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Obama, gay Democrats pitch four more years for the president at DNC
by Chuck Colbert
2012-09-12

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The role of government and that of change top priorities—come Election Day, Nov. 6—for LGBT voters trekking the road to full gay equality. And President Barack Obama left little doubt on those two scores during his acceptance speech Sept. 6 in the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C..

"We don't think government can solve all our problems," the president told adoring delegates. "But we don't think that government is the source of all our problems—any more than are welfare recipients, or corporations, or unions, or immigrants, or gays, or any other group we're told to blame for our troubles."

There is a positive role for government in the lives of all Americans, Obama insisted. Sound government polices affect peoples lives for the better. And change is about the people who make it happen, said Obama.

"So you see, the election four years ago wasn't about me. It was about you. My fellow citizens—you were the change," the president explained.

"You're the reason there's a little girl with a heart disorder in Phoenix who'll get the surgery she needs because an insurance company can't limit her coverage. "

"You did that.

"You're the reason a young man in Colorado who never thought he'd be able to afford his dream of earning a medical degree is about to get that chance. You made that possible."

Sure enough, Obama highlighted the change that he, his administration, and Democratic Party have now fully embraced—and accomplished.

"You're the reason a young immigrant who grew up here and went to school here and pledged allegiance to our flag will no longer be deported from the only country she's ever called home; why selfless soldiers won't be kicked out of the military because of who they are or who they love; why thousands of families have finally been able to say to the loved ones who served us so bravely: 'Welcome home,'" said Obama.

The president spoke to marriage equality, which the Democrats have now endorsed in a historic first for a major U.S. political party.

"If you turn away now—if you buy into the cynicism that the change we fought for isn't possible…well, change will not happen. If you give up on the idea that your voice can make a difference, then other voices will fill the void: lobbyists and special interests; the people with the $10 million checks who are trying to buy this election and those who are making it harder for you to vote; Washington politicians who want to decide who you can marry, or control health care choices that women should make for themselves," the president said.

"Only you can make sure that doesn't happen. Only you have the power to move us forward," Obama added.

Forward, indeed—it was only eight years ago that Calif. Sen. Dianne Feinstein said advocacy of same-sex marriage was "too much, too fast, too soon."

Eight years before that (1996), then President Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) into law.

But that was then and this is now. The Department of Justice is no longer defending DOMA in federal court.

Earlier this spring, the president himself had fully "evolved."

Leaving Charlotte, LGBT delegates—nearly 8 percent and a record high—to the Democratic National Convention could not be happier or energized.

"The pursuit of LGBT equality was on full display on the last night of our 2012 Democratic National Convention," said Clark Williams of San Jose, Calif., a delegate and co-chair of the LGBT Caucus of the California Democratic Party.

"Speaker after speaker pledged their support for the freedom-to- marry plank in the party platform, praised the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and called for the end of the Defense of Marriage Act," he emailed.

"For LGBT Americans, President Obama's enthralling and electric speech was the last and greatest show of support for LGBT equality," said Williams. "Our President highlighted his efforts to end discrimination in our armed forces and cited the appeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' as one of his proudest legislative accomplishments."

Williams also spoke in personal terms about the effects of a toxic political climate where right-wing religious extremists and similarly predisposed GOP partisans rely on gay equality as a wedge issue.

He said, "President Obama's appeals for a more cooperative and conciliatory political culture in Washington included chastising the GOP for unfairly marginalizing LGBT families.

"For me—a gay man and a father to a nine-year-old little girl—I was humbled and warmed by the President's understanding of how prejudice and scapegoating represents the very worst of America. The president and the First Lady are champions of our community and they are committed to furthering the cause of equality for all.

"Without question, LGBT Americans have a committed and vigorous ally in the White House. As [the president] framed what is at stake in this election, [Obama] made it crystal clear that Americans who believe in moving the nation forward cannot sit this election out."

Accordingly, Williams affirmed a commitment to get out the LGBT vote for Obama. "As LGBT families will continue to benefit tremendously from this president and his administration, LGBT Americans everywhere must become active participants in the 60 days remaining of this presidential campaign," Williams said. "A Romney-Ryan win would threaten all of our LGBT achievements and dramatically set back the march towards full LGBT equality."

