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President Obama’s campaign kicks off its appeal to LGBT community for its votes…and buxx

As expected, Team Obama is taking credit for LGBT advances that many people outside of the Beltway had to fight all along the way for against political homophobia in the administration and a chronically passive professional LGBT community. With his “evolution” on marriage equality, now the campaign expects the gAyTM to open as it never has before. Karen Ocamb has a great round-up of the kick-off, “Obama For America Launches ‘Pride’ Campaign to Energize LGBT Voters.”

Timing is everything and President Obama’s re-election campaign is counting on LGBT Pride Month this June to energize LGBT voters.  On Wednesday, May 23, the Chicago-based national campaign announced the new effort headed by Obama For America (OFA) LGBT National Vote Director Jamie Citron and National Campaign Co-Chair Joe Solmonese. They are particularly focused on creating a block-by-block grassroots outreach effort in the difficult swing states of Pennsylvania, Colorado, Nevada and Michigan.

A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll indicates that the presidential election this November will be very close and some LGBT politicos fear that LGBT voters may not realize how high the stakes really are.

Yesterday in Los Angeles, Eric Bauman, the openly gay Vice Chair of the California Democratic Party and Chair of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, gathered a roomful of mostly young LGBT leaders on Harvey Milk Day to discuss what LGBT Angelinos can do and why Obama’s re-election is so critical to the LGBT community.

“President Obama is the first President to fully embrace all rights for LGBT Americans, from opposing discrimination in employment to supporting marriage equality,” Bauman said.  “In our community, talk about promises kept by the President: ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is no more; for the first time, federal civil rights law recognizes sexual orientation and gender identity as protected class with the Matthew Shepard and James Bird Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act; for the first time in history, a President of the United States supports marriage equality.  LGBT Americans has seen more progress under President Obama than any other time in U.S. history.  And we stand with President Barack Obama in 2012.”

Take a look at this five-minute love-fest featuring the accomplishments, large and small, designed to get LGBTs in line for the fall campaign.

Glee star Jane Lynch narrates this documentary about LGBT rights in America. The video features a candid interview with President Obama, who speaks about the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, why he supports marriage equality, and what’s at stake for the LGBT community in this election.

Particularly amusing is the President’s statement that he didn’t know whether he could get DADT repeal done. Gee, until people from GetEqual (including barista Autumn Sandeen) chained themselves to the White House fence and gave the White House a severe case of agita, it didn’t look like that was going to happen at all.

It’s instructive to read Michelangelo Signorile’s column, “Obama and Gay Marriage: A Lesson for All Progressives and the Obama Campaign,” in light of this video release, because many of the advances made in LGBT rights have accelerated because of that pressure , being that thorn in the side of the administration.

We were told by the Democratic strategists and the campaign pollsters, the Democratic establishment, that coming out for marriage equality would be harmful to the president. The establishment pundits, gay and straight, were defending the White House, giving the president a pass, as were the establishment gay groups. The DNC’s openly gay treasurer, Andy Tobias, continually defended the president’s record and continually predicted disaster if he were to go further on LGBT rights.

…For several years the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and other groups went easy on the president, ready to accept the failure of “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal at various points, and allowing the president to continue to oppose marriage equality. The Human Rights Campaign endorsed the president over a year ago and spent nearly a year vigorously excusing his position against marriage equality.

The effort to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” in 2010 had stagnated, and if not for people like Lt. Dan Choi and others from the group Get Equal chaining themselves to the White House gate, as well as the Log Cabin Republicans continuing a lawsuit against the government, the issue would have died in the media. The pressure simply wasn’t coming from the mainstream gay groups, which were afraid of losing access, and even Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was critical of the White House for not providing leadership. But the grassroots pressure continued right up until the end. Now, the White House rightly touts “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal as a major accomplishment and runs on it.

And the progressives that kept saying “wait, he needs time to do X” or “wait, the midterms are coming” in response to assertive action by the LGBT community found themselves left wanting by this President on a host of issues near and dear to them.

Honestly, the incessant drumbeat for the President to come out re: marriage equality, while important on one level, is pretty meaningless for those LGBTs sitting in places without even a sliver of employment non-discrimination protection at the state level.  The real value of his evolution has been the absolute validation that using the bully pulpit moves public opinion, and that if the Obama campaign uses it, minds are changed. It’s called leadership. However, this is a White House that consistently fallen on the timid side of anything political.

The fact is, after all the hand-wringing about how crossing the marriage equality threshhold would be certain political death for Barack Obama, all it did was put into stark relief how pathetically backward and intellectually bankrupt Mitt Romney is on the issue. Romney, who signed the National Organization’s anti-gay pledge in order to kiss the ring of fundamentalists, has called for a federal amendment and reiterates his support for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). He can barely utter that  it’s OK for same-sex couples to adopt and cannot even support  domestic partnership benefits and hospital visitation rights  — he says it’s up to the states. (The President has his own little “states rights” problem when it comes to marriage equality.) I suppost those unhappy with this President can choose to stay home — and please, that’s not an option, particularly when there are essential downticket races that every citizen should show up at the polls to vote on. Look what happened with Amendment One. We couldn’t get the majority of voters who believe that gay and lesbian couples should have some legal recognition off their asses and to the polls; a compelling argument to do so wasn’t achieved or resonated. That complacency and apathy is what the Obama campaign is worried about.

At this point movement energy needs to be on turning out the teabaggers on the Hill and getting in the votes to pass ENDA, which will free from the shackles of discrimination and the closet millions of LGBTs now in fear of losing their jobs.

And the President? He needs to sign the federal executive order barring discrimination by contractors doing business with the federal government. Now. That’s a move worth opening the gAyTM for.


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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding