With just 60 days to go until the finish of an increasingly competitive presidential race, LGBT elected officials and leaders in New York City — including City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and State Senator Tom Duane (pictured) — gathered with supporters on Sunday to affirm their support for the Democratic nominee, Senator Barack Obama.
More than 50 people, and one Maltese dog, attended a late morning press conference on the front steps of City Hall to announce the formation of the group, LGBT Obama Pride. The new effort will capitalize on the unique contributions that New Yorkers are positioned to make toward the outcome of an election that could hold critical implications for civil rights.
“New Yorkers need to talk to people who are misrepresenting Senator Clinton’s position in other states,” said Quinn in her opening remarks — presumably referring to those who would insist that the Empire State’s junior senator holds ill will toward her one-time rival for the Presidential nomination.
Quinn stressed the significance of the choice before voters who will select between Obama and Republican nominee Senator John McCain on November 4. “This election will determine the U.S. Supreme Court for the rest of our lives,” she said.
Like the New York political establishment at large, the LGBT community overwhelmingly supported Senator Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary. LGBT Obama Pride reasons that this makes LGBT New Yorkers especially strong candidates to woo swing state voters on behalf of Senator Obama.
They also expect LGBT New Yorkers with roots in those states to exert influence on the folks back home: In the coming weeks, the group plans frequent bus trips to battleground states like Pennsylvania, and at least one major rally. “We feel like New York has a big opportunity to set the tone for the rest of the country,” said Steven Nicks, national vice chairman of Obama Pride.
During the press conference, speakers denounced the federal LGBT rights record of McCain and lauded Obama for his support of employment non-discrimination, more expansive hate crimes statutes, repeal of the ban on gay and lesbian military service, and funding for the fight against HIV/AIDS. (Although neither Obama nor McCain supports same-sex marriage, Obama does support full civil unions and federal rights that give same-sex couples the same legal rights as married couples.)
Tom Duane highlighted how a formidable turnout for Obama could boost the prospects for Democrats in key down-ticket races, including the battle for control of the New York state legislature. ”As strongly as Obama runs in New York,” Duane said, “that will affect the margin of victory in the New York State Senate.” Democrats need to win only two seats to secure a majority in the senate, and proceed to advance stalled same-sex marriage legislation, which passed in the Assembly last year.
Other Obama supporters attacked the overall agenda of McCain and his vice presidential nominee, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, in an election year dominated by concern about the economy and wars abroad.
“The Republicans held their convention in the Twin Cities,” said City Council Member Tish James. “The Twin cities really represent their schizophrenic policies.” She referred to Palin, an avid outdoorswoman and former beauty pageant contestant, as “Caribou Barbie,” and stressed her differences from Hillary Clinton, whose departure from the race in June has prompted both McCain and Obama to court her coalition of women, Hispanics and working-class voters.
Last week, the national gay Republican group, the Log Cabin Republicans, hailed Palin as an “inclusive” choice when McCain revealed her as his running mate. In support of that assessment, some pointed to her 2006 veto of a bill that would have barred Alaska from implementing a court order requiring it to provide benefits to the domestic partners of state government employees. She said the legislation was unconstitutional, although she personally opposes same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage has been illegal in Alaska since 1998, when voters approved a ban.
City Council Speaker Quinn, who in her earlier remarks had suggested that Palin’s trademark eyeglasses were out of focus on policies, flatly rejected the notion of Palin as a boon for LGBT rights when asked afterward by the Voice.
“It’s like trying to get past a moose with a gun,” Quinn said. “Her position on LGBT rights is horrible. She seems to me to have dedicated her life to family values so long as those rights don’t include anything for LGBT families.”