[EDITOR'S NOTE:] Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama issued this guest post to explain his support for LGBT civil rights. This post was originally published on November 10, 2007; it seemed appropriate to reprint it now, the night before the presidential election.
Over the last several weeks, the question of GLBT equality was placed on center stage by the appearance of Donnie McClurkin at one of my campaign events. McClurkin is a talented performer and a beloved figure among many African Americans and Christians around the country. At the same time, he espouses beliefs about homosexuality that I completely reject.
The events of the last several weeks are not the occasion that I would have chosen to discuss America's divisions on gay rights and my own deep commitment to GLBT equality. Now that the issue is before us, however, I do not intend to run away from it. These events have provided an important opportunity for us to confront a difficult fact: There are good, decent, moral people in this country who do not yet embrace their gay brothers and sisters as full members of our shared community.
We will not secure full equality for all GLBT Americans until we learn how to address that deep disagreement and move beyond it. To achieve that goal, we must state our beliefs boldly, bring the message of equality to audiences that have not yet accepted it, and listen to what those audiences have to say in return.
For my entire career in public life, I have brought the message of GLBT equality to skeptical audiences as well as friendly ones. No other leading candidate in the race for the Presidency has demonstrated the same commitment to the principle of full equality. I support the full and unqualified repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. While some say we should repeal only part of the law, I believe we should get rid of that statute altogether. Federal law should not discriminate in any way against gay and lesbian couples. I will also fight to repeal the U.S. military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, a law that should never have been passed, and my Defense Department will work with top military leaders to implement that repeal.
As President, I will use the bully pulpit to urge states to treat same-sex couples with full equality in their family and adoption laws. I personally believe that civil unions represent the best way to secure that equal treatment. But I also believe that the federal government should not stand in the way of states that want to decide on their own how best to pursue equality for gay and lesbian couples - whether that means a domestic partnership, a civil union, or a civil marriage. I will also place the weight of my administration behind the enactment of the Matthew Shepard Act to outlaw hate crimes and a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act to outlaw workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. I have supported fully inclusive protections since my days in the Illinois legislature, when I sponsored a bill to outlaw workplace discrimination that expressly included both sexual orientation and gender identity.
That is where I stand on the major issues of the day. But having the right positions on the issues is only half the battle. The other half is to win broad support for those positions. And winning broad support will require stepping outside our comfort zone. If we want to repeal DOMA, repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and implement fully inclusive laws outlawing hate crimes and discrimination in the workplace, we need to bring the message of GLBT equality to people who are not yet convinced.
That's why I brought this message of inclusiveness to all of America in my keynote address at the 2004 Democratic convention. I reiterated that message in the speech announcing my candidacy for President. Since beginning my campaign, I have been talking about GLBT equality on the stump, from rural farmers to Southern preachers. Just as important, I have been listening to what all Americans have to say in return. I will never compromise on my commitment to equal rights for all GLBT Americans. But neither will I close my ears to the voices of those who still need to be convinced. That is the work that we need to do if we are going to move forward together. It is difficult. It is challenging. And it is necessary.
The American people have been poorly served by two terms of an administration that seeks to manipulate us through fear: fear over national security, fear over immigrants and fear over gay and lesbian couples in loving relationships. Americans are yearning for leadership that will put an end to the fear mongering and instead begin empowering us once again to reach for the America we know is possible. I believe that we can achieve the goal of full equality for the millions of GLBT people in this country. To do that, we need leadership that appeals to the best parts of the human spirit, rather than the worst. Together, we will achieve real equality for all Americans, gay and straight alike.