vows to stand behind community

by Nick Langewis

America's largest LGBT advocacy organization has put its support behind Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) in his run for the presidency as he pledges his support for LGBT citizens.

"The Human Rights Campaign has been at the forefront of the fight for GLBT equality and opportunity, and I am proud to have its endorsement," Senator Obama said. "Too often, the issue of GLBT rights is exploited by those seeking to divide us. But at its core, this issue is about who we are as Americans. I look forward to working with HRC to end discrimination against GLBT Americans and to ensure that all of our citizens are treated with dignity and respect."

"HRC is proud to throw our full support behind Senator Obama's presidential campaign," said president Joe Solmonese today. "We have just witnessed a historic primary contest in which two champions of our community demonstrated that they hear our voices and share our dreams. For millions across this country, their candidacies--as the first woman and the first African American to be top contenders for the nomination of a major party--have already been life-changing, inspiring, and groundbreaking.

"They are, quite simply, heroes to anyone fighting for equality."

Senator Obama, while not a supporter of civil marriage for same-sex couples in name, has spoken in support of federal benefits and protections for same-sex couples. He also supports a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act and repealing the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Obama, as well, opposes the Federal Marriage Amendment.

"I've been consistently impressed by Senator Obama's willingness to speak about GLBT issues in front of diverse audiences," Solmonese added. "Matters of life and livelihood for GLBT Americans are on the line in this election and after eight years of an anti-gay stranglehold on the presidency, Sen. Obama's message of fairness and acceptance is a breath of fresh air."

Senator Obama also issued an open letter to the LGBT community today, pledging "real change for all LGBT Americans."

"It's wrong to have millions of Americans living as second-class citizens in this nation," he said. The Senator also touted his efforts during his time in the Illinois State Senate to protect LGBT citizens from discrimination, and to equalize federal tax and immigration law for same-sex spouses.

Senator Obama also supports repeal of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as exclusively heterosexual on a federal level. He prefers civil unions with equal benefits, but says he won't stand in the way of the states' choices on how to recognize same-sex spouses. "As your President," Obama said, "I will use the bully pulpit to urge states to treat same-sex couples with full equality in their family and adoption laws."

Full text of the statement, from the senator's LGBT website, follows:



I'm running for President to build an America that lives up to our founding promise of equality for all a promise that extends to our gay brothers and sisters. It's wrong to have millions of Americans living as second-class citizens in this nation. And I ask for your support in this election so that together we can bring about real change for all LGBT Americans.

Equality is a moral imperative. That's why throughout my career, I have fought to eliminate discrimination against LGBT Americans. In Illinois, I co-sponsored a fully inclusive bill that prohibited discrimination on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity, extending protection to the workplace, housing, and places of public accommodation. In the U.S. Senate, I have cosponsored bills that would equalize tax treatment for same-sex couples and provide benefits to domestic partners of federal employees. And as president, I will 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.

As your 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. I support the complete repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Federal law should not discriminate in any way against gay and lesbian couples, which is precisely what DOMA does. I have also called for us to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and I have worked to improve the Uniting American Families Act so we can afford same-sex couples the same rights and obligations as married couples in our immigration system.

The next president must also address the HIV/AIDS epidemic. When it comes to prevention, we do not have to choose between values and science. While abstinence education should be part of any strategy, we also need to use common sense. We should have age-appropriate sex education that includes information about contraception. We should pass the JUSTICE Act to combat infection within our prison population. And we should lift the federal ban on needle exchange, which could dramatically reduce rates of infection among drug users. In addition, local governments can protect public health by distributing contraceptives.

We also need a president who's willing to confront the stigma - too often tied to homophobia - that continues to surround HIV/AIDS. I confronted this stigma directly in a speech to evangelicals at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church, and will continue to speak out as president.

That is where I stand on the major issues of the day. But having the right positions on the issues is only half the battle. The other half is to win broad support for those positions. And winning broad support will require stepping outside our comfort zone. If we want to repeal DOMA, repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and implement fully inclusive laws outlawing hate crimes and discrimination in the workplace, we need to bring the message of LGBT equality to skeptical audiences as well as friendly ones - and that's what I've done throughout my career. I brought this message of inclusiveness to all of America in my keynote address at the 2004 Democratic convention. I talked about the need to fight homophobia when I announced my candidacy for President, and I have been talking about LGBT equality to a number of groups during this campaign - from local LGBT activists to rural farmers to parishioners at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where Dr. Martin Luther King once preached.

Just as important, I have been listening to what all Americans have to say. I will never compromise on my commitment to equal rights for all LGBT Americans. But neither will I close my ears to the voices of those who still need to be convinced. That is the work we must do to move forward together. It is difficult. It is challenging. And it is necessary.

Americans are yearning for leadership that can empower us to reach for what we know is possible. I believe that we can achieve the goal of full equality for the millions of LGBT people in this country. To do that, we need leadership that can appeal to the best parts of the human spirit. Join with me, and I will provide that leadership. Together, we will achieve real equality for all Americans, gay and straight alike.











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Originally published on Friday June 6, 2008.


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