Barack Obama | Election 2008 | Gay Rights | News

Barack Obama Writes Open Letter to LGBT Community


Following yesterday's news that the Obama campaign had purchased a targeted ad buy specifically for LGBT media in Ohio and Texas, his campaign has released an "Open Letter to the LGBT Community" in which Obama reiterates his promises to eliminate discrimination, urge the states to treat same-sex couples with full equality, repeal DOMA and Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and address the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Read the full letter, AFTER THE JUMP...

Open Letter from Barack Obama to the LGBT community

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 co-sponsored 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. 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.

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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  1. I'm so sorry we forced you to through us under the bus in South Carolina, and I'm also sorry you were too worried about getting gay cooties from Mayor Newsom of San Francisco to have your picture taken with him, and I'm so sorry you felt the need to write this anemic attempt at fence mending.

    This is worth the paper it's printed on...oh nevermind it's Digital, not even important enough to give voice to since that might get a sound bite....yeah sorry you wrote it for sure.

    Your actions spoke for you, and with them you spoke volumes. Digital Epistles ain't worth much thanks buh bye

    Posted by: autumnal | Feb 28, 2008 8:27:55 PM

  2. actually only now after I just posted did it occur to me an answer some of my friends have been asking the last couple of hours..."why did he do this now?"

    Obama's done little else but grudgingly mention gay people and usually run away or do overtly insulting things over gay people.

    The reason the Obama campaign has "released" this now is merely to increase his "cool factor".

    Cynical ploy that isn't going to do much for gay people but will make him look so cool and gay people sooooo "ungrateful" despite the crap he's pulled, typical cute politician crap.

    Posted by: autumnal | Feb 28, 2008 8:35:48 PM

  3. "and, as hillary points out, elements of DOMA have been useful in preventing an all-out push for a constitutional amendment that would be FAR more damaging to any future legal recognition of our relationships"

    Hmm, elsewhere another commenter said she stands against DOMA. To my knowledge, Clinton has defended this horrible sop to the fundies as recently as this year. If she thinks it should be repealed, I'd love to see a quote to support this. Most of what I've seen has her triangulating on this point to spin her defense of it in her favor.

    But I remember when it passed, in 1996, and it was a hostile Congress' way of forcing Mr Clinton into either signing it into law and thus lend some prestige to Gingrich's Congress, or to paint himself as some far-left anti-family liberal. It was one of the post-Reagan right's earliest attempts at gay baiting, and the fact that it worked emboldened this approach for the next 10 years.

    Honestly, I don't know if it really had any actual impact on foiling a federal amendment, given that the amendment had limited support among the Republicans, and even less among the American people. I do know that it is used *currently* as a cover-your-ass to any politician who is too timid to come out and take a stand on it one way or another.

    It's not a good law, and yes, this is the federal government exercising power over marriage, where previously it had not. When Hilary defends it, I have to wonder why, given her support for ENDA. Does she do it rather than contradict the legacy of her husband? Or are her views still evolving? If it's the former, that's a troubling precedent. If it's the latter, that's just disappointing.

    And this is the crux of it: while I'm genuinely pleased to have a politician that can "evolve" unlike Bush, who seems to think it's a point of pride not to take on new information that might contradict his decisions, she's had to tack to the left in the Primaries to reconnect with her base. Which makes me wonder where she'll be in the general election. How much are either of them going to have to backtrack?

    Posted by: AG | Feb 28, 2008 8:47:22 PM

  4. I really don't have much faith in Obama. Remember how he put anti-gay singer Donnie McGlurkin on his tour a couple of months back? Surely any person with a shred of decency would have avoided McGlurkin like the plague. It's been on the public record for a long time that McGlurkin has decidedly anti-gay views. Face it - Obama is just another panderer playing identity politics to increase his vote.

    Posted by: jason | Feb 28, 2008 9:34:01 PM

  5. Boy, Obama sure is lucky his parents met (and married?) in Hawaii, one of the few states to never have enacted an anti-miscegenation statute. Otherwise their marriage wouldn't have been legal in all 50 states until Loving v. Virginia in 1967.... 6 years after Obama was born.

