Will Obama Court Gay Vote?

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Okay so it's really starting to heat up. 

Presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton has upstaged her rival Senator Barack Obama, and I am not talking about her Selma appearance. Clinton told gay rights group the Human Rights Campaign in an unannounced speech that she wants a partnership with gays if elected president.
Clinton also said she opposes the "don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding gays in the military that was instituted during her husband's presidency. "I am proud to stand by your side," Clinton said in a keynote speech last Friday to the Human Rights Campaign. "I want you to know that this is exactly the kind of partnership we will have when I am president," Clinton told the group.

"I want you to know that just as you always have an open door to my senate office, you will always have an open door to the White House and together we can continue this journey." I could just hear it now, "Bet you can't top that one Obama."
So what should her Illinois rival do? I'll tell you. 
He needs to make an unannounced appearance with the National Black Justice Coalition, the nation's leading Black gay civil rights group, and do the same thing. But will he? Can he? Obama has so far benefited from having the support of Black America in his presidential bid. Would that all diminish if he were to go after the gay vote with Clinton? 
In 2004, we saw an abundance of Black pastors campaigning from the pulpit on the issue of gay marriage and actually urging their parishioners to vote for President Bush because he opposed gay marriage.
Should Obama decide to go after the gay vote, are we doomed to see a repeat of years past that had the Black leadership ducking and dodging the issue at their annual get togethers for fear of incurring the wrath of the Black Church?
One thing is for sure, Obama and his strategy team have some work to do to keep up on this one.
It's no secret that Black America is assumed to be homophobic from the church to the kitchen table, and NBA Player Tim Hardaway's statement of hating gays didn't help.  Going after the gay vote may infuriate his Black supporters, but on the other end might give him the boost he needs to keep up with Senator Clinton.
Fact: gays do vote and in numbers.
If I were on Obama's political strategy team (and for the record I should be), I would advise him to go after the gay vote through African-American lesbians and gays.  It's a win win in my book.  He's catering to African-Americans and gays at the same time in a way that no other presidential candidate has done or shown willingness to do.  When it comes to gays, it's always the white gay vote which further feeds into the notion that all gays are white, which we are not.
In the spirit of full disclosure, it's no secret that I am one of the founders of the National Black Justice Coalition, commonly referred to as NBJC. I currently sit on the board of directors and I chair our Action Fund Board. For over three years, we have been representing the Black same-gender loving community in politics, religion, and the media. 

We held our 3rd annual Black church summit in Philadelphia last weekend bringing together religious figures and theologians to discuss the Black church, religion and gays. Co-chaired this year by author Dr. Michael Eric Dyson—last year's co-chair was Reverend Al Sharpton—this year's summit featured an appearance by newly out former NBA player John Amaechi. It makes perfect sense for the Black presidential candidate to go after the gay vote through Black people, Black gays to be specific.
Either way it goes, he's going to have to eventually court the gay vote if he expects to win as president because he's not running to be the President of Black America but for all of America, and that most surely includes gays.
Back in 2004, Obama said he would not let his religious beliefs dictate the way he approaches public policy.
"Giving them a set of basic rights would allow them to experience their relationship and live their lives in a way that doesn't cause discrimination," Obama said. "I think it is the right balance to strike in this society."
In his recent memoir "The Audacity of Hope," Obama said, "I was reminded that it is my obligation not only as an elected official in a pluralistic society, but also as a Christian, to remain open to the possibility that my unwillingness to support gay marriage is misguided."
Obama, you've got the ball, make your move and make it fast.

Cannick is a commentator/critic who addresses social, cultural, and race issues and is based in Los Angeles.  She can be reached via her website at www.jasmynecannick.com


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