July 07, 2008
Obama on same sex immigration
Posted by: Andoni
UPDATE: At the end of the post.
As a result, I decided to take things into my own hands. I would find a way to personally lobby the Democratic nominee how important this issue is for me and tens of thousands of others in the gay community. That opportunity arose tonight in Atlanta at an Obama fundraiser.
I attended the Obama VIP reception which entailed a photo with Barack and maybe the possibility of 10 seconds chat time while the photo was being taken. I consulted Rachel Tiven of Immigration Equality for her suggestion as to what the best 10 second bite would be. She suggested to be as emotional as possible and gave me, “I have to choose between the love of my life and my country because I am gay. Please support immigration rights for gay and lesbian families.”
I practiced this line over and over. However, when my moment came, I flubbed my lines. I don’t know exactly what I said, but I did manage to get out gay and immigration --- and then I choked up. It was a real emotional choke up, not an act, and not the script. However, I said enough for Obama to know what I was talking about. He put his arm around me and in a very comforting way said, “I know, I know.”
It was apparent that he knew this issue well. He took some time to explain that same sex immigration is going to be a very difficult one because it combines two of the most controversial issues Congress faces, gay rights and immigration. (I heard this from Barney Frank two years ago as well.) Obama also said that to tackle it we were going to have to establish a vehicle to recognize gay couples. I think we both said “civil unions” simultaneously -- me as a question, he as a statement.
Civil unions could be a possible vehicle. Then a stand-alone bill limited to same sex immigration rights, similar to the Uniting Americans Family Act could work. He seemed to imply that without that vehicle, it wouldn’t work. More broadly, if DOMA is repealed, then granting federal benefits to couples who are civil unioned (or married, although he didn’t say married) would realize immigration rights. Immigration is one of those 1200 federal benefits he so often says he wants to grant gay couples in civil unions.
He ended by wanting me to know that the road for a solution to same sex immigration is a difficult one but that he would not forget about our conversation or the issue once he got into office.
I don’t know exactly how much time I spent talking with Barack Obama, but it was at least a minute or two, far more than the 10 seconds I expected. And if the handlers hadn’t escorted me along, I could have asked a dozen follow up questions.
I left the event with a good feeling that he understood my problem and would work hard to fix it as soon as it could politically possibly be fixed.
The photo above is one taken by a friend with my camera when Barack was working the crowd…..and shaking my hand. The official photo from the professional photographer won’t be ready for a week or so.
UPDATE: And here is a photo I just received of Barack Obama comforting me as I got all emotional telling him that I have to choose between the love of my life .....and my country. I think he really got it.
As an aside, what struck me most about Obama, was how very thin he was. He is much much leaner in person than he appears on TV--athletically lean, not sickly lean.
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