    Posted by: Michelle | Feb 28, 2008 9:39:48 PM

  6. I'm reading a lot of the comments and it disappoints me.

    Someone mentioned abandoning Hillary. In my opinion, if we stood by principals and those that were truly consistent with our goals, we would have all voted for Dennis Kucinich. Sure, he had no chance of winning, but if he got 10 percent of the vote, the others might have looked harder at his positions.

    Obama has said many times that you need to talk with your enemies as well as your friends and he has taken heat for it on many occasions. Like it or not, he seems to want EVERYONE at the table and for me, that's refreshing.

    Obama is also the first Presidential candidate that has mentioned the Uniting American Families Act (hasn't signed on as a co-sponsor, which is disappointing). This may impact only a small portion of our community (those of us with foreign born partners), but for those that it does impact, it would make a major difference in our lives and futures.

    Obama gives me hope and he also challenges us to work together.

    Also, what kind of message are we sending to our children? I grew up thinking that anyone could become President of the United States... Now it seems that your last name has to be Clinton or Bush. I want a woman for President as much as anyone else and have long said it... But Hillary may not be the right woman at the point in time (I personally find her to be very divisive).

    Posted by: David in SF | Feb 28, 2008 10:09:55 PM

  7. Very well said, David in SF.

    I'm very proud of what our party has done here, to get this close to nominating an inspiring yet realistic person who may just really change our political system instead of just being another manipulative cog in it. For so many on this board to hang on for dear life to a horse that clearly is not worth hitching onto, well, it is really sad. Hillary has not changed her "fighting" style of politics over the last "35 years", but the people in general are tired of her and Bush's political style. YES - the fighting, the choose-sides-at-all-costs mentality. It really is tiring, isn't it?

    If we, as the gay community, don't reject her divisive politics then we are going down with the tired old ship. This guy is clearly on our side and believes in us and our issues - so my question is: Why are you holding onto a past that is CLEARLY not worth holding onto (Hillary - with DOMA, DATD, and all her other "successes" of the past "35 years!"), and not embracing a future that holds so much potential?????

    Posted by: Bry | Feb 28, 2008 10:27:51 PM


    Sen. Clinton's campaign announced today they've taken in $35 million in February—TWICE what they did in January. If Obama is such a consensus builder why can't he get his own party members to stop voting for and donating to her and canonize nominate him by acclamation? Imagine the problems he’ll have in Congress with all those Repugs who don’t think he’s the Messiah.

    FOR AG:
    “As President, Hillary will replace the divisive leadership of the past six years. She will work with the LGBT community and allies in Congress to change laws. She knows that by working together, we can continue to work against hate and stand united for equality. Supports civil unions: Hillary will work to ensure that all Americans in committed relationships have equal benefits -- from health insurance to life insurance, property rights, and more.” -

    FROM HRC CANDIDATES QUESTIONNAIRE; the relevant questions and Sen. Clinton’s responses:

    QUESTION: If a state has taken the steps to recognize same sex couples and their families for purposes of state-based benefits, rights, privileges and responsibilities (such as marriage in Massachusetts and civil unions in Vermont and Connecticut), should the
    federal government recognize the state’s legal recognition of such couples and
    families for purposes of federal benefits and tax treatment?
    ANSWER: Support
    COMMENT: “I have long been on record supporting equality in benefits and eliminating discrimination against gays and lesbians. I support repealing the provision of DOMA that may prohibit the federal government from providing benefits to people
    in states that recognize same sex marriage. I strongly support ensuring people in
    stable, long-term same sex relationships have full equality of benefits, rights, and

    QUESTION: According to a 2004 GAO report, over 1,100 benefits, rights and privileges are provided to married couples and their families in federal law that are not available to same-sex couples. Do you support extending federal benefits, rights, privileges and responsibilities to same-sex couples (and their children) provided the partnership meets certain federal standards of commitment and mutuality of interest?
    ANSWER: Support

    “She repeated her call for a repeal of Section 3 of DOMA, because it prohibits the federal government from recognizing decisions made by the states in terms of enacting civil unions, domestic partnerships or, in the case of Massachusetts, full marriage rights.

