Barack Obama Appeals Directly to Gay Voters

Thu. February 28, 2008 12:00 AM by

obama ad appeals directly to gay voters

Illinois Senator Barack Obama is appealing directly to LGBT voters with new advertisements in Ohio and Texas gay newspapers. The Democratic presidential contender also released a statement on Thursday targeted to the gay community, asking for support "so that together we can bring about real change for all LGBT Americans."

In a statement from the Obama campaign released on Thursday, titled "Open Letter from Barack Obama to the LGBT community," the Illinois Senator detailed his history of activism on behalf of gay Americans and called on LGBT voters to join with him in winning the White House.

"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," Obama said in the statement. "Equality is a moral imperative. That's why throughout my career, I have fought to eliminate discrimination against LGBT Americans."

The letter from Obama comes on the heels of an announcement that his campaign has purchased advertising in several gay newspapers in Ohio and Texas in the run up to the Democratic primaries in those states on March 4. The advertisements will run in the Dallas Voice, Houston's OutSmart, Columbus' Outlook Weekly and Cleveland's Gay People's Chronicle, according to the Advocate.

The advertisements were reportedly proposed by Stampp Corbin, co-chair of Obama's National LGBT Leadership Council. "It's a direct appeal to LGBT voters asking for their support," Corbin said, according to the Advocate.

Through the advertisements and the statement, Obama is hoping to energize gay voters to help him achieve victory over Hillary Clinton in the all-important March 4 primaries. Clinton previously led Obama strongly in both Texas and Ohio, but recent polls show Obama possibly moving to steal victories in both states from the former frontrunner.

Clinton has long had strong support within the LGBT community for her views on gay rights. Now Obama is hoping he can refocus voters on his support of the community over the years, perhaps swaying some LGBT Clinton supporters, as well as Independents and undecided voters, to his side.

"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," Obama said. "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."

Obama criticized Clinton for her stance "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," which was passed during her husband Bill Clinton's tenure in office. "Unlike Senator Clinton, I support the complete repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)—a position I have held since before arriving in the U.S. Senate. 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. 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."

HIV/AIDS was also a focus of Obama's letter to the gay community. "The next president must also address the HIV/AIDS epidemic," Obama said. 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," Obama continued. "I confronted this stigma directly in a speech to evangelicals at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church, and will continue to speak out as president."

Obama also promised to work to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and to "place the weight of my administration behind the enactment of the Matthew Shepard Act." The Matthew Shepard Act confers authority on the federal government to investigate and prosecute crimes committed against victims solely because of their real or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, and disability when local officials are unwilling or unable to do so, according to a press release from the Human Rights Campaign. It also expands existing federal hate crimes law to improve prosecution of bias-motivated crimes based on race, religious, national origin and color and provides additional resources to local law enforcement.

In closing, Obama appealed in the letter to the GLBT community to join forces with his campaign to "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," he said. "Join with me, and I will provide that leadership. Together, we will achieve real equality for all Americans, gay and straight alike."

Written By Ann Turner

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