August 10, 2007
Grade the Dems: Barack gets an A
Posted by: Chris
A day late and a dollar (or a paltry R$1.95 Brazilian reais) short, I'm watching the HRC-Logo forum for the Democratic presidential candidates. I'll offer my thoughts and grades here, but you can, too. Vote on the Vizu poll you'll find on the right column of the blog if you scroll down a bit.
Barack Obama led off last night's HRC-Logo presidential forum with pretty much a home run, as far as I'm concerned. He hit all the right notes, committed on policy, promised leadership not just talk, and spoke with a passion in a way that connects gay civil rights to black civil rights, while recognizing their differences.
HRC President Joe Solmonese, who has gotten his share of criticism on this blog, pressed Obama with two excellent questions about marriage, first challenging Obama's most recent debate answer that suggests a role for religion in defining the civil institution, and asking how Obama would have voted on marriage if it had come up during his time in the Illinois legislature.
Obama's answers were as good as could be expected from a candidate who does not support full marriage equality. But remember, the president and Congress can't "enact" gay marriage. All they can do is (try to) prevent states from doing so, and decide what type of recognition to offer gay couples who are married, civil union'd or otherwise committed to one another.
Obama promised fully "compatible" federal rights for gay couples in civil unions and "loving same-sex couples" in committed relationships. It would be nice if he supported gay marriage, but it's irrelevant at the policy level.
Two other quick points: Obama noted his opposition to DOMA when he ran for the Senate in 2004. There's no asterisk to that opposition, as there is for Clinton, Edwards and most of the others. He opposes all of DOMA, including the half that blocks federal recognition of gays married by states and (unlike the others) the half that allows one state to refuse recognition of gay marriages from other states. That's a major policy difference, even if he didn't highlight it specifically last night.
Obama talks about gay rights, including civil unions, in a way that fits nicely into his "new kind of politics" and his historic candidacy. Unlike Hillary, who remains a deeply divisive figure, Obama can actually bring people together.
Finally (OK this is three points), he handled well questions from Washington Post editorialist Jonathan Capehart about homophobia in the black community. I've watched Obama closely on this, and I thought he did a good job of defending his record of talking about gay issues in front of potentially hostile audiences, including black ministers.
All in all, Obama was very impressive, and downright inspirational.
Here's the full video of his 15-minutes in the forum:
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