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    July 07, 2008

    Obama on same sex immigration

    Posted by: Andoni

    UPDATE: At the end of the post.

    Barackobamagrins Throughout the primary season I was angry that no gay reporter or gay person asked either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama a question about same sex immigration, the issue I care about most.

    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 More broadly, if DOMA is repealed, then granting federal benefits to couples who are civil unioned (or married, although he didn’t say married) would realize immigration rights.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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    1. Hawyer on Jul 8, 2008 1:23:28 AM:

      Sorry I was not plugged into this event. Didn't know BO was in town this evening.

      ... but was nonplussed at his familiarity with the issue sufficiently to intercede with your comment and complete the scenario.


    1. Lucrece on Jul 8, 2008 2:22:18 AM:

      "Difficult" in politico-speak means "Don't expect anything from me", which in turn translates to "I'll only put some effort if it is politically expedient."

      I'm not holding my breath.

    1. Kevin on Jul 8, 2008 7:41:38 AM:

      I sincerely hope you're right, Andoni. But I have to agree with Lucrece. "Difficult" usually means "never" in politics.

    1. outpostah on Jul 8, 2008 9:43:51 AM:

      Thanks for this post, Chris. It's a neat window into the depth and character of Obama. Contrast this with a question McCain got at a town hall event, wherein the questioner asked about "LGBT rights." McCain's response? He didn't know what the questioner meant.

    1. Geena on Jul 8, 2008 10:33:07 AM:

      Andoni, good reporting and thanks for spending the $2300. I'm starting to worry Obama thinks he's either John Elway or Billy Graham.

      Speaker Pelosi, Barney Frank, George Miller, and hopefully somebody, in the Senate will push these issues to Obama's desk in the first 100 days.

      If Ted Kennedy is not there to keep up the leverage, let's hope someone like Hillary will take advantage of any slippage to keep and build her political capital with the GLBT base.

    1. Chris Schultz on Jul 8, 2008 10:55:03 AM:

      Thanks for asking the question so many of us want asked. The Senator's response sounds thoughtful and reasonable, given that it is a big challenge to gain these rights. I fully believe that Senator Obama will get us much closer to that day than Senator McCain.

    1. Kary on Jul 8, 2008 10:58:04 AM:

      Well, why don't you hotshot Republican Queers sidle up to old John McCain and ask him what he's going to do about this problem?

    1. Joel Owens on Jul 8, 2008 2:37:35 PM:

      I have a question: if DOMA is repealed in its entirety, will states that don't allow marriage between two men or two women have to recognize marriages from states that do?

    1. Andoni on Jul 8, 2008 3:00:26 PM:

      As far as protection for the states who don't want same sex marriage, DOMA is an entirely unnecessary law. Most of these states have passed state laws or state constitutional amendments prohibiting gay marriage. So even if DOMA is repealed, we will still have the state laws and state constitutions to overcome. That's when we will find out what the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the US Constitution really means. Will the Supreme Court force these states to honor the marriages from other states? And with this Supreme Court, we may not like the result.

      The single biggest harm DOMA does now, is that it prevents gay married couples in CA, MA, and NY from receiving those 1200 benefits. Immigration rights is one of those benefits.

    1. Strict Scrutiny on Jul 8, 2008 3:09:03 PM:


      Reasonable legal minds can disagree on this, but I say the answer is "No, these states would not have to recognize same-sex marriages lawfully performed in CA or MA, even if DOMA is entirely repealed."

      To be very brief, the Full Faith and Credit Clause (Article IV, Section 1 of our federal constitution) requires each state to recognize the public acts (e.g. marriages) of any other state. So, on this basis, I would like to say, "Yes, states would have to recognize same-sex marriage."

      However, there is a "public policy" exception to he FFC clause. Briefly, this exception provides that no state must recognize the public acts of other states which contradict its own public policy. So, I think this exception would allow the various states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages on the grounds that it violates their long-standing public policy and tradition of reserving marriage only for opposite sex couples.

      Like I said, reasonable minds can disagree. Chris, I believe, disagrees with me on this. In this conservative climate, I don't think many federal judges would be inclined to interpret the FFC clause in a way which favors same-sex couples.

    1. Geena on Jul 8, 2008 3:27:16 PM:

      The Obama campaign has sent this out today.

      Sign up to host or attend a Platform Meeting in your neighborhood:


      Maybe if someone came up with specific wording for this issue, it would have an impact if those attending the Platform Meeting Parties submitted consistent solid worded platform planks.

    1. Joel Owens on Jul 8, 2008 4:19:09 PM:

      Thanks for the explanations Andoni and Strict. Another question. This is assuming DOMA were repealed. Are there other situations in which a person would have federal rights in one state that they couldn't get in another state?

    1. Strict Scrutiny on Jul 8, 2008 4:27:02 PM:


      I do not believe so. All U.S. citizens are protected by our laws and our federal constitution, no matter what state you live in. The question is will your same-sex spouse or partner be denied rights and benefits which derive from the maritial relationship. The answer to this is "yes" until the federal government affirmatively recognizes same-sex relationships and accords them the same dignity and respect it accords to opposite-sex marriages.

