SANTA MONICA, CALIF.—I flew in from Chicago last night to cover the first Democratic presidential primary event designed to deal with gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual issues. The two-hour discussion is this evening, with the contenders coming together for the third time in a week, this time in a studio in Hollywood.
Democratic frontrunners Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) are throwing fund-raisers in L.A. in order to tap into—yet again-- the never-ending money flow available from Democratic wallets here.
On Saturday the Dems were at YearlyKos; then the AFL-CIO forum (both in Chicago) and now the gay forum in Hollywood. Lefty bloggers, labor and gays--all very important parts of the Democratic base primary vote.
The event—sequential 15-minute conversations, not a debate where everyone is on the same stage—is co-sponsored by LOGO, a gay oriented cable channel and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. In March, both Obama and Clinton stumbled when faced with a gay rights question early in their campaigns. (I put my March post on this at the end of this post)
Last night, in anticipation of the event, Obama’s campaign prepared a gay-themed logo and released a long list of people on Obama’s “National LGBT Leadership Council.” That list will also be at the end of the post.
For my Chicago readers, take note of a lot of local names. Big national catch is the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, the Bishop of New Hampshire.
The questions will be asked by an interesting panel, moderated by columnist Margaret Carlson: Singer Melissa Etheridge; Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign and Jonathan Capehart, a member of the Washington Post editorial board.
Attending will be Obama; Clinton; former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.); New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson; Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and former Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Ak.).
Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) will be at a Congressional Black Caucus event in Mississippi and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Ct.) will be in New Hampshire. Dodd was to give a speech to the NH NEA and then attend a house party. His campaign said he would answer questions posed in the forum on his website.
The forum starts at 8 p.m. Chicago time. LOGO runs on Chicago COMCAST systems. For a live stream go to VisibleVote08.com
OBAMA FOR AMERICA ANNOUNCES NATIONAL LGBT LEADERSHIP COUNCIL
Campaign to Host HRC/Logo Forum Watch Parties
CHICAGO, IL – Reflecting its growing grassroots support, the Obama for America campaign today announced a National LGBT Leadership Council and watch parties to be held at homes across America during Thursday’s Human Rights Campaign/Logo Forum.
Stampp Corbin, the National LGBT Liaison for the Obama campaign, high tech entrepreneur, and former Human Rights Campaign Board Member, said: “I enthusiastically support Barack Obama for President. He is my choice to unify the nation and to bring fundamental change to Washington. The LGBT community needs a president who understands the challenges we face. The broad, diverse support Senator Obama has received within our community is a tribute to the progress he has achieved on issues of equality, as well as the promise he represents."
“I’m proud to have the support of these LGBT leaders who work each day for equality and justice, whether it’s educating their communities or reforming their government,” said Senator Obama. “These Americans, like all Americans, are ready to change the divisive politics in Washington so we can make real the promises of equality and justice that are at the heart of our nation’s founding.”
At more than 30 locations around the nation, the Obama campaign will host watch parties during the first ever forum to focus specifically on LGBT issues. Details on the house parties are available at pride.barackobama.com.
The members of the National LGBT Leadership Council are:
Stampp Corbin, National LGBT Liaison, Obama for America; Former Human Rights Campaign Board Member; High Tech Entrepreneur
Terje Anderson, VT, Former Executive Director for the National Association of People with AIDS
Tom Barbera, NH, Board Member, Bay State Stonewall Democrats and Vice Chair, SEIU National Lavendar Caucus
Paris Barclay, CA, Emmy Award Winning Producer and Director
Michael Bauer, IL, Community Activist
Tommy Bennett, IL, Radio Personality, Tom Joyner Show
Rosalyn Bugg, CA, Community Organizer
Phil Burgess, IL, National Director, Pharmacy Affairs, Walgreens
Ed Butler, NH, State Representative
Beth Bye, CT, Connecticut State Assemblywoman
Thomas Chaderjian, IL, Stonewall Democrats
Gary Cloutier, CA, Councilmember and Vice Mayor, Vallejo
Jon Cooper, NY, Suffolk County Legislature Majority Leader
Craig Covery, MI, Councilman, Ferndale City
Terry Crow, MO, Attorney
Chris Diebel, IA, Business Leader
Karla Drenner, GA, State Representative
Bevan Dufty, CA, San Francisco Board of Supervisors
Rick Garcia, IL, Director, Equality Illinois
Carlos Garza, IA, Chair, Des Moines Pride
Richard Gordon, Supervisor, San Mateo County Board of Supervisors
Nancy Greaney, NH, PFLAG New Hampshire
Greg Harris, IL, State Representative
Wendy Howell, VT, Community Organizer
Chris Hughes, IL, Founder, Facebook; Obama Campaign Director of Online Organizing
Harold Janeway, NH, State Senator, PFLAG Member
Vincent Jones, CA, Executive Director, Center for Health Justice
Nicole LeFavour, ID, State Representative
Ed Lehman, CA, Union Organizer
Robert Lilligren, MN, VP, Minneapolis City Council
Gordene Mackenzie, MA, MA Transgender Political Coalition
Sharon Malhero, IA, Activist
