LGBT VOICES – Community Leaders Endorse Barack Obama

By |2005-05-26T09:00:00-04:00May 26th, 2005|Uncategorized|

Throughout the nation, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities are more united than ever behind the election of Barack Obama for President of the United States on November 4.

Below are new and original statements delivered by several notable LGBT leaders from across America and several battleground states including Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Ohio, Texas, Virginia, Missouri, Illinois, Massachusetts and the Nation’s Capital.

Editors may feel free to use these original statements for publication in print and online appropriately, with correct attribution to each author. You may also wish to contact the individual for follow-up or interview purposes; please feel free to do so with the email contact available.

[If you choose to publish or use in print in any fashion, we ask that you omit the email address from all public use – that information is available exclusively for editorial contacts and follow-up.]

Honorable Tammy Baldwin
U.S. Representative
Madison, Wisconsin

I cannot think of a more exciting, hopeful, and promising time in the lives of LGBT Americans than right now. We have a Presidential nominee in Barack Obama who really understands what we are striving for. This isn’t just a New Direction … it’s a whole new world of opportunities. This June, we formed the first LGBT Equality Caucus in Congress. The very existence of an LGBT Equality Caucus in Congress makes a strong statement about the values this Congress and this nation hold dear. Beyond symbolism, our Caucus will engage in substantive work to achieve the extension of equal rights, the repeal of discriminatory laws, the elimination of hate-motivated violence, and the improved health and well being for all – regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

But to be successful, we in Congress must work in partnership with the occupant of the White House and in Barack Obama we have a true ally. Asked to be on the Democratic Platform Drafting Committee and proud to serve as Co-Chair of Obama’s LGBT Steering and Policy Committee, I am convinced that we will see historic change in the years ahead.

Just imagine … next session, we could pass and President Obama could sign into law the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act. Next session, we could pass and President Obama could sign into law an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Next session, President Obama could lead the call for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I say “could,” because all of this is only possible if we elect Senator Obama as our next President.

I look forward with great hope next year to our new Congress, our new President, Barack Obama, and our new day in the history of our nation. For all of us who’ve waited and worked for the day when full equality was within our reach, now is our time.

Paul Smith
Attorney at Law
Washington DC

As the person privileged to have represented the LGBT community standing up before the Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas, I am acutely aware of what’s at stake in this election.

If Barack Obama becomes our next President, the path is open for us to continue to make progress toward equal rights, including the right not to face employment discrimination, the right to marry and adopt, the right to serve in the military, and all the other elements of full equality. If John McCain is elected, further progress will grind to a halt. He opposes all legislative protections of our rights. And he has promised to appoint the kind of Supreme Court Justices who will oppose interpreting the Constitution to protect our rights. Those McCain Justices may even end up overruling Lawrence, returning us to a time when it was considered perfectly constitutional to prosecute us for sodomy and to discriminate against us because being openly gay amounted to an admission of criminality.

I, for one, don’t want to live in a country where we have no rights and where LGBT citizens and are forced to rely on whatever “tolerance” we are accorded by our employers, our governors and our fellow citizens. “Tolerance” is the word Sarah Palin chose in the debate when she was trying not to appear too anti-gay. But we shouldn’t want her tolerance. We need the right to demand equality and respect. Vote for that on November 4!

Elizabeth Birch
Past Executive Director, Human Rights Campaign
Washington, DC

When I was a teen, I ran away to Hawaii where my first girlfriend grew up. We were broke and it was tough, but eventually I put myself through college there and went on to law school in California.

To live in Hawaii and experience the profound cultural mix and expansive Pacific Rim exposure helps to shape values and build character in way that is unparalleled in any other setting. There diversity is not a convenient catchall phrase —– it is in the bloodstream by the time you are born into one of the thousands of multiracial families.

Our next national leader will need the kind of exposure and experience that will restore America’s ability to communicate with world once again —– the kind of experience Barack Obama gained naturally growing up in the midst of every form of religion, food, ethnic background and culture.

To me, the secret to Senator Obama’s ease and wisdom is that he was a son of Hawaii. And his broader international exposure as a boy and his work to smooth the edges of south Chicago have created an amalgam more precious than three decades in Congress.

Ironically it is not that easy to be gay in Hawaii, but I believe based on his solid record and vast life experience, Barack Obama will make it far easier to be gay in America.

Jeanette Mott Oxford
State Representative – 59th MO House District
St. Louis, Missouri

In the recent vice presidential debate here in St. Louis, Governor Sarah Palin hastened to assure lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans that “I am tolerant.” That does not reassure me in the least that I would find equal protections in a McCain-Palin administration. Instead, I take offense. As my friend Pamela puts it: “You tolerate a stench. You respect me.”