    1. Doug in Mount Vernon on Jul 8, 2008 6:27:47 PM:

      As someone who shares your situation, thank you. Thank you SO MUCH for getting this issue at least a brief passing of attention in front of Sen. Obama. It warms my heart to know that our next President was given a visible display of the real effects our inequalities have on our lives and those we love.

      Meanwhile, my Colombian partner and I just hope that temporary protective status never runs out. And that somehow, some way, by the decency of this country, a smart, well-educated, and economically self-sufficient and TAXPAYING immigrant like my partner will get a green card and be able to live with me without fear that our lack of rights for legal coupling will never harm us.

    1. Doug in Mount Vernon on Jul 8, 2008 6:34:15 PM:

      Oh yeah, and one other thing---I don't understand why immigration equality should be so much harder than full recognition of couples. I would think as a single individual right, it would be easier to make happen.

      I understand the notion about the double-whammy of gay and immigrant, but it doesn't make sense that such a narrowly applied and singular right that already exists for ALL hetersexual couples should be that impossible, politically.

    1. Mark Mead on Jul 8, 2008 9:54:30 PM:

      Don you got your message to BO and that is what counts. Its natural to get a little tongue tied in this kind of situation. The fact that he knew what you MEANT to say speaks volumes.

      Be well.


    1. Allan on Jul 10, 2008 5:06:11 PM:

      Great job, and great reporting. I felt like I was there with you. I'm watching this issue closely because of a couple I know, one of whom is here from Colombia on a student visa.

      Obama is so transparently head-and-shoulders above even most other Democrats on LGBT issues that it saddens me to read some of the sniping on this board.

      And congratulations for getting linked by Andrew Sullivan.

    1. Marta Donayre on Jul 10, 2008 5:32:06 PM:

      I like to see actions rather than words.

      I would find his statement easier to believe if he were a co-sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act. If he really believes in recognizing same-sex couples, cosponsoring this legislation would send us a message. Telling us to wait until DOMA is repealed is nice. But sponsoring the bill would send a stronger message than any nice and emotional speech he can give.

    1. Judy on Jul 10, 2008 5:41:56 PM:

      Thank you! Got the link from Andrew Sullivan who is personally at risk of being deported next year... Your post brought tears to my eyes.

      Granted, I'm heterosexual, but that does not mean I care deeply about this issue. It seems to me that Obama gave you an honest, pragmatic answer, not a knee-jerk political response. Obama appears to be aware of the difficulties of running this through Congress. Thanks for noting that he seems to be on the same page as Barney Frank.

      It grieves me that this is so. There is still far too much fear in this country - not only of LGBT love, but of a self-identified black man running for President.

      My hope is that we all can join together across gender/ideological lines to guarantee that Obama is our next President. The only guarantee is that he'll do more than John McCain.

    1. Manish on Jul 11, 2008 6:43:15 AM:

      Nice question...something I always wanted to be acknowledged , least addressed by democratic nominee for this race. I wanted to ask Hillary the same question...wonder what her reply would be ??? any guesses ?

    1. Brian Miller on Jul 11, 2008 1:33:05 PM:

      So you cried, he hugged you and said "I feel your pain," and then made some noncommittal response about how much he cared and that was it.

      Sheesh, sounds familiar doesn't it?

      Obama's a Senator. If he wanted to sponsor companion legislation to the PPIA/UAFA immigration bill, he could do so at any time. He hasn't, and he likely won't, because he doesn't want to take any flack for queer folks.

      Hugging you and saying "there, there" is not politically risky, and is an empty feel-good gesture. He'll give you that. He won't work to actually solve the problem, however.

      He just "feels your pain."

    1. Brian Miller on Jul 11, 2008 2:24:48 PM:

      Outright Libertarians has been happy to help Obama with this "difficulty":


    1. Outraged European on Jul 18, 2008 4:06:36 PM:

      Dear United States.

      As someone that has grown up in a country (Norway) with gay immigration rights (civil union and now gay marriage) for about 15 years, I never felt inferior or discriminated before getting an American boyfriend. Because of your totally outrageous and medieval treatement of gay and lesbians, my partner and I are forced to live together in Europe away from his friends, family and our home in the US.

      I thought the U.S. of A. was the land of the free... apparently that is only if you can fit into the 2000 year old biblical definition, writen by cave men in the Middle East, of what living the right life is about! The US is no better than Nazi Germany, in its lack of respect for its minorities!

      Please change the law so that we can live our life together where my boyfriend and I belongs! I do not care how you do it, what the law is attached to or who says what... JUST CHANGE THE LAW AND SHOW RESPECT!

    1. Outraged European on Jul 18, 2008 4:09:24 PM:

      Oh! And thank you so much for reminding Obama, Andoni!

      :) Love!

    1. William Moriarty on Aug 27, 2008 8:45:28 AM:

      American living with a Brit in England. "Difficult" might also mean exactly what it says. We are not voting for Obama as our next dictator - no matter how important this issue is to those of us involved and our families. Getting this through the Congress is difficult. However, an overwhelming Democratic victory in November would help. Despite the impact of the currency exchange I support financially candidates all over the US who support our cause.

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