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    August 10, 2007

    Grade the Dems: Barack gets an A

    Posted by: Chris

    BarackhrcforumblogA 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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    1. Andoni on Aug 10, 2007 3:33:45 PM:

      Agreed! Obama did very well and I too give him an A. He really conducted himself well and I was very impressed. I have no doubt that this guy means what he says and will deliver for us.

      Here's a thought. You know how we all look at the poll numbers and see that the younger generation gets it with respect to our rights --- all we have to do is wait for the younger ones to become the majority and the older ones to die. Well it's as simple as this: Barack IS that younger generation that we are waiting for to take over so things will be good for us and Hillary is not. She is the older generation that we are fighting against. To be fair, Hillary is more enlightened than most of the older generation, but it is as clear as night and day who is comfortable with our issues and gets it that the status quo is very wrong and who is still having difficulty as to how far to go in gay rights. Hillary is still being dragged down by all the negative thoughts, feelings, and experiences with respect to gay issues that all the over 50 crowd has (and I'm one of them -- so I know).

    1. Andoni on Aug 10, 2007 3:35:00 PM:

      P.S. Mike Gravel is not representative of his generation.

    1. Amicus on Aug 10, 2007 8:08:16 PM:

      Obama doesn't get an A. He may well get my vote, however.

      He was genuinely convincing that he believes in the cause, I thought.

      He did not, however, take up Evan Wolfon's advice to talk about people. Hillary did - she recognized Alva. This 'failure' is a full grade demerit, in the politics-of-people. Whether you go for the warm-and-fuzzy stuff or not, it was a missed opportunity.

      The idea that religion isn't practically a part of how people think about the public institution of marriage is odd and the notion that a President is going to be able to drive a decisive wedge between the two is ... radical, even if it is possible.

      Carpenter's question itself was fine, but it was exceptionally gauche to have asked it just of the "black candidate".

    1. Sean on Aug 10, 2007 10:21:57 PM:

      He'll be in a whole new situation if he becomes president. I think he'll throw gay people under the bus if he becomes president; which is common for politicans. Black people are extremely religious and anti-gay. In 1996, 89% of black people considered themselves religous and that same number agreed that marriage should only be for straight couples. Ten years later 90% consider themselves religious and 89% believe only straight couples should be allowed to marry. The numbers have not changed.

      If he gets elected black people will rally around him almost universally. They will tell him to dump the gay civil rights stuff. I think he'll do that because black voters are very loyal.

      I'll stop there or else I'll cross the liberal pc line.

    1. Andoni on Aug 11, 2007 9:45:24 AM:

      Hey Amicus, I will bet you $100 that the only reason that Hillary knew Alva was in the audience is that someone from HRC briefed her on that. HRC folks are so connected to the HRC (the other HRC) campaign, that she got advance warning. If you have ever been in one of these TV situations, you would know that the lights are SO FUCKIN BRIGHT, that you can't see shit in the audience. The only way she could know he was there to recognize him is that she was briefed on it beforehand. And did you notice that the camera went to a cameo of Alva after she took the stage, but before she recognized him. A definite foreshadow....even the producer knew this recogniton was coming. Amicus, it was a staged set-up like the rest of her campaign. Very little is genuine or spontaneous. Play the video again and see how you were duped.

    1. Michael Crawford on Aug 12, 2007 11:30:05 AM:

      Sean, I am Black and let be straight up honest with you. Your comment was ill-informed in its tarnishing of Black Americans as overwhelmingly homophobic and against LGBT civil rights.

      This is a falsehood that in many ways has been promoted by white LGBT people who are ignoring the fact that the leadership of anti-gay organizations like Focus on the Family, Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America are incredibly white. It is also helpful to point out that the heads of the Catholic Church and the Mormon Church are again, white.

      Take a closer look for example at the numbers of members of the Congressional Black Caucus and how the overwhelming majority of them are co-sponsors of ENDA and the federal hate crimes. Look at leaders Rep. John Lewis, NAACP president Julian Bond, and Coretta Scott King who have all come out in favor of marriage for same-sex couples.