Timothy Patrick McCarthy, MA, Harvard University
Darryl Moore, CA, Berkeley City Council Member
Ed Murray, WA, State Senator
Nancy Nangeroni, MA, MA Transgender Political Coalition
Michael Noll, CA, Vice Mayor, Signal Hill
Renae Ogletree, IL, Community Organizer
Paul Provost, MN, Business Manager
Rebecca Prozan, CA, Chair, Alice B. Toklas Club
Nicole M. Ramirez, CA, City Commissioner, San Diego
Tonyia M. Rawles, CA, Bishop-Elect, Unity Fellowship Church Movement
Donna Red Wing, CO, Activist
Dr. Penny Robbins, IL, Reverend
Gene Robinson, NH, Bishop
Robert Ryken, IL, Attorney
Deborah Shore, IL, Commissioner, Chicago Metropolitan Water Reclamation District
Stephen Smith, CA, Former DNC Member
Eric Tabor, IA, Chief of Staff, Attorney General Tom Miller
Maxim Thorne, NJ, Former Executive Director, Head Start New Jersey
Dr. Leanne Tigert, MA, Minister
Lew Todd, NY, Founding Member, Stonewall Democratic Club, Gay Activists Alliance, National Gay Task Force
Tom Tunney, IL, Chicago Alderman
David Upthegrove, WA, State Representative
Tawnee Walling, NH, Director of Seacoast Outright
Gene Webb, IL, University of Chicago
Richard A. Wilson, IL, Chair, National Lesbian and Gay Law Association
Tobias Barrington Wolff, PA, University of Pennsylvania Law School
from a March, 2007 Sweet column...
Sweet column: How Obama, Clinton tripped on gay rights.Obama to form gay advisory panel.
Democratic White House hopeful Barack Obama was running a little behind schedule. He had just delivered a speech to the International Association of Fire Fighters at the Hyatt Hotel on Capitol Hill.
Obama's news hit, if there was to be one, was supposed to be his speech at the union's presidential forum. But it was his dodging a question tossed at him on his way out of the hotel last week about whether homosexuality was immoral that left his team scrambling to repair relations with an important Democratic constituency, the gay and lesbian community.
Now comes word that the Obama campaign is forming a gay advisory panel, though a spokesman said a plan had been in the works before the dust-up.
Chief rival Hillary Rodham Clinton, as it happened, made the same stumble a few hours before Obama, sidestepping the same question. So both teams swung into damage control duty with gay rights groups, including the Human Rights Campaign and Stonewall Democrats, national gay political organizations.
By the end of that day, both campaigns issued separate statements saying that they do not consider homosexuality immoral. But gay rights activists were stunned Obama and Clinton did not say what they believed in the first place.
"I was in disbelief," said Michael Bauer, a prominent Chicago Democrat, gay activist and Obama supporter who is one of his major fund-raisers. "Totally perplexed that in the face of such bigotry what we were receiving was silence." Bauer sent strongly worded e-mails to Obama's inner campaign circle, shocked and alarmed over Obama's hesitancy.
The entire episode is an example of how cautious Obama is and how that caution itself sometimes can backfire. Here's how it unfolded.
As Obama was rushing to leave the hotel, a reporter for a Brazil broadcast outlet tossed Obama a question about a pending U.S.-Brazil biofuels agreement and whether he supports lower tariffs on ethanol. Support for ethanol is a major issue in Iowa -- the state with the first presidential vote next January, so Obama was cautious with the potential Iowa landmine. "We need to take a look at the agreement before I comment on that," he said.
Then a Newsday reporter, Glenn Thrush, said to Obama, "What do you think about Gen. [Peter] Pace's comments that homosexuality is immoral?"
The question was a follow-up to the statement the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff made to the Chicago Tribune editorial board, that homosexual acts were immoral.
"I think traditionally the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman has restricted his public comments to military matters,'' said Obama. ''That's probably a good tradition to follow. ''
Obama was asked again. "What do you think of the characterization of homosexuality as being immoral? Sen. Clinton was asked that this morning on 'Good Morning America.' Do you think homosexuality is immoral as Gen. Pace has asserted?''
At that, Obama reframed the question to refer to the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy and he said, "I think the question here is whether somebody is willing to sacrifice for their country, should they be able to? If they are doing all the things that are needed to be done." He ignored a third try.
On Monday night on CNN's "Larry King Live," Obama, asked about the Pace comment said, "I don't think that homosexuals are immoral any more than I think heterosexuals are immoral. I think that people are people and to categorize one group of folks based on their sexual orientation that way I think is wrong."
Obama also told King there was a need to re-examine the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy but did not call for an end to it.
Obama was more forceful when he was running for the Senate in 2004 and seeking an endorsement from progressive Democrats. Here's what he wrote on his questionnaire for the Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization to answer the question, "What is your position on gays and lesbians in the military."
Responded Obama, "I don't believe it is appropriate that hundreds of our military personnel have been drummed out of the armed forces because their sexual orientation has become known. . . . As a member of the U.S. Senate, I would encourage the Armed Services to revisit the current "Don't ask, don't tell" policy, which is unfair to those brave service people and is harming rather than strengthening our armed forces."