Obama's "Advocate" Interview

Barack Obama's interview with the Advocate was released earlier today. In it, he discusses a number of queer issues, including "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," same-sex marriage, and a trans-inclusive ENDA, as well as how his own views on queer issues were formed. It's an interesting read, and, while I'm not a complete Obama fanboy, I do appreciate that he's done this interview, and I support Obama, even though I'm Canadian and therefore my opinion really won't make a difference come November.

On his lack of interviews and appearances in queer-specific venues:
"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. Because ultimately what that shows 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."
My view: Alright, I'll buy it, though that doesn't mean I don't want to see more interviews with queer news sources.

"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."
My view: Right on! Now, let's see if you follow through on this one.

On same-sex marriage:
"an area that I’m very interested in is making sure that 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."

"[M]y commitment is to try to make sure that we are moving in the direction of full equality."

[Q:By asking the LGBT community to accept civil unions for now, aren't you asking them to "wait their turn?"]
"Anybody who’s been at an LGBT event with me can testify that my message is very explicit -- I don’t think that the gay and lesbian community, the LGBT community, should take its cues from me or some political leader in terms of what they think is right for them. It’s not my place to tell the LGBT community, "Wait your turn.""
My view: Obama tends to waffle a little around this point. He's made a fairly good point though: We won't gain equality by waiting for it to be handed down to us. And he doens't speak of civil unions as the best we're going to get, but rather, as a step in the right direction, which I can appreciate.

On the ENDA:
"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... my goal would be to get the strongest possible bill -- that’s what I’ll be working for."
My view: While I'm disappointed that he's not pushing harder for a trans-inclusive ENDA, the fact that he doesn't dismiss us out of hand is still a good sign.

On Religion and Homophobia:

"Well, I think what’s important is to have some of that church leadership speak up and change its attitudes, because I think a lot of its members are taking cues from that leadership."
My view: Easier said than done.

On Donnie McClurkin, the "ex-gay" gospel singer who was listed as the headline performer for Obama's South Carolina tour:
"[M]y campaign is premised on trying to reach as many constituencies as possible and to go into as many places as possible, and sometimes that creates discomfort or turbulence... And that creates some discomfort because people discover, gosh, within the Democratic Party or within Barack Obama’s campaign or within whatever sets of constituencies there are going to be some different points of view that might even be offensive to some folks. That’s not unique to this issue."
My view: While I feel that letting McClurkin use this as an opportunity to spout off on homosexuality was a poor decision on Obama's part, I can see where he's coming from with his explanation. Freedom of speech is important to me, and that freedom can't be limited to those with certain views. People have a right to say what they believe (so long as it is not meant to incite hatred or violence), even when there's absolutely no evidence to support their views.

Overall: I don't agree with him on everything, but if I were a US citizen, I'd likely vote for him. He comes off as sincere, rather than patronizing. He's not offering quick-fix solutions, and is admitting that there will be barriers, but he seems to have a plan to work around those barriers to do what he possibly can. Personally, I appreciate that, as it shows a level of honesty that politicians tend to lack.

I'm waiting for the backlash on this from the religious right. After all, when a presidential candidate does an interview in a queer publication and states that he'll work for equality, you know that someone from the "moral majority" is going to have a meltdown over his support of "faggotry," "sodomy," and "perversion."

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