Obama: ‘Change comes from the bottom up’

Q-Notes had the opportunity for a Q&A with Sen. Barack Obama and his LGBT outreach advisor Eric Stern. Our questions and the Senator’s and Stern’s responses are below.

Q-Notes: How has the campaign reached out to LGBT Americans and how does it plan to reach out to LGBT North Carolinians? How do we figure in your overall campaign?

SENATOR OBAMA: Throughout the course of this campaign, I have been bringing a message of LGBT equality, and of the need to fight back against homophobia and the scapegoating of LGBT Americans, to broad audiences around the country. I included this message in the announcement of my candidacy for President, in my speech before the Ebenezer Baptist Church on the eve of Martin Luther King Day, and in addresses to audiences of thousands in states around the country, from Texas to Colorado, Pennsylvania to Arizona.

In addition, my campaign has worked hard to reach out to the LGBT community. We have an aggressive LGBT national and state-based LGBT outreach operation. I recently spoke with The Advocate about my priorities for the LGBT community, and we have sent staff, surrogates and representatives to LGBT events and candidates’ forums around the country. We are using many of these strategies to reach the LGBT voters of North Carolina.

Some are saying that Sen. Clinton’s win in Pennsylvania was boosted by Sen. Obama’s refusal to speak to the local gay press. How important is it to the campaign that Sen. Obama and his staff speak and interact with local gay media and organizations?

ERIC STERN: We ran an aggressive LGBT field operation in Pennsylvania, and we couldn’t be happier with our 30-point victory in Philadelphia. Our campaign is in regular and active contact with LGBT press outlets around the country, including local gay press, and we will continue to be. Obama has conducted two major interviews with The Advocate, written an op-ed that appeared in the newspapers which belong to the National Gay Newspaper Guild and another for the LGBT weekly Outlook, and ours was the first presidential campaign to place LGBT specific advertisements in local LGBT papers.

Many LGBT activists will say that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have our community’s best interest at heart. What do you say to such statements?

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SENATOR OBAMA: I have had a clear and long-standing commitment to LGBT equality. I worked for many years as a member of the Illinois Senate to enact a fully inclusive anti-discrimination law, the Illinois Human Rights Act, which protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in the workplace, housing and places of public accommodation. We succeeded in enacting that law just as I was leaving for the U.S. Senate. I support the complete repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and the complete equalization of rights and benefits for same-sex couples at the federal level. I will work to eradicate the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy and enact the Matthew Shepard hate crime law and a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

The second thing I will say relates to the priorities of people who advocate for the LGBT community. I have always said that I don’t think that the LGBT community should take its cues from me or some political leader in terms of what they think is right for them. Real change comes from the bottom up, not the top down. As your President, I will fight to make LGBT equality a reality at the federal level. But it is the LGBT community that has to decide what is in their best interest, and to help make it happen by engaging actively with the political process.

Are there any out LGBT citizens in the running for possible presidential appointments should you win the nomination and general election?

SENATOR OBAMA: It is premature to talk about presidential appointments while we are still determining who will be the nominee, but I can certainly say that out LGBT citizens will be included in the appointments to my administration.

Q-Notes originally endorsed Sen. John Edwards. Part of our reasoning was that we felt he understood what it is like to grow up in and around working class people in the South. As a man who has held positions of power and influence for years, how do you plan on really connecting with and representing the needs and concerns of small town, working-class Americans?

SENATOR OBAMA: I have been working for working people my entire life. I started my career as a community organizer — advocating for workers laid off from steel mills, working to get asbestos removed from apartment buildings, and helping to ensure that every eligible person could vote. After law school, I turned down the big money jobs to become a civil rights lawyer. And as a Senator, I have worked both in Illinois and in Washington to make sure that government works for the people and is accountable to the people, bringing tax relief to working families, health care to 150,000 additional Illinois residents and passing tough ethics laws that limited the influence of corporate lobbyist over the legislative process.

If Sen. Obama wins the nomination, would he be willing to ask Sen. Edwards to be his running mate?

ERIC STERN: Obama salutes John and Elizabeth Edwards for dedicating their campaign and their careers to standing up to special interests and fighting for those families whose voices aren’t often heard — their advocacy will have a lasting impact on this campaign and on the next president. We’ve got to win the nomination first before speculating on this front.

If Sen. Obama is unable to capture the nomination, will he return to the Senate and introduce legislation repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act?

ERIC STERN: Going further than his opponents, Obama believes we should repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act. He’ll continue to fight for equal rights throughout his life, from whatever position he holds.

At this time LGBT Americans do not have access to marriage or civil unions at the federal level. Basic familial rights — inheritance, hospital visitation, etc. — are out of the grasp of most gay couples, like those here in North Carolina. How will you address the basic human rights of these families?

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SENATOR OBAMA: The State of North Carolina has recently taken an important step forward by including equal hospital visitation rights for the loved ones of all North Carolinians, including LGBT people, in its Patients’ Bill of Rights. I commend the North Carolina Medical Care Commission for this action, which demonstrates that we are all better off when we treat our LGBT brothers and sisters with equality and dignity. As for the other rights that same-sex couples still lack, I believe LGBT Americans are entitled to the same rights and benefits as straight couples and I will fight for equality as president.