The word tolerance can signal that we have patience for or are willing to indulge those whose beliefs or practices differ from our own. But something else can be heard when those in categories that have power and privilege in U.S. society (white persons, males, Christians, heterosexuals, etc.) express a willingness to “tolerate” those who experience discrimination and barriers to success due to some part of their identity (People of Color, women, non-Christians, gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender persons, etc.). What too often is heard is internalized superiority, a belief that the status quo is “normal” and that the privileged group has the right to determine what the targeted or disadvantaged group will be “allowed” to do.

I look forward to a world where the diversity of humanity will be celebrated instead of tolerated. That is the key to building a world in which every child can thrive and grow toward wholeness and happiness. I believe we will move a step closer to that goal by electing Barack Obama president of the United States on November 4.

Diego Miguel Sanchez
First Chair-Appointed Transgender DNC Platform Committee Member, DNC Party Leader (PLEO) and At-Large Delegate
Former member of Sen. Hillary Clinton National LGBT Advisory Committee
Boston, Massachusetts

To me, electing Senator Barack Obama our next President is a clear and critical national priority. I say that as a Latino transsexual man, a naturalized U.S. citizen who grew up living around the world as a military brat, most formatively in the rural South. I value the special lens that Sen. Obama’s life, education and experience brings to our country. I support and work for him to be elected, and I urge all in our LGBTQQI community to increase the energy to that end. Our country’s future depends on it, and Senator Obama depends on us. He blends global respect with domestic prowess. We need him now.

Mary Jo Hudson
Cabinet member for Ohio Governor Ted Strickland as Director, Ohio Department of Insurance
Past Member, Columbus, Ohio City Council (2004-2006)
Columbus, Ohio

In 1992, I got involved with my first Presidential campaign, working with gay and lesbian volunteers on the “Voting for Our Lives” campaign. After 12 years of repressive and deadly policies aimed at our community by the Reagan and Bush I administrations, we knew that we had to do all we could to work for change.

This year’s presidential election is not only about our lives – it’s about our collective futures. For the first time in many years, many issues of GLBT Americans intersect with mainstream America – healthcare coverage, the future of our economy, immigration concerns, and the protection and recognition of families that transcend traditional definitions. Each of these issues affects me directly, or affects my friends in the GLBT community. Likewise, each of these issues affects family, friends and colleagues.

I am supporting Barack Obama because his vision of America’s future recognizes the concerns I reference above resonate with many Americans, including GLBT Americans, and he will serve as a leader in the call to assure that GLBT Americans are recognized in the efforts to address these and many other issues in this country.

In contrast to Barack Obama, John McCain has selected a running mate who believes that we can be “cured” through prayer, and cannot even say the word “gay” or “lesbian”, but still hints that she has “diverse” friends. With friends like Sarah Palin, who needs enemies? McCain’s healthcare plan would plunge more GLBT Americans into the ranks of the uninsured, and we would be assured of administration policies and a United States Supreme Court that would rival the days of Reagan, Bush I and Bush II. Barack Obama is my hope for a better future for all Americans, especially GLBT Americans. Please join me voting for our lives and our future by supporting Barack Obama for President.

Raymond Buckley
State Chair, New Hampshire Democratic Party

Thirty years ago as a teen in rural New Hampshire, I honestly thought I was the only gay person in my state. One night when I was fifteen the local news had a segment about a police raid of a Boston gay bar. I grabbed one of my little sisters’ crayons and hurriedly wrote the name of the bar down. I carried that slip of paper in my pocket for years – it gave me such comfort that somewhere there were people like me.

Thankfully all that has changed because of the brave members of our community who have openly declared that simply being tolerated is no longer acceptable.

Today’s generation already knows that being gay means we can find love, get married and have children. We can’t be fired, or discriminated in housing. We can become a firefighter, teacher or police officer. We can be a state party chair, legislator or member of congress. We can be a news anchor, movie star, or Olympic athlete. We can be a doctor, judge and even an Episcopal Bishop. We can be anything. We can do anything. Although a bright rainbow may not shine over every state yet, it will soon.

Soon there will be full equality for every member of every family, on every street, in every town, in every state. Change is coming. Hope is near.

Jesse Garcia
Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, President
Gay Latino Activist

It’s all about civil rights. I have the opportunity to work to get Barack Obama and Joe Biden elected and see my American Dream become a reality, or I could just let another eight years of Republican hatemongering scapegoat the LGBT community and relegate me to second-class status.

I work hard, pay my taxes and serve my community. But John McCain and Sarah Palin think I’m not good enough and they both believe I do not deserve to be protected from bigotry at work, be protected from hateful crimes by law enforcement, or to protect my family by serving my nation in the armed services openly. They don’t believe I have the right to plan a future with a person I love and they feel that I am not good enough to raise a child — even those abandoned.

In 2004, we had a Democratic ticket that wasn’t opposed to same-sex marriage ban initatives. In 2008, we have a brave candidate, Barack Obama, that opposes these bans, which he calls “decisive and unnecessary.” Barack Obama is willing to stand up for me and include me in his vision of America. I am willing to stand with him and take back this nation.

