Obama: If elected I will use the bully pulpit for gay causes
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama sought the support of voters in the homosexual community Feb. 28, telling them in a letter that if elected president he would work to pass laws important to that constituency and would use the "bully pulpit" to urge states to grant same-sex couples the legal benefits of marriage.
The 770-word letter was posted on a section of Obama's campaign website devoted to homosexual issues. He and Hillary Clinton have worked for months to get the votes of the homosexual community, even appearing in August at a historic Democratic presidential forum devoted solely to homosexual issues.
In the letter, Obama touted his past record on such issues and said he would continue that record if elected. He used the acronym LGBT -- which stands for "lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender" -- six times.
"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," he wrote. "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."
He once again said he backs the "complete repeal" of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a law passed in 1996 that gives states the option of not recognizing another state's "gay marriages." It also prohibits the federal government from recognizing "gay marriage." Ever since it was passed homosexual activists have viewed it as a significant legal barrier to nationwide legalization of "gay marriage."
"While some say we should repeal only part of the law, I believe we should get rid of that statute altogether," he wrote. "Federal law should not discriminate in any way against gay and lesbian couples, which is precisely what DOMA does."
Austin Nimocks, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, a legal organization that supports the Defense of Marriage Act, said overturning DOMA "would lead to the recognition of everything the homosexual agenda stands for, including same-sex marriage."
"A repeal of DOMA would mean that the federal government is acknowledging and supporting same-sex couples, and that would be in Arizona and everywhere else," Nimocks told Baptist Press. "And it would start with the extension of certain federal benefits, the filing of joint tax returns by same-sex returns, and it would chip away at the institution of marriage in every state -- and most egregiously in those states that have voted through a constitutional amendment or a law to protect marriage between one man and one woman."
In the years since DOMA was signed into law, more than 40 states have passed various types of laws prohibiting "gay marriage," including 27 that have passed constitutional marriage amendments.
"To suggest that DOMA in some form or fashion prevents states from fashioning their own marriage law is just disingenuous at best," Nimocks said. "To repeal DOMA means that every American taxpayer would be forced to fund the homosexual agenda."
Obama also said he supports "age-appropriate sex education that includes information about contraception" and favors lifting "the federal ban on needle exchange[s]." During a September Democratic debate he said he would be comfortable with teachers reading to second graders a children's book, "King & King," supportive of "gay marriage."
In the letter he asserted that in multiple forums -- talking to rural farmers or to Baptist parishioners -- he has talked about the need to "fight homophobia."
"I believe that we can achieve the goal of full equality for the millions of LGBT people in this country," he said. "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."
Obama also mentioned in the letter his speech in 2006 during an HIV/AIDS conference at Saddleback Church, where Rick Warren pastors. At the time Warren released a statement saying he disagrees with Obama on abortion and other issues.
Following is the full text of Obama's letter:
"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."
Obama's letter is posted on his website at
http://pride.barackobama.com/page/content/lgbthome under the headline, "Equality is a Moral Imperative." An alternative link is
Michael Foust is an assistant editor for Baptist Press.