Obama Wants the Gay Vote

Does he deserve it?

President Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign was a mighty grassroots effort in 2008, with many young people, first-time and LGBT voters making sure he would become the first African-American president in our nation’s history. And as the incumbent gears up for his re-election campaign in time for 2012 (and as GOP contenders start announcing their bids for this, the highest political office in the country) Obama is finding ways to woo the gay vote.

According to Politco, the president is looking for more ways to get LGBT people involved in his re-election campaign. The website reports that while Obama only counted one openly gay person on his finance committee in 2008, he’s already welcomed as many 15 gays and lesbians for 2012, including Andrew Tobias, the