    “I think extending federal benefits is a very important step forward,” she said. “I don’t see why a same-sex couple in California, which has a domestic partnership law, should be able to take advantage of the Family Medical Leave Act if one of them is ill, while a couple in another state without such a law cannot. I would like to see federal benefits extended to same-sex couples ... Too many couples cannot share life decisions, or jointly own property or take care of one another within a recognized legal framework. I want to change that.”

    To get started on the path of federal recognition for same-sex couples, she recommended that Congress pass the [federal employees] Domestic Partnership Benefits & Obligations Act.” – Washington Blade interview, February 11, 2008

    Posted by: Michael Bedwell | Feb 28, 2008 10:28:12 PM

  9. Don't ever count Hillary out. She will be our next President. Great woman, great American. Hillary '08!

    Posted by: davey | Feb 28, 2008 10:41:56 PM

  10. I don't trust this arrogant ass one bit. He wasted his ad money.

    Posted by: ken | Feb 28, 2008 10:55:07 PM

  11. No offense Bedwell but I've abandoned reading and replying to your posts. It literally gives me a headache.

    My vote and my $20 bill here in Austin, Texas has gone to Obama.

    Posted by: astonedtemple | Feb 28, 2008 11:00:50 PM

  12. I like Hillary. Or more succinctly, I sympathize with her. As she certainly doesn't deserve the hatred that gets thrown at her for no apparent reason (or exceedingly stupid ones like "she should've dumped Bill in 98").

    Having said that, the attacks on Obama's patriotism and heritage are also totally unfair. And I don't know if they're outright racist. But damn, they seem awfully borderline racist to me.

    Moreover, given the fact that McCain has somehow "magically" (NOT) regained the poll lead, I'd say more than a few of those millions of so-called "Obama white conservatives" lied about the depth of their loyalty. How incredibly dissapointing...though not entirely surprising. Looks like we're in for another close election.

    Posted by: John | Feb 29, 2008 12:31:04 AM

  13. Give Bedwell credit for giving us factual information. He's obviously got a bias toward Hil but there's nothing wrong with that. Most people here don't have enough facts

    On the other hand, Abracadaver, please keep racist comments to yourself, unless you're just trying to warn us you're out there.

    I agree with the comments above that Obama had more to lose than gain by publishing this letter. So give him credit for taking the risk. You can be sure the religious right will be all over him come Fall for this. As noted above, no presidential candidate has ever gone so far.

    I do hope he has the political skills to actually get things done for us. Seems to me that Bill Clinton had good ideas to help the LGBT community in 1992 but couldn't get it done. Perhaps gays in the military should not have been one of his first priorities. A president that ignores politics and what it takes to effect change does so at our collective peril.

    Whatever you do, vote Democrat!

    Posted by: Ted | Feb 29, 2008 1:00:45 AM

  14. Ted,

    Bill Clinton was completely inexperienced in 1992. He thought a president who never served in the miitary could just waltz in and change that environment by sheer virtue of the fact that he was Commander-in-Chief. But of course, that's not how it works in an arcahic institution like the military.

    Clinton needed to move slowly. He should've waited until he got rid of Powell. Had Clinton waited until the beginning of his second term, we might not have ended up with DADT at all. By that time, Westly Clark was Supreme NATO Commander and John Shalikashvili was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs (both are far more willing to consider openly gay soldiers than Colin Powell).

    Posted by: John | Feb 29, 2008 1:15:38 AM

  15. Dear Senator Obama,

    Talk is cheap. You say you'll stand up for us yet you accept support from ministers that thrive on homophobia.

    I'm not just talking about McLurkin. But also Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, who supports you strongly and who's church runs the following program:

    "Metanoia Ministry

    We are pleased to announce the creation of " The Way, The Truth and The Life", a program created to provide Christ Centered instruction for those seeking freedom from homosexuality, lesbianism, prostitution, sex addiction and other habitual sins."

    Write to me when you denounce & reject support from people like these. Then maybe we can talk about me giving you my vote.


    Dee B.

    Posted by: Dee | Feb 29, 2008 2:13:08 AM

  16. I cannot stand this pandering. In regards to the LGBT issue, all the major candidates are the same to me. Leaving the decision to the states is a cop out. If you truly believe that all citizens in this country are equal, then that should be a mandate on the national level. Another important issue here is citizenship rights. People always forget that LGBT people cannot marry a non-American and hope to get that person a green card. This is just plain wrong and UNEQUAL. Straight people can love and marry who they will, regardless of which country that person may be from. Why can't LGBTs? I don't care whether it's called gay marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships. Just give us all equal treatment under the law.

