On Apr. 17, 2008, Q-Notes let down North Carolina’s LGBT community by refusing to endorse either of the remaining Democratic presidential candidates (www.q-notes.com/2008/04/17/primary-concerns/). It makes no sense for Q-Notes to expect North Carolinians to “get out there and work your rear off” for the eventual nominee, while at the same time declaring your own support for the remaining Democratic candidates to be “remarkably tepid.”
My own enthusiasm for Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign cannot be overstated, and I have friends who would fall on their swords for Sen. Hillary Clinton. If the editorial staff of Q-Notes could not have found something to get excited about in either of these remarkable candidates for the Democratic nomination, then they must not be following the same campaign as the rest of us.
Q-Notes endorsed another strong advocate for our community, former Sen. John Edwards, earlier this year. In doing so, the publication focused on Sen. Edwards’ demonstrated support for LGBT rights, rather than to let his more limited shortfalls (including previous statements about how his religious beliefs guide his opposition to same-sex marriage) disqualify him from consideration. I was thus disappointed by the different standards Q-Notes used to justify its refusal to endorse either of the two remaining Democratic candidates.
One of Sen. Obama’s greatest strengths has been his ability to draw support from people across the chasms of race, gender and ideology. He has found allies not only in pro-choice and pro-gay stalwarts, including Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy, quirky bisexual feminist Camille Paglia, and openly gay U.S. Senate candidate Jim Neal, but also from much more conservative elected officials and other opinion leaders, such as pro-life Pennsylvania Sen. Robert Casey, former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn, and conservative gay blogger Andrew Sullivan. Forging such coalitions across cultural and religious divides while holding true to core beliefs and positions will be imperative for any Democrat to win in November.
Q-Notes and others within our community understandably will have many disagreements with some of Sen. Obama’s advocates, including the anti-gay Rev. Donnie McClurkin, who unfortunately was part of the campaign’s early efforts to reach out to evangelical black congregations in South Carolina. However, it is the job of our community’s leaders and publications to draw a distinction between the beliefs and statements of the Donnie McClurkins of the world and those of the candidates they support.
As our next president, Sen. Obama will advocate for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the expansion of hate crimes legislation to include protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity, passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (including coverage for transgendered individuals), and enactment of domestic partnership and civil union laws that confer the same rights and benefits of marriage on same-sex couples.
Sen. Obama also supports the complete repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, more than can be said for Sen. Clinton, who wishes to keep a portion of this indefensible legislation in place. With the notable exception of Sen. Obama’s opposition to same-sex marriage (a position shared by Sen. Clinton), it would be hard to find any space between the dreams and goals of the LGBT community and those of Sen. Obama himself.
Since the beginning of this long campaign, Sen. Obama’s advocacy for our community in front of non-gay and even potentially hostile audiences has been unmatched by any other candidate. One of many examples of this came on Martin Luther King Day, when Sen. Obama spoke in Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church. In front of a predominantly African-American audience, Sen. Obama called on the black community to do its part to fight homophobia, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia.
It is a call to action that Senator Obama has delivered to audiences of all backgrounds since even before he so famously declared support for his “gay friends in the Red States” during the 2004 keynote address to the Democratic National Convention.
Your publication thus could not have been more inaccurate or unfair than when it accused Sen. Obama of engaging in “political expediency.” And while Q-Notes brushes off Sen. Obama with a rhetorical flourish, declaring in relation to his campaign that “the less said about LGBT issues, the better,” Sen. Obama’s approach will continue to be one that speaks more about LGBT issues, even when it is politically inexpedient to do so. I encourage all LGBT North Carolinians to vote for Sen. Barack Obama on May 6, 2008.
— Doug Ferguson was co-chair of UNC-Chapel Hill’s LGBT student group, now known as GLBTSA, in 1992-93. He also served as the editorial page editor of The Daily Tar Heel, UNC’s mainstream student newspaper, where he published weekly columns on issues affecting the LGBT community. Doug is now an attorney for the federal government in Chicago, where he lives with his partner of 11 years, Chip Howard. Doug and Chip were married in Provincetown, Mass., on Sept. 10, 2005.