Obama in interview with the Advocate (advocate.com)
In a sit-down interview with the “gay” magazine the Advocate, Sen. Barack Obama said, if elected, he foresees eliminating the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell policy” and passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, opposed by many faith-based groups that argue it would force them to accept homosexuals in leadership.
Obama indicated he wants the bill to include protection for transgenders, but acknowledged opposition in Congress is strong, noted David Brody, senior national correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network’s news division, or CBN News.
“I think that’s going to be tough, and I’ve said this before. I have been clear about my interest in including gender identity in legislation, but I’ve also been honest with the groups that I’ve met with that it is a heavy lift through Congress,” he said.
“We’ve got some Democrats who are willing to vote for a non-inclusive bill, but we lose them on an inclusive bill, and we just may not be able to generate the votes,” Obama continued. “I don’t know. And obviously, my goal would be to get the strongest possible bill – “that’s what I’ll be working for.”
Obama also boasted he’s been more “vocal on gay issues to general audiences than any other presidential candidate probably in history.”
As WND reported last month, Obama issued an open letter to the “LGBT community” assuring them he believes in “full equality” for homosexuals and stating that, unlike Sen. Hillary Clinton, he advocates the complete repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.
In the letter, published on a campaign blog, Obama says he’s “running for president to build an America that lives up to our founding promise of equality for all – a promise that extends to our gay brothers and sisters.”
Obama said that throughout his career he has “fought to eliminate discrimination against LGBT (Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) Americans.”
The Democratic senator told the Advocate another priority in an Obama administration would be to make sure federal employees have the “ability to transfer health or pension benefits the same way that opposite-sex couples do.”
Obama said he thinks it can be accomplished “with some opposition, some turbulence, but I think we can get that done.”
He also wants to ensure federal benefits are available to same-sex couples who have a civil union.
“I think as more states sign civil union bills into law the federal government should be helping to usher in a time when there’s full equality in terms of what that means for federal benefits,” he said.
Asked if he were referring to the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, Obama replied, “Absolutely, and I for a very long time have been interested in repeal of DOMA.”
The Defense of Marriage Act is a law signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996 that says the federal government and individual states are not required to recognize a same-sex marriage, even if it is recognized by another state. Obama also has called for repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy of barring personnel from disclosing homosexual behavior or “orientation” while preventing authorities from investigating it.
The Christian Broadcasting Network’s Brody noted Obama appeals to some evangelicals, but “too much pro-choice, pro-gay rights talk will turn them off … along with some of the African American vote.”
In his letter issued last month, Obama says “having the right positions on the issues is only half the battle. The other half is to win broad support for those positions. And winning broad support will require stepping outside our comfort zone.”
Along with repealing the Defense of Marriage Act and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and implementing “fully inclusive laws outlawing hate crimes, he says, it’s important to bring “the message of LGBT equality to skeptical audiences as well as friendly ones, and that’s what I’ve done throughout my career.”
“I will never compromise on my commitment to equal rights for all LGBT Americans,” Obama says. “But neither will I close my ears to the voices of those who still need to be convinced. That is the work we must do to move forward together. It is difficult. It is challenging. And it is necessary.”
‘I haven’t been silent on gay issues’
The Advocate, in the preface to its Q&A with Obama, stated the presidential candidate “has been weathering a small storm lately in the LGBT community for being too tight-lipped with gay and lesbian news media.”
Obama insisted that was not a fair statement, arguing “all press feels that way at all times,” and he emphasizes speaking to general, rather than specialized press outlets.
“But I haven’t been silent on gay issues,” he said, contending, “I actually have been much more vocal on gay issues to general audiences than any other presidential candidate probably in history.”
The Advocate then asked: “I think the underlying fear of the gay community is that if you get into office, will LGBT folks be last on the priority list?”
Obama replied: “I guess my point would be that the fact that I’m raising issues accordant to the LGBT community in a general audience rather than just treating you like a special interest that is sort of off in its own little box – that, I think, is more indicative of my commitment.’
“Ultimately what that shows,” Obama said, “is that I’m not afraid to advocate on your behalf outside of church, so to speak. It’s easy to preach to the choir; what I think is harder is to speak to a broader audience about why these issues are important to all Americans.”
Asked what event or person has most affected his perceptions of or relationship to the “LGBT community,” Obama said “it starts with my mom, who just always instilled in me a belief that everybody’s of equal worth and a strong sense of empathy – that you try to see people through their eyes, stand in their shoes. So I think that applies to how I see all people.”