Thursday, October 16, 2008

LGBT Americans Have a Friend in Obama - By Deb Price

CHICAGO, Illinois (Observer Update) - Want to know what kind of president Barack Obama would be for gay Americans? Just listen to his longtime gay friends, reported That was the thinking of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) PAC, the political arm of the nation's largest gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender group.

So after endorsing Obama, HRC sent a camera crew to Chicago to interview gay folks -- like activist Gail Morse -- who knew him well way back before the rest of us. "We're going to have a partner in the White House. We're not going to have an enemy," Morse says in the "Friends" video. "He sees us as people with issues that government can address."

Like Obama, HRC has a lot of gay friends. And on the night Obama accepted the Democratic presidential nomination, HRC emailed the "Friends" video to nearly 900,000 of its friends and urged them to forward it to their own friends.

The video is part of HRC's all-out effort to persuade gay Americans that by helping Obama win they'll get a real friend in the White House, who could help Uncle Sam catch up with changes in the states. For example, with a breakthrough 4-to-3 court ruling on Oct. 10, Connecticut became the third state to embrace gay marriage. Obama doesn't support gay marriage, but he does support extending federal benefits to gay couples.

In addition to spreading its pro-Obama message online, HRC and its members have given Obama $1.6 million, and thousands of its members have volunteered for him. The bottom line: With the exception of marriage, the Democrat supports all major gay rights, including equal treatment in the military, at work and in federal programs such as Social Security.

HRC's efforts come as John McCain is surpassing previous Republican presidential nominees in reaching out. Republicans usually get a quarter of the gay vote. McCain clearly wants more. At his convention, McCain sent two top campaign aides to thank the gay Log Cabin Republicans for their endorsement.

And McCain has responded in writing to questions from a gay newspaper. While not announcing changes in stands, he signaled he'd support a review of the military's anti-gay policy, wouldn't discriminate against qualified openly gay people for Supreme Court or Cabinet appointments and would give "full consideration" to gay-supportive bills. "I hope gay and lesbian Americans will give full consideration to supporting me. ... I will be a president for all Americans," McCain told the Washington Blade.

HRC President Joe Solomese labels such steps by McCain and running mate Sarah Palin "troubling" because "they make (the GOP ticket) appear less dangerous to the (gay) community but without really taking a stand in support of our issues."

To steer the focus to policy positions, HRC has also produced videos on the Republican ticket. In one, HRC uses film clips to show McCain's votes against hate crimes legislation and protecting gay workers.

"We've been putting this election into context for people, getting the message out. Sarah Palin says, 'I've got a gay friend.' Well, we talked to a lot of gay people in Alaska (to make a video), and none of them can imagine that that could be possible," Solomese says.

HRC's appeal to gay voters is simple: Friends help friends.

(Deb Price of The Detroit News writes the first nationally syndicated column on gay issues and this is reprinted from

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