Stephen P. Driscoll
Co-Chair, National Stonewall Democrats
Pembroke, Massachusetts

There’s good news and there’s bad news. The good news is that it’s really just a matter of time before we win our full civil rights. The popular culture is far ahead of the political and the younger generation ‘get’ equal rights for LGBT people. This bodes well for the future. The bad news is that they don’t assume the reins of power for another generation.

In the interim, our rights are endangered by a spate of horrific appointments to the federal courts which could thwart progress well into the future. That is why it is absolutely critical that we elect Barack Obama and other pro-equality Democrats this year. This is the most important election of our lives. Our future, and the future of our nation, hangs in the balance.

Rick Garcia
Public Policy Director of Equality Illinois
Chicago, Illinois

I’ve known Barack Obama long before he was a presidential candidate or even a United States Senator. When Barack was running for the Illinois senate, I met with him to discuss issues of importance to gay, lesbian and transgender Illinoisans. I was impressed not only with his thoughtfulness but his command of the issues. I did not have to do a “Gay 101” with candidate Obama. It was obvious that he knew, socialized and worked with gay people, respected us and cherished us as his friends and colleagues. Most important, he understood the issues and his commitment to LGBT equal rights clearly stemmed not from political correctness, politics or trying to woo votes – but from a deeply held belief that all of us should be treated fairly and equitably.

From his first days in the Illinois Senate, Senator Obama was one of our community’s strongest and most effective supporters. I personally witnessed Senator Obama challenge anti-gay colleagues and try to convince them that voting for an inclusive nondiscrimination bill in the Illinois Senate was the right thing to do

An Obama administration won’t just ‘tolerate’ us. An Obama administration will celebrate our diversity, our uniqueness and will value the contributions LGBT people make to this great country. I know Senator Obama. I know his record on LGBT issues. I know we will be proud to call him Mr. President.

Mark Walsh
Former National Director of LGBT Outreach for Hillary for President
Boston, Massachusett

As the National Director of LGBT Outreach for Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign, I was so proud of how active and involved our community was in the race for the Democratic nomination. Now, as a member of Senator Obama’s National LGBT Steering and Policy Committee, I’m thrilled that our community has fully united behind Senator Obama.

To paraphrase Hillary Clinton: “It’s not who you were for, it’s WHO IS FOR YOU.”

I know that Barack Obama will fight for me and all LGBT Americans. He will fight for the gay factory worker, who stays in the closet for fear of being fired. He will fight for the devoted partner afraid that she will be barred from visiting the women she loves in the hospital. He will fight for gay kids afraid to walk down the hallway at school.

Barack Obama will fight for all of us who are different because he knows what it is like to be different.

And when we elect Barack Obama on November 4th, our country and our world will be forever different. I can’t wait for that day.

Terry Penrod
Member, Board of Directors, Human Rights Campaign
Columbus, Ohio

I’ve got 88 reasons to support Barack Obama’s candidacy: one for each year of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens’ life.
There’s a very delicate and fragile balance on the U.S. Supreme Court when it comes to freedom and equality. It stands to reason that the next president will appoint at least one Supreme Court Justice.
We need to elect Obama merely to maintain the status quo on the Supreme Court. Think about that. Should the court’s two eldest justices, Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, retire during Obama’s first term, the LGBT community won’t have more allies on the Court-only a one-to-one replacement of our previous allies. Obama has to be the person who fills the next openings on the Supreme Court just to preserve the very uncertain equilibrium we have right now. His appointments won’t make us more likely to win cases. They’ll just make us as likely to win as we are today. With even one more radical right-wing judge on the nation’s highest court, the justice system will swiftly become an ironic misnomer.
A McCain administration would be like divorcing a man with a crazy family and then marrying his brother. There’d be a new person in the White House, but what about HUD? What about Justice Department employees with degrees from non-accredited law schools? What about Karl Rove? With McCain, you get the same far-right cronies that have made the last eight years so unbearable.
Enough. We’ve got to start over.

Bob Witeck
CEO, Witeck-Combs Communications
Gay Activist
Arlington, Virginia

This weekend in Virginia, with nearly 40 members of my family, I celebrated my niece’s marriage. My partner and I happen to be the only gay couple in this tribe, and we were proud to play host to our visitors from 8 states including Pennsylvania, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, Indiana, Connecticut, and Hawaii as well as northern Virginia.

To a person, with just one exception, each and every one will support and, if old enough, vote for Barack Obama for President on November 4. They vote as Republicans, Independents and lifelong Democrats with the same values and beliefs we share about fairness, equality and inclusion – and we cannot imagine an America any less or any different from our own far-flung and diverse family.

For my eight, very young, great nephews and great nieces who played with us this weekend (and we discovered left a smear of chocolate on the wall), I cannot think of any greater gift to leave them than the gift of Barack Obama’s inspiration and leadership for the years to come and the kind of world they are just discovering. And who knows, maybe someday soon they will host my wedding celebration with my partner of 14 years, Bob Connelly?

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.