    Posted by: Steve | Feb 29, 2008 2:41:03 AM

  17. Any LGBT person that would vote for Barack Obama needs to get their head out of their ass.

    Let's start with HIV/AIDS funding:
    Obama: $5 billion
    Clinton: $20 billion

    Now look at the reversals in the letter:
    I will allow the states to make up their own mind on domestic marriage, civil unions, or marriage equality. TRANSLATION: The states can still say no to any of the former.

    The line about DOMA is frankly bull. So many states have amendments now that the Federal Law is essentially worthless.

    Don't Ask Don't Tell: Both candidates will undo it.

    Timing of this letter: He is trailing in Texas among gays by 20 percentage points.

    And what does this mean: "But neither will I close my ears to the voices of those who still need to be convinced." TRANSLATION: I will throw you under a bus anytime I need to.

    Please don't vote for this man. Not now and not in November. Vote for Nader or even McCain.

    Posted by: Charles in SF | Feb 29, 2008 3:41:20 AM

  18. To balance out empty words from Obama, here are some real actions from Hillary (excerpt from her letter to LGBT community):

    I will change that. The best evidence of what I will do as President is what I have already done.

    I am proud of my record as First Lady, as a U.S. Senator and as a candidate for President in working toward the fair and equal treatment of LGBT Americans.

    • I am proud that as Chair of the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee in 2006, I worked closely with LBGT community to develop a smart strategy that defeated the Federal Marriage Amendment. I am proud of fighting the FMA as divisive wedge politics at its worst.

    • I am proud to be a co-sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, and the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligation Act which would grant the same benefits (including health insurance) to domestic partners of federal employees that are currently offered to employees’ legal spouses.

    • I am proud to have authored the Early Treatment for HIV Act, which expands access to vital treatment options for low-income individuals living with HIV, and fought to fully fund the Ryan White CARE Act.

    • I am proud that I hired a National Director of LGBT Outreach within a month of announcing my candidacy for President and to have openly gay and lesbian staffers serving at all levels of my campaign.

    • I am proud to have a National LGBT Steering Committee of over 130 that includes openly LGBT elected officials, Board members and opinion leaders on issues ranging from transgender rights, to HIV/AIDS, to “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”.

    • I am proud to have marched in Gay Pride parades as both First Lady and as Senator and to have spoken in front of so many LGBT audiences ranging from the Human Rights Campaign, Empire State Pride Agenda, the Hetrick Martin Institute, PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), GMHC (Gay Men’s Health Crisis), and the American Foundation for AIDS Research.

    • I am proud to have fought Republican efforts to demonize and marginalize the LGBT community, and I will continue to do that as President.

    Now you get back to me when Obama marches in a gay pride parade, and then I may consider giving him my Texas vote. Somehow I doubt that will happen. Hillary '08

    Posted by: Chase | Feb 29, 2008 3:41:33 AM

  19. As for Hillary's marching in pride parades, please note that in New York, she typically marches from midtown until 23rd Street, where the tourists and the media are. After that, where the gays actually are, she ditches the parade.

    Read Clinton's autobiography for a real wake-up call on his position on gay marriage. Triangulation equals leaving us out.

    Posted by: rod | Feb 29, 2008 7:41:45 AM

  20. Okay my problem with this letter is the constant "I have done throughout my career"! No he hasn't he just started most of what he is doing BEFORE announcing his campaign. He tried to start doing more AFTER the Logo Debate. This is ridiculous!

    I don't like neither Hilary or Obama. There both a bunch of liars. I hope Mike Gravel wins from out of nowhere.

    Posted by: Tilisha | Feb 29, 2008 9:08:48 AM

  21. I did not have a preference between either of the Democratic front runners until the Obama supporters started piling on Clinton. Realistically, there is no significant difference in how they will likely approach most of the issues I care about. Both of them seem to be balancing a genuine interest in (although not a passion for) LGBT equality.

