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. Michael B.: Thanks. It sounds like she's wanting to repeal *parts* of DOMA, rather than the whole thing, which is less heartening to hear than a full repeal, which Obama supports.

    To those dismissive of this DOMA stuff, I'm sorry, but it's not irrelevant. Not to me. I can just barely defend a 1996 Clinton support for DOMA, but it was still a case of political expediency vs backbone, even if I understand their decision to support it.

    I cannot tolerate a 2008 defense of that law. Her partial-support/partial-repeal approach is classic Clintonian triangulation. I don't mean that in a negative way. But it's politics circa 1996 and 2003, not 2008. I find it less a principled stand, and more a calculated one. It's shrewd, but it's playing both sides. Those accusing Obama of playing both sides need to realize that he's not the only one doing it.

    The above commenter who said that the only real candidate we had for full rights was Dennis Kucinich was correct, although I think Bill Richardson was for full marriage rights as well.

    But this is the hand we're dealt, folks. Incrementalism is all we've got just now. I think, frankly, we'll continue to see progress if either Obama or Clinton get elected, but don't expect them to do it for you. Keep fighting, keep leading by example and leading by leading. You don't have to change *their* minds. It's the people that elect them, your neighbors and co-workers, friends and families that have to get on board.

    Posted by: AG | Feb 29, 2008 2:56:36 PM

  2. No, Richardson's for California style registered domestic partnerships, which means civil unions basically.

    Only Kucinich and Gravel are for same-sex marriage this time around. In 2004, it was only Kucinich, Sharpton, and Mosley-Braun.

    No, Obama isn't the most progressive black presidential candidate ever (as some of his more religious supporters claim). But he's certainly the only one who has a chance to win.

    Posted by: John | Feb 29, 2008 3:17:19 PM

  3. John: I stand corrected about Richardson. And I'd forgotten about Gravel (oh dear).

    Still, I'd really like a device that let you peer into alternate realities to see what a Kucinich presidency would be like. Or a Gore one circa 2001 for that matter.

    Posted by: AG | Feb 29, 2008 5:59:16 PM

  4. Actually, I loved Michael Bedwell's line-by-line cynical -- but right on target -- commentary. I, too, am fed up with candidates -- I remember Bill Clinton's first-hundred-days betrayal all too well -- who say one thing and then do another; tired of candidates who lack all courage when it comes to LGBTQ equality.

    So much for "hope" from Obama.

    I completely agree: if Obama truly believes all the nice sentiments in this 'open letter' that some supporter wrote for him (to garner gay votes), then he should already have proven them by having signed on as a cosponsor for UAFA, et al.

    Obama has been clear: he believes marriage should be reserved for male and female couples, only. To my mind, it's a real disgrace that a black man doesn't choose to challenge himself beyond his "belief." In lots of places in this country forty years ago, plenty of people believed black men couldn't or shouldn't be anything more than an itinerant preacher, a servant, a minstral or musician or athlete, or a garbage worker.

    His stand on same-sex marriage is inexcusable.

    So much for "change" from Obama.

    Posted by: Robert | Feb 29, 2008 9:47:46 PM

  5. Reading the negativity in this column has put me in a bad mood. This is when I'm NOT proud to be part of the gay community. Why is it that some gay people could find a negative way to look at and an ability to make fun of a crippled child helping to deliver kittens in a homeless shelter? You would still complain that something was wrong with it. You're MISERABLE people from the get go. You must look at the bright side and see that it doesn't get better than this for right now. You want immediate gratification in everything, just like you demand from the waiters, flight attendants, and household help in your lives who HATE your guts. You're the first to make fun of and point out the negative in out gay figures who are doing their best. You can't help your inability to say nice things about anyone. You're 100 times as imperfect as the people you put down on a daily basis. You want perfection from everyone and think that you're going to get it. You're delusional, at best. I know who you are and you simply don't matter to me. You want gay marriage even though MARRIAGE is a CHRISTIAN, JEWISH, and otherwise RELIGIOUS INSTITUTION! Try fighting for Civil Unions for ALL PEOPLE--gay and straight for this government, and leave MARRIAGES UP TO CHURCHES. I won't be able to read another comments string from gay people for the rest of this election because all of you who are just as I described make me sick to my stomach.

    Posted by: R | Mar 1, 2008 2:20:06 PM

  6. "Contraception" isn't the word I would have used for gay people (there's little danger of any of us getting pregnant from intercourse); but whatever.

    Posted by: Wells. | Mar 1, 2008 6:52:03 PM

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