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August 15, 2008

Why Support Barack Obama?

Let me say right off the bat that I was initially skeptical of Barack Obama's true commitment to the GLBT community.

Having been a radical gay activist in NY and having put in many hours on Bill Clinton's first campaign in 1992, I was adamant about Clinton's support of our community. Unfortunately, shortly after taking office, he back-tracked and capitulated on most of the promises he made to us.

To say that I was pissed off would be an understatement. On one hand, I could understand the politics behind his actions but on the other, the radical activist side of me couldn't quite reconcile the opposing reality that the man I believed in would so easily back down to the political pressures of the moment.

It was a very psychologically difficult time for me. I knew without a doubt that Clinton would be a far better option than Bush Sr (who I had virtually no respect for to begin with) and being somewhat of a political pragmatist, I was still glad I supported and voted for him. I couldn't shake the bad feelings I had about his betrayal though so I became "uninvolved" and refused to work for his reelection in '96. But I still did vote for him.

That's the basis of my skepticism of Obama. I'm gun-shy. It's also the reason that I didn't support Hilliary in the primaries. I've heard very strong comments of support from a Clinton before and I just couldn't convince myself that it wasn't deja vu all over again.

I was born in Chicago and raised in a small town north of the city. Much of my family still lives there and I have a fairly good understanding of the psyche of that region. Of course prejudices still exist there but overall it is one of the more progressive and tolerant parts of the country. Even considering the brief controversy surrounding the boat races at Crystal Lake (which is about 5 miles from where I grew up) during the Gay Games, the majority of the population is pretty open and welcoming.

However, many of us who grew up under Mayor Richard J. Daley's powerful grip on the political structure of not only Chicago and the state itself but of that entire region are deeply distrustful of politicians in general. That's why, to me, the wide support Barack has there is very impressive.

The stories and information I hear about him do seem to be true. And the more I hear, the more I'm beginning to believe that he really does mean what he says. He has also backed up his rhetorical support by concrete, political actions.

One of the most telling was right after he took office as an Illinois State Senator. He immediately signed on as a sponsor of legislation to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Even when one of the gay sponsors of the bill wanted to take out that phrase in hopes of making it easier to pass the bill, Obama was insistent on keeping it in and lobbied extensively for its passage. That's a very impressive, proven commitment. Illinois now has some of the most progressive GLBT legislation in the country.

If you are serious about wanting to live up to your obligation to vote but you still aren't sure of voting for Obama, I have a suggestion. The Advocate just published an in-depth piece on Obama and I strongly suggest that you take the time read it. It's a little long but you can always save it to your hard drive and read it over when you have the time. If you're serious about making an intelligent, informed decision, I urge you to read that piece. Trust me, it's worth the effort.

Just one final thought on this - for now.

If you're a person of integrity, intelligence and compassion, there's no way you could possibly justify supporting or voting for John McCain.

His startling reversals of professional and personal morals for political gain have been just too numerous and too mind-boggling to leave any kind of doubt that he would be just as bad as our current President. Maybe even worse considering that he doesn't have the same level of astounding ignorance that "GW" has demonstrated over and over again. McCain is shrewd and calculating and would back whoever and whatever he felt would do him the most good regardless of the consequences for the rest of us.

Obama or McCain. That's what our choices are in November. If you honestly care about the GLBT community, this country as a whole and the world in general then not voting is simply not an option!

To read The Adocate's story go to: The Advocate