    I am really bothered, though, by the naivete of many Obama supporters. I do not believe that Clinton was any less idealistic than he is when her husband first entered the White House. She has lived through 15 years of cruel, unwarranted, Republican attacks. The main reason why you may dislike or have difficulty trusting Clinton is because you have absorbed the baseless charges that have been flung at her by the Republican noise machine.

    And what makes you think Obama can stand up to the full force of that machine? What Whitewater-like fictional, invented scandal will dog him if he is still in politics in two decades? Who that he knows well has killed himself and how long before Fox News launches innuendos of murder against him? And no one can say if he or of if Clinton will better maintain idealism in the face of constant hatred from evil liars.

    Obama does not yet have the experience that I would like to see in an effective president. He has yet to be an active senator: his focus as state senator was becoming US senator and his focus as a US senator is on becoming president. What happens when he focuses on the job he currently has? We don't know yet.

    He may be more electable than Clinton. He may be a better president than she would be. I hope so- the race seems pretty much decided in his favor. But he is a much less known quantity. I don't think I should be blamed for not trusting him yet.

    This letter does make a difference to me. I am impressed. Like on all issues, Obama's words are better than Clinton's, but she has more actions that back up a commitment to our community. And I hate to see gays giving her the same treatment that she's gotten from Rush Limbaugh since most of us knew who she was.

    Posted by: Landon Bryce | Feb 29, 2008 9:33:42 AM

  22. wow everyone calm down.. hillary wrote a letter too, just a month ago. now he wants to steal away gay voters in tex, oh, ri and vt. so he pulls his out.. cmon. aren't we smarter than that, don't we know better? its all words and empty promises from anyone. ok lets say he becomes president, save these letters and ads, and hold him to it, put some fucking pressure on someone for once. same goes for clinton, hold them to their words in a more real way than having the wussy human rights campaign hold some bullshit dinner or something.

    this is just more target marketing. im sure they agree with what they are saying, but don't wet your pants because obama said it. they're pretty even in my opinion. they'll sign all the pro gay shit that could ever make it to their desks , now THAT is the pain in the ass part of it, getting them through house / senate.

    i could eat my words, but i dont think we'll see either one initiate any real progress on their own.

    also, lets see if he makes it to the general election if he continues the LGBT pandering... i have my doubts.

    Posted by: mjc | Feb 29, 2008 10:13:13 AM

  23. i should have mentioned in my last post.. i said 'put some pressure on someone for once'.. i know we've been lucky to have amazing activists in the lgbt community but i just feel like a lot of people are quick to complain when they're thrown under the bus but also very apathetic. if everyone who had a complaint took the smallest bit of action maybe things could move forward a little faster... who knows. not to mention i'm annoyed with the human rights campaign, maybe that was coming out in my post a little. i know there are tons of great people out there working for the community.

    just didnt want to offend any activists out there!

    Posted by: mjc | Feb 29, 2008 10:22:23 AM

  24. Very honest comment, LANDON. I've read almost all the comments here (including my own), and I'm exahausted. I put party before candidate (in presidential elections), and so I could vote for either Barack or Hillary. I have decided to support Barack Obama--not so much because of what he's said, but because of the behavior of Bill Clinton and some Democrats (ones like some posters on this thread: ABRACADER). So, I turned to Obama in reaction to what I perceived as racial politics. When members of his camp tried it, it was despicable and I told Obama supporters that it was. I'm impressed that both he and Hillary stayed above all that smelly racial hatred crap.

    I believe that sometime over the next few weeks Hillary Clinton will withdraw from the primary, and Barack Obama will be the nominee. That's why I'm so weary of the ugly fighting within the Democratic Party. We haven't had a primary race this devisive & ugly since 1980. That divisiveness resulted in the election of Ronald Reagan.

    The Democratic Party is diverse, it is not homogenous like the Republican Party; we have to WORK at getting along with other. After next Tuesday, we have to begin the process of reconciliation. Hillary Clinton will contribute to that process. She will tell her people to stop the ugly bullshit and support Barack Obama for president. And then, for all THINKING Democrats, she will always be a class act.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Feb 29, 2008 10:29:02 AM

  25. Vote Green. It's really the only option.

    Posted by: Max | Feb 29, 2008 12:30:50 PM

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