Friday, June 06, 2008

Obama reaches out to Clinton’s gay supporters

Sen. Barack Obama's campaign reached out to gay supporters of Sen. Hillary Clinton in a conference call today, acknowledging the devoted following Clinton enjoys among many gay voters, while asserting Obama's commitment to gay rights.
Steve Hildebrand, Obama's deputy campaign manager, hosted the call that was joined by about 1,200 listeners, and promised that within two weeks Obama would host a follow-up call to address gays directly. In his remarks, Hildebrand emphasized Obama's "rock solid commitment to gay equality."
"We know there are a lot of people who have supported Sen. Clinton on the call," Hildebrand said, "we recognize the pain that goes with some of this, but we need your help, we want your help … we'll take it when you're ready."
Hildebrand made several staffing-related announcements. Brian Bond, who currently serves as the gay outreach director for the Democratic National Committee, will move to Chicago to become director of constituencies for the Obama campaign. That role will involve outreach to a broad range of voters, not just gays.
Lesbian musician Melissa Etheridge will serve as a co-chair of Obama's 50-state voter registration campaign. Joan Garry, former executive director of GLAAD, and Kevin Jennings, founder of GLSEN, will serve as co-chairs of Obama's LGBT finance operations.
Elizabeth Birch, former executive director of the Human Rights Campaign, spoke about her strong support for Clinton.
"I was asked by the Obama campaign to try to articulate what the Hillary Clinton people are feeling now," she said. "I was surprised by my own reaction." Birch said she burst into tears on June 3rd when Obama clinched the nomination. She asked for patience from Obama's supporters, saying that Clinton's gay backers would come around to Obama, not within hours, but within days.
HRC President Joe Solmonese, speaking by phone from the AIDS LifeCycle ride in California where he is more than 400 miles into a 545-mile ride, also praised Clinton. He said gay Americans have no greater ally in the U.S. Senate than Clinton, then praised Obama for including gays in his vision of America. HRC announced its endorsement of Obama today and Solmonese vowed the organization would work to mobilize its members "like never before" to defeat Sen. John McCain in November. 
Longtime gay rights activist David Mixner, who initially endorsed John Edwards, also spoke. He said that Obama opposes the November ballot initiatives in California and Florida that would ban same-sex marriages in those states.
Posted at Express Gay News

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