According to the CDC, men who have sex with men account for nearly 50 percent of all new HIV/AIDS cases in the U.S. Despite this, many in the gay community feel that the government continues to turn a blind eye to the crisis. How will you strengthen HIV/AIDS prevention efforts and funding relative to gay men, in particular?

SENATOR OBAMA: Fighting the HIV / AIDS crisis requires a comprehensive approach. Here are some of the most important steps that I will take as President:

(1) I will develop and begin to implement a comprehensive national HIV/AIDS strategy that includes all federal agencies. The strategy will be designed to reduce HIV infections, increase access to care and reduce HIV-related health disparities. It will include measurable goals, timelines and accountability mechanisms.

(2) Awareness and education are key to fighting this disease. In Illinois, I passed legislation to require public service announcements promoting HIV/AIDS screening. As president, I will continue to increase awareness of the disease. I will work to enact and implement the REAL Act, which will promote age-appropriate education for young people that will include a safe-sex message and science-based health information alongside education about abstinence and responsible behavior.

(3) I will work to secure full funding for the Ryan White Care Act to support state and local health-care and prevention programs, including those specifically targeted to gay men.

(4) I will promote condom distribution — for example with the JUSTICE Act, which will make condoms available to incarcerated men so as to combat the spread of HIV in our prisons.

(5) Under my administration, the health needs of the LGBT community will receive explicit and serious attention.

Here at the Q-Notes office, we’ve been a bit dismayed by Sen. Obama’s refusal to offer a sincere apology for the Columbia, S.C., Donnie McClurkin incident. We’ve felt that McClurkin’s words did a huge amount of damage to the Carolinas’ LGBT community, specifically those LGBT individuals in the African-American community. Would Sen. Obama ever be willing to fully apologize for any hurt McClurkin might have caused to Christian and African-American LGBT Carolinians?

ERIC STERN: When this situation occurred, I watched Obama closely to see how he would respond to the concerns of the community. I was impressed with the way in which he immediately made clear that he strongly disagreed with McClurkin’s views and then used this moment as an opportunity to be the first presidential candidate to announce a comprehensive plan on how he would advance our agenda from the White House. From that moment forward, he has never looked back and has been the only presidential candidate to speak directly to the American people about the need for progress towards LGBT equality. He has done so even when he knows he will not get a round of applause, and when he knows it will be awkward or uncomfortable. This demonstrates the kind of leadership and courage that we need in a President; especially after 8 years of having a President who has used the megaphone of the White House to create an atmosphere of intolerance and bias towards LGBT Americans. Barack Obama has demonstrated his willingness-even when unpopular-to stand up for our community and speak out against homophobia and for progress towards LGBT equality before any audience.

Ed. Note: With the cooperation of his campaign staff, these questions were submitted to Sen. Obama and his advisor Eric Stern via email. The responses we received were expressly credited to the candidate and Stern.

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13 Replies to “Obama: ‘Change comes from the bottom up’”

  1. Read more about Hillary Clinton’s History of Support for LGBT Issues:

    http://www.hillaryclinton.com/feature/lgbt

  2. Read more about Hillary Clinton’s History of Support for LGBT Issues:

    http://www.hillaryclinton.com/feature/lgbt

    THIS WEEK’S EVENTS FOR LGBT AMERICANS FOR HILLARY:

    TakeoverHillary in Charlotte, THURSDAY NITE.
    at The Forum (College & Sixth Street Downtown)
    6pm. Free Admission. Live Musical Guest, Star of Broadway and ABC’s “Pushing Daisies”, Ellen Greene. Cash Bar. No Cover / Free Admission.

    AIDSWALK CHARLOTTE on SATURDAY MORNING
    register online for Hillary Clinton 2008 Team.
    Or just meet us at Gateway Villary Uptown at 8am!
    http://www.aidswalkcharlotte.org

    AFTERPARTY & RALLY for HILLARY on SATURDAY NITE
    at Liaisons. Check out http://www.charlotte4hillary.com for more information on all of these events. Call Nathan @ 704-606-7268 with questions or to RSVP.

  3. Upcoming events for the Obama campaign:

    FRIDAY, MAY 2

    Charlotte, NC
    GET OUT THE VOTE RALLY WITH BARACK OBAMA
    Cricket Arena
    2700 E. Independence Blvd.
    Charlotte, NC 28205

    Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis during these hours:

    Thursday, May 1 – 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM
    Friday, May 2 – 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM

    Click here to find a distribution Location near you: http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/post/zachedwards/gGCnQM

    AIDS WALK Charlotte, SATURDAY, MAY 3

    A group of volunteers supporting Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign have formed a team to participate in the AIDS WALK Charlotte this Saturday.

    The OBAMA 08 Team already has raised more than $1,000 to support AIDS WALK Charlotte and the Regional AIDS Interfaith Network (”RAIN”). RAIN provides support for individuals impacted by HIV and AIDS in the Charlotte area.