      There are some African-Americans who are not support for LGBT equality just as there are white Americans, Latin-Americans and Asian-Americans who do not support LGBT issues.

    1. Sean on Aug 12, 2007 4:58:07 PM:

      Michael Crawford, I believe everything you said. Yes, there are black people that are supportive of gay rights. Yes, most of the anti-gay organizations in the US are run by white people. What I am talking about is the general population; the average person.

      I role of religion plays a huge part in anti-gay attitudes. Studies have shown that the more religious a person is the more likely that person is to be anti-gay. That means that anyone of any race or place of origin can be anti-gay. Black Americans tend to be more religious and go to church more often than other groups.

    1. Brian Miller on Aug 12, 2007 10:21:41 PM:

      There's no reason that Barack Obama, as a Senator today, couldn't introduce legislation to equalize federal benefits, etc. today. . . right now.

      Considering he's got a Democratic majority in the Senate and House, he could get such a bill sent through to the president, and make it a real election issue come 2008, if he so chose.

      He doesn't because his "support for gay rights" is a campaign promise, and not something he has any intent to actually see through. Just like Hillary Clinton and the other Democratic legislators (with the exception of Kucinich), he is already in a position to make his supposed agenda happen, but doesn't.

      He hasn't sponsored the companion legislation in the Senate to end DADT. He hasn't proposed legislation to amend DOMA to eliminate the anti-gay federal law. He hasn't proposed any other laws or companion legislation on any of these other issues from the debate either.

      He'll likely continue the same record as president, with a few Bill Clinton style "rebuke the gays" bills thrown in for good measure to show his "independence."

      He's just another smooth-talking empty suit -- and apparently that's good enough for a lot of the gay Democratic Party commentariat. Just like in 1992.


    1. Queer Beacon on Aug 14, 2007 5:00:33 PM:

      Is Obama sponsoring UAFA/gay immigration rights? If he is not, how can he support equal rights? I sense that when it comes to gay rights, he's all talk, no action...

    1. Citizen Crain on Aug 15, 2007 1:37:42 AM:

      It's a fair point, Queer Beacon. Like Hillary, Obama has said he supports gay immigration rights in general, and checked the UAFA box on HRC's candidate questionnaire -- and yet has not signed on as a cosponsor.

      In their HRC statements, both raised fraud concerns about UAFA. (Hillary also questioned the bureaucratic cost, which I thought was offensive.) I'm not sure if you've followed the comments on Immigration Equality's blog, but I think legit fraud concerns can be raised to UAFA as written that don't undermine a candidate's commitment to equality.

      In Canada, U.K., Australia and most other countries with gay immigration rights, there has been a one-year cohabitation requirement for unmarried couples -- as a guard against the fraud risk. It's not a perfect standard and yes, it's not fair because straights can marry. But until we can as well, I think UAFA ought to have a cohabitation requirement as well -- perhaps with a hardship exception for couples that cannot live together for serious reasons.

      Sorry for the long reply!

    1. Sean on Aug 16, 2007 12:38:36 PM:

      There are always room for double standards, right Chris? The law SHOULD be equal to all.

    1. Citizen Crain on Aug 16, 2007 4:46:13 PM:

      Help me out Sean. I don't follow what you're talking about...

    1. Sean on Aug 16, 2007 9:51:38 PM:

      "In Canada, U.K., Australia and most other countries with gay immigration rights, there has been a one-year cohabitation requirement for unmarried couples -- as a guard against the fraud risk. It's not a perfect standard and yes, it's not fair because straights can marry."

      Whatever the standard is for unmarried opposite-sex couples is that's what the standard should be for unmarried same-sex couples.

    1. Citizen Crain on Aug 16, 2007 10:07:16 PM:

      It is the same standard, Sean. One-year cohabitation for either unmarried straights or unmarried gays. The difference is that gay couples can only marry in a few countries worldwide and many of them either have residence requirements or strict rules for tourist visas. And, of course, not all gay couples can afford to travel to one of those countries to marry and thus qualify for immigration status.

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