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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Obama Speaks Out on LGBT Issues

Updated! As some of you may remember, a local Pennsylvania LGBT newspaper earlier this week wrote on an interview it had with Senator Clinton and, at the same time wrote a lopsided rebuke to Senator Obama for supposedly not being "accessible" to the LGBT press.

I consider Senator Barack Obama to be an amazing advocate for LGBT issues. Senator Obama has spoken to a variety of audiences -- both inside and outside the LGBT community -- on LBGT issues, including audiences expected to be hostile to our concerns. For example, Senator Obama spoke out at Ebeneezer Baptist Church and Rick Warren's Saddleback Church about the damage that homophobia causes.

I challenge anyone to find an instance where Hillary Clinton has appeared in front of a general or hostile audience and spoken out on homophobia or other LGBT issues.

Well, contrary to what the local Philly Gay News said, the Obama campaign reached out to the Advocate last week for an interview. He gave his interview on Monday, which appeared today in the Advocate. It is a great read, both for its honesty and candor.

Some initial highlights:

The Advocate: Let’s start with what’s hot, why the silence on gay issues? You’ve only done one other interview with the LGBT press. I know people wish they were hearing more from you.

Sen. Obama: I don’t think it’s fair to say silence on gay issues. The gay press may feel like I’m not giving them enough love. But basically, all press feels that way at all times. Obviously, when you’ve got limited amount of time, you’ve got so many outlets. We tend not to do a whole bunch of specialized press. We try to do general press for a general readership.

But I haven’t been silent on gay issues. What’s happened is, I speak oftentimes to gay issues to a public general audience. When I spoke at Ebenezer Church for King Day, I talked about the need to get over the homophobia in the African-American community, when I deliver my stump speeches routinely I talk about the way that antigay sentiment is used to divide the country and distract us from issues that we need to be working on, and I include gay constituencies as people that should be treated with full honor and respect as part of the American family.

So I actually have been much more vocal on gay issues to general audiences than any other presidential candidate probably in history. What I probably haven’t done as much as the press would like is to put out as many specialized interviews. But that has more to do with our focus on general press than it does on ... I promise you the African-American press says the same thing.

I absolutely agree with Obama on this line of thinking. I believe it is far more important to speak out on LGBT issues in front of general audiences, including especially audiences that may be otherwise hostile to the issues important to the LGBT community. In my opinion, I believe that this is far more important to LGBT interests than giving interviews to specialized press.

Further to this point:

Advocate: I think the underlying fear of the gay community is that if you get into office, will LGBT folks be last on the priority list?

Obama: I guess my point would be that the fact that I’m raising issues accordant to the LGBT community in a general audience rather than just treating you like a special interest that is sort of off in its own little box – that, I think, is more indicative of my commitment. Because ultimately what that shows is that I’m not afraid to advocate on your behalf outside of church, so to speak. It’s easy to preach to the choir; what I think is harder is to speak to a broader audience about why these issues are important to all Americans.

I think everyone can indeed agree that it's easier to preach to the choir.

However, I'll take it a step further. The gay ghettoization of the post-Stonewall era is steadily eroding, as evidenced by the straight gentrification of previously gay strongholds such as the Castro and West Hollywood. Part and parcel of this de-ghettoization is the diminished need in large parts of our community for "gay only" media.

In Mr. Segal's "Letter to a Candidate" in the Philadelphia Gay News, he claimed that "the local gay press is to our community what churches are to the black community." I can assure anyone out there not familiar with the local gay press or a black church, this is more than just a bit ridiculous. When I found word of the PGN articles on Clinton and Obama, it was the first time that I -- and most of my friends -- had bothered to read something in a "gay publication" in over ten years, except to find out what the local hotspot was for the coming weekend.

Barack Obama speaks to LGBT people in this country because we are all, at our root, Americans. And when Barack Obama speaks to Americans, Gay Americans, Lesbian Americans and Transgendered Americans, he doesn't need to do so through the mouthpiece of a "gay publication". He speaks to me through ABC News. He speaks to me through The Economist. And he speaks to me through his rallies and campaign emails.

Anyway, I'll get off my soapbox for a bit. My main point in all of this is that Barack Obama has been the only candidate to get up on the stump, and in front of hostile audiences, and speak the hard truth. The hard truth that homophobia and marginalization of LGBT people hurts not only LGBT people but everyday communities and our society in general.

I challenge (without much hope of succeeding) Hillary Clinton to do more than just give an occasional interview to myopic gay-only publications.

Read More: Obama Talks All Things LGBT with The Advocate

Earlier: My Correspondence with PA Gay News Publisher


Hiro said...

This might be your best post yet! Keep blogging for Obama -- I'm reading every word.