June 07, 2008
Yesterday's Obama LGBT conference call
Posted by: Andoni
(Sub-healine: HRC endorses Obama, see below.)
Last evening the Obama campaign held a conference call with 1200 LGBT activists from around the country in order to update people on campaign plans moving forward. The first order of business was to invite gays who were Senator Clinton supporters into the Obama family.
After a short welcome from Obama's Deputy Campaign Manager (and LGBT community member) Steve Hildebrand, Elizabeth Birch, former head of the Human Rights campaign (HRC), recounted how it felt to be a long time Hillary Clinton supporter at this moment, now that the nomination has slipped from her grasp. She described an immense sadness and repeatedly alluded to how you feel when you see a “vanquished warrior” or “fallen warrior.”
Birch has two children of mixed race, a daughter and a son. She confided that although she was hoping that her daughter would see that it was possible for a woman to become president of the United States, now she realizes that it was just as important for her son to see that a person of color can become president. Her message was that after a period mourning, Clinton supporters should rally around Obama. It is imperative that Obama prevails for LBT rights to move forward.
Joe Solmonese, current head of HRC joined the conference call from somewhere along the side of road between San Francisco and Los Angeles, participating in a California AIDS bike ride. He announced that HRC had just endorsed Senator Obama for president. He then urged all LGBT people to get behind Obama so that we can pass workplace equality, hate crimes legislation, repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and get more AIDS funding. What struck me most about Joe’s comments is how narrow his view is. He simply parrots the very limited HRC legislative agenda. Here we have a candidate who espouses just about total equality for gays, from actively advocating repealing all of DOMA to providing federal benefits for gay couples, and all Joe sees is the few crumbs that are the HRC legislative agenda.
Next up was David Mixner to provide a testimonial to how welcoming the Obama campaign was to him and all the John Edwards supporters after his candidate dropped out of the race. He said he understood how people feel when their candidate doesn’t win because he felt the same thing with Edwards, but that the Obama people were the most welcoming of any campaign he has ever encountered. He emphasized that Obama has explicitly come out against both the Florida and California marriage initiatives.
Barack Obama himself was not on the conference call yesterday because it was his day off. He is scheduled for future calls. Because there were 1200 people on the line, they could not answer questions. However, people emailed questions and they will be answered individually.
Finally, Hildebrand announced that Brian Bond, Kevin Jennings, and Melissa Etheridge will be joining the campaign in various capacities. Brian will oversee the recruitment of all constituencies, not just the LGBT community. Melissa will be co-chair of the 50 state voter registration and mobilization campaign.
After listening in to the conference call, I concluded that the LGBT community is indeed an important part of Obama’s campaign, and that we have people placed in some very high positions there.
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