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Obama's nomination and the LGBT contingent
by Lisa Keen, Keen News Service
2008-07-01

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U.S. Sen. Barack Obama secured enough delegate votes June 3 to clinch the Democratic nomination for president. The achievement marks the first time in the nation's history that someone from a racial-minority group has won the nomination of one of the two major political parties.

Most evidence suggested the majority of the LGBT community was behind his chief rival, U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, but there are already signs that that community will shift its support to electing Obama in November. Mandy Carter, a longtime gay- and civil-rights activist—who happens to be African-American and who supported Clinton—said June 4 that she will both vote for Obama and support his campaign.

'I'm still very proud of Hillary Clinton and my support of her running as [ someone ] who could have been the first woman president,' said Carter. Noting that both African Americans, as slaves, and women, as wives, were once treated as 'property' in this country, Carter remarked, 'Times, they are truly changing.

'What a historic day it was yesterday—an African American securing the nomination for the Democratic presidential nomination! I sure didn't think I would ever live to see the day.'

Longtime lesbian Democratic activist Hilary Rosen, a friend of the Clintons, said June 3 that 'Hillary's supporters are genuinely disappointed' in her not winning the nomination, but added, 'it is an easy switch' to support Obama. And the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay political group, launched a campaign against Republican nominee John McCain June 3.

Rosen, a frequent political commentator on CNN and MSNBC, predicted June 2 that Clinton would not concede June 3 and, to the surprise of many others, Clinton did not. Instead, to her New York rally's chant of 'Don't Quit! Don't Quit! Don't Quit,' she said only, 'I will be making no decisions tonight.' Clinton solicited advice from her supporters on what to do next —a solicitation most commentators speculated signaled she was building leverage for the vice presidential slot.

One CNN commentator, Gloria Borger, said late June 3 that Clinton campaign sources told her that Clinton would concede later this week.

In the final primaries, Clinton took 68 percent of votes cast in Puerto Rico June 1 to Obama's 32 percent, and she took 56 percent of the vote in South Dakota to Obama's 44 percent. Obama won 57 percent of the vote in Montana to Clinton's 40 percent.

According to CNN, Obama picked up a number of superdelegate votes before the June 3 voting was closed and stood just four delegates shy of the 2,118 needed to secure the nomination. Because the Democratic primaries divide delegates up by congressional districts instead of states, Obama picked up five in South Dakota, even though Clinton won the state.

Among the superdelegates who declared their support after the June 3 primaries were over was Ray Buckley, chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party. In a June 3 essay on a Web site for New Hampshire Democrats, Buckley endorsed Obama, praising him for having 'addressed the concerns of all Americans,' but did not single him out for any pro-gay record or positions.

Eighteen of the 789.5 superdelegate votes were held by openly LGBT Democrats. Of those, 12 ultimately endorsed Clinton, four endorsed Obama and two remain unpledged. Those two include Andy Tobias, who is treasurer of the national party and said June 3 that, 'As long as there are two [ candidates ] , I and the DNC are enthusiastically neutral.' The other is Carole Migden, who is a California state senator representing San Francisco and who lost a tough primary re-election bid June 3 to another popular openly gay politico, Mark Leno.

The delegate tally needed to win the Democratic nomination rose from 2,025 to 2,118 over the weekend, after Democratic party officials met to determine how the convention in August would deal with delegates from Florida and Michigan. The party's original rules for the primary called for penalizing states that scheduled their primaries ahead of Feb. 5. But because both states represent such a large number of electoral votes necessary to win the White House, the party was under pressure to accommodate both. The decision that came out of the June 1 meeting of party officials was to seat all Florida and Michigan delegates but to give them only half a vote each. That boosted the simple majority mark to 2,118 delegates.

As of the morning of June 4, the Associated Press calculated that Obama had 2,154 delegates to Clinton's 1,919. Stonewall Democrats, a national gay Democratic group, was still counting and had not yet released a number for how many of the more than 4,700 will be openly LGBT. Spokesman John Marble said only about half the states have finalized their lists—lists that have specified goals for the number of openly LGBT delegates but no mandates. A tally of those specified goals suggests there should be at least 307 openly LGBT delegates.

©2008 Keen News Service


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