Saturday, April 12, 2008

Obama's Gay Views

Senator Barack Obama sat down with the Advocate's Kerry Eleveld to discuss some LGBT issues and where he stands if he is elected President of the USA. Being in Ireland and busy with other things, I have not heard much from Senator Obama on where he stands on LGBT subjects. I thought it was just because I lived over here in Ireland and just wasn't up to snuff on the election coverage. But apparently he has not done much talking on LGBT issues until this interview.

After reading this article I am still not sure what to think about him if he does end up being the Democratic nominee.

Here are some excerpts from the interview.

The Advocate: Let’s start with what’s hot, why the silence on gay issues? You’ve only done one other interview with the LGBT press. I know people wish they were hearing more from you.
Sen. Obama:
I don’t think it’s fair to say silence on gay issues. The gay press may feel like I’m not giving them enough love. But basically, all press feels that way at all times. Obviously, when you’ve got limited amount of time, you’ve got so many outlets. We tend not to do a whole bunch of specialized press. We try to do general press for a general readership.
But I haven’t been silent on gay issues. What’s happened is, I speak oftentimes to gay issues to a public general audience. When I spoke at Ebenezer Church for King Day, I talked about the need to get over the homophobia in the African-American community, when I deliver my stump speeches routinely I talk about the way that antigay sentiment is used to divide the country and distract us from issues that we need to be working on, and I include gay constituencies as people that should be treated with full honor and respect as part of the American family.
So I actually have been much more vocal on gay issues to general audiences than any other presidential candidate probably in history. What I probably haven’t done as much as the press would like is to put out as many specialized interviews. But that has more to do with our focus on general press than it does on … I promise you the African-American press says the same thing.

The Advocate: If you were elected, what do you plan to do for the LGBT community -- what can you reasonably get done?
Sen. Obama: I reasonably can see “don’t ask, don’t tell” eliminated. I think that I can help usher through an Employment Non-Discrimination Act and sign it into law.

The Advocate: You think it’s transgender-inclusive?
Sen. Obama: 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. 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. I don’t know. And obviously, my goal would be to get the strongest possible bill -- that’s what I’ll be working for.

The Advocate: Back to “don’t ask, don’t tell” real quick -- you’ve said before you don’t think that’s a heavy lift. Of course, it would be if you had Joint Chiefs who were against repeal. Is that something you’ll look at?
Sen. Obama: I would never make this a litmus test for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Obviously, there are so many issues that a member of the Joint Chiefs has to deal with, and my paramount obligation is to get the best possible people to keep America safe. But I think there’s increasing recognition within the Armed Forces that this is a counterproductive strategy -- ya know, we’re spending large sums of money to kick highly qualified gays or lesbians out of our military, some of whom possess specialties like Arab-language capabilities that we desperately need. That doesn’t make us more safe, and what I want are members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who are making decisions based on what strengthens our military and what is going to make us safer, not ideology.

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