    Anyone who wants more information regarding how to support the OBAMA 08 Team is encouraged to visit the AIDS WALK Charlotte website at http://www.aidswalkcharlotte.org to join the team or make a donation. Same-day registration is also possible beginning at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday morning at the Gateway Village Atrium downtown.

  4. More information about Friday evening’s GOTV rally at Cricket Arena with Barack Obama. Doors open at 3:30 p.m., and the rally starts at 5:30 p.m. Online ticketing is available by going to the following website:

    http://my.barackobama.com/page/s/charlotte

    Let’s show Sen. Barack Obama that the Charlotte LGBT community supports him! Get your tickets now.

  5. […] best interest, and to help make it happen by engaging actively with the political process.” [Q-Notes] May 1, 2008 · Link · Respond Related Posts • 05.01.08: Gayest Awards […]

  6. Leland Frances May 1, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    Liar, liar, f–king pants on fire!!!

    LIE: “We succeeded in enacting [Illinois’ LGBT rights] law just as I was leaving for the U.S. Senate.”

    TRUTH: “Whadda ya mean “We” Obama Man?” He mysteriously let nine months pass after SB3186 was introduced before he was elected to the US Senate without even signing on as a cosponsor as he had other bills. His replacement in the state senate did join as a cosponsor. Obama was no longer even in the state legislature when the law was passed.

    HALF TRUTH: “I support the complete repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.”

    FULL TRUTH: He still supports any state’s right to ban gay unions regardless of federal DOMA.

    LIE: “and the complete equalization of rights and benefits for same-sex couples at the federal level”

    TRUTH: “complete equalization of rights” would include use of the word “marriage” which Obama has repeatedly opposed.

    CLAIM: “I will work to eradicate the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.”

    TRUTH: He’s already not working hard enough when he stated that opposing DADT would not be a “litmus test” for his military Joint Chiefs of Staff. Is he going to be the Commander-in-Chief or the tail wagged by six dogs?

    LIE: “I included this message [of LGBT equality] in the announcement of my candidacy for President, in my speech before the Ebenezer Baptist Church on the eve of Martin Luther King Day, and in addresses to audiences of thousands in states around the country.

    TRUTH: What he actually said—

    Candidacy announcement: “We’re distracted from our real failures, and told to blame the other party, or gay people, or immigrants.” NO mention of “LGBT equality.”

    Ebenezer Baptist Church: “We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them.” NO mention of “LGBT equality.”

    Addresses…around the country: variations on his “told to blame” statement above. He never talks about our EQUALITY except when asked. Just using the “gay word” is attention without action.

    SHAME ON YOU, SENATOR!!!

  7. Leland,

    Barack Obama’s HRC Congressional scorecard for the 109th Congress actually shows a slightly higher score (89 out of 100) than that awarded to Hillary Clinton (88 out of 100).

    http://www.hrc.org/documents/HRCscorecard2006.pdf

    This scorecard is based on actual votes reflective of support for LGBT-friendly legislation (and opposition to LGBT-hostile legislation). Once again, I am mystified by all the hostility directed against a candidate who is a clear advocate for the LGBT communty … at least to the same extent as Hillary Clinton and — based on the HRC Scorecard for the 109th Congress — even slightly more supportive of us.

    Can we all tone down the anger and hyperbole a little? The LGBT community would be blessed to have either of the remaining two Democratic candidates as our next President. We should certainly continue to advocate for the candidate we favor, but — once again — let’s save our anger for the Republican party and John McCain, who have absolutely abysmal records when it comes to supporting LGBT causes.

  8. Claudia Zacchara May 1, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    The fact is that Hillary did not have an exgay gospel singer villify the LGBT COMMUNITY IN SC to gain the black religous vote

  9. On Wednesday- NC State Senator Julia Boseman was asked by the Hillary campaign to go out and stump in small towns. Senator Boseman happily obliged- her team-mate in this endeavor? Former President Bill Clinton. Why is this important? Senator Boseman is the only Lesbian serving (openly) in the NC Senate.

    read more here-
    http://www.politicalamnesia.blogspot.com

  10. Q-Notes could have been more insistent on asking why Obama hasn’t sponsored a bill to get rid of DADT. Since his mouthpiece claims that the senator’s view is that “we should repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” why hasn’t he done anything about it while a member of Congress? After all, the president can’t get rid of DADT with a stroke of the pen — only Congress can change the Uniform Code of Military Justice. How will he be able to do anything as president when he clearly did nothing as senator?

  11. Gerald,

    Couldn’t the same question have been directed at Hillary? She’s been in the Senate for seven years.

    — Doug

  12. […] April 30, 2008: I have always said that I don’t think that the LGBT community should take its cues from me or some political leader in terms of what they think is right for them. Real change comes from the bottom up, not the top down. As your President, I will fight to make LGBT equality a reality at the federal level. But it is the LGBT community that has to decide what is in their best interest, and to help make it happen by engaging actively with the political process. […]

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