National Stonewall Democrats Executive Director Jerame Davis could not contain his enthusiasm for the Obama-Biden ticket: "I'm fired up and ready to go! Last night was the culmination of a week-long case for another term for President Obama and there is no doubt this president has more to offer America—LGBT Americans and otherwise—than the Romney-Ryan ticket.

"I spent a lot of time with LGBT delegates throughout the convention. Last night, I ran into a number of them after the president's speech. They were energized, enthusiastic, and ready to go to the ends of the Earth to re-elect the most LGBT-inclusive President in history. Our community will be out in force between now and in November, and we will turn out in droves at the ballot box, too."

With all eyes on Election Day, he continued, "The Obama team has an amazing LGBT outreach program that has already launched in all 50 states. In addition, Stonewall Democrats will be knocking on doors, making phone calls, and raising money to ensure that we don't lose the momentum now. The energy of our community is electrifying and the next 60 days are going to be critical to continuing to build on the unprecedented progress we've accomplished under this President."

"This is our time. This is our election. And we cannot afford to go back now. Four more years!" exclaimed Davis.

Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov voiced similar sentiments. "The approach to LGBT equality by the two candidates could not be any more different. On the one hand, we had President Obama express and reaffirm his commitment to LGBT equality, including marriage equality. On the other hand, we had Mitt Romney express and reaffirm his opposition to LGBT right, including his party's call for a constitutional amendment, which would enshrine this bigotry into our founding document, said Cherkasov.

"The choice for President —for those who care about LGBT rights—could not be easier this election cycle," Cherkasov added.

"I believe that supporting full LGBT equality is a winning issue, and the president's reelection, coming on the heels of full-throttle support for marriage, would be a wake-up call for those on the sidelines and a huge boost of energy for those of us fighting on the ground," said Cherkasov.

As Democrats convened in convention for three days, speaker after speaker spoke out for gay rights, affirming full LGBT equality.

First Lady Michelle Obama went so far as to position same-sex civil marriage as all-American as apple pie.

"If proud Americans can be who they are and boldly stand at the altar with who they love, then surely, surely we can give everyone in this country a fair chance at that great American Dream," she said on Tuesday night during her prime-time, televised speech.

For his part, convention keynoter JuliÃín Castro, the mayor of San Antonio, Texas—the first Latino in such a role—stuck it to the marriage-equality naysaying GOP and its nominee, "When it comes to letting people marry whomever they love, Mitt Romney says, 'No,'" Castro said.

And Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the convention chair, told the delegates, "For the first time, a major party platform recognizes marriage equality as a basic human right!"

Sixth-generation Iowan Zach Wahls, an activist who was raised by two moms, put his same-sex marriage advocacy to the GOP nominee in certain, heartfelt terms.

Wahls told delegates, "Gov. Romney says he's against same-sex marriage because every child deserves a mother and a father.

"I think every child deserves a family as loving and committed as mine. Because the sense of family comes from the commitment we make to each other to work through the hard times so we can enjoy the good ones. It comes from the love that binds us; that's what makes a family. Mr. Romney, my family is just as real as yours."

Two nights earlier, an openly gay congressman spoke in equally eloquent terms about his love and life:

"My name is Jared Polis. My great-grandparents were immigrants. I am Jewish. I am gay. I am a father. I am a son. I am an entrepreneur. I am a congressman from Colorado. I am always an optimist. But first and foremost, I am an American."

Continuing, Polis made a pitch for common ground and mutual respect among a diversity of views and personal experiences.

"That is why we must continue bringing America together.

"I don't just ask my fellow Americans to respect my relationship with my partner Marlon and my role as a father to our son. I also ask them to respect the Christian family concerned about decaying moral values and crass commercialism. I ask them to respect the difficult decision of a single mother to bring a child into this world, because of her heartfelt beliefs."

There was no red-white-and-blue balloon drop —only tricolor confetti—as the curtain came down on the 2012 Democratic National Convention shortly before midnight.

And yet, just as he prayed over Republicans gathered in Tampa, Fla., a week ago, so New York's cardinal archbishop, the Most Rev. Timothy M. Dolan, offer a benediction for the Democrats.

There were three main appeals he made: right to life, religious liberty and an affirmation of traditional marriage.

He said, "We beseech you, almighty God to shed your grace on this noble experiment in ordered liberty, which began with the confident assertion of inalienable rights bestowed upon us by you: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

"Thus do we praise you for the gift of life. Grant us the courage to defend it, life, without which no other rights are secure. We ask your benediction on those waiting to be born, that they may be welcomed and protected.

"We praise and thank you for the gift of liberty. May this land of the free never lack those brave enough to defend our basic freedoms. Renew in all our people a profound respect for religious liberty: the first, most cherished freedom bequeathed upon us at our founding.

"We praise and thank you for granting us the life and the liberty by which we can pursue happiness. Show us anew that happiness is found only in respecting the laws of nature and of nature's God. Empower us with your grace so that we might resist the temptation to replace the moral law with idols of our own making, or to remake those institutions you have given us for the nurturing of life and community."

And just as his appearance in Tampa raised eyebrows, so Dolan's praying in Charlotte prompted sharp responses from gay Catholics and LGBT activists.

"Cardinal Dolan chose again to characterize same-sex marriage equality as 'the temptation to replace the moral law with idols of our own,'" said Charles Martel, president of New England-based Catholics for Marriage Equality.

"[Dolan] further went on to pray, 'Or to remake those institutions you have given us for the nurturing of life and community,'" said Martel.

However, "same-sex marriage is not about remaking the institution of marriage, but rather as evidence that same sex couples also value it, and believe that it does nurture not only themselves, but also the community," Martel explained. "Civil same-sex marriage does not threaten the institution of marriage, but adds to it through loving couples, the kinds of couples Catholic laity know, but apparently the hierarchy has never met."

In offering his assessment, Wayne Besen, founding executive director of Burlington, Vermont-based Truth Wins Out, was more pointed.

"Cardinal Dolan unnecessarily and inappropriately politicized his remarks," he said. "He appeared more partisan than prayerful and more animated by wedge issues than worship. It was hard to tell whether he was a Republican member of the House of Representatives or a representative from a house of worship."

But Chicago's Joe Murray of the Rainbow Sash Movement noted a more nuanced political landscape among Catholic voters.

"Clearly," Dolan "is opposed to both gay marriage and abortion, and some would say that his coded language points to that in the closing prayer. So what's going on here?" asked Murray.

"We can view this strictly from a political perspective or we can recognize it as more complex," he added. "The cardinal's presence at both conventions sends the message to those faithful Catholics that they can vote for either presidential candidate and remain faithful Catholics. In my opinion, this is why the Democrats revisited their original position not to let Dolan say the closing Benediction at their convention, and invite him."

Murray went on to say that while he doubted the cardinal will change his position on either same-sex marriage or abortion, "I do believe [Dolan] recognizes a change in strategy with 'the sky is falling' approach [towards marriage equality] requires re-evaluation.

"While the cardinal spoke about his pro-life views without mentioning abortion, he did not say anything whatsoever about gay marriage and that is a very good thing.

"His closing benediction shows, in my opinion, his continuing effort to moderate his position by moving towards the middle.

"Many Obama administration policies have alienated faithful Catholics and their bishops. I think the Democrats recognized that, and I believe that promoted their wise response to invite Dolan to the Democratic National Convention."

Quite simply, "that is probably good politics," he added. "With Ohio, Wisconsin and even Michigan and Pennsylvania now in play, attracting Catholic votes could prove critical.

"In recent years, Catholics have emerged as an important swing vote. Long predominantly Democratic, Catholics have increasingly shifted to the Republican Party, drawn by conservative positions on social issues."

Meanwhile, a May 2012 Gallup poll showed half of all U.S. residents support legal same-sex marriage, affording gay couples the same status and benefits as traditionally married couples.

In addition, 65 percent of Democrats support gay marriage, with 57 percent of Independents and 22 percent of Republicans favoring it.

Gallup also found that 51 percent of Catholics support legal same-sex marriage, with 38 percent of Protestants and 88 percent of people with no religious affiliation favoring it.

©Copyright. Chuck Colbert. All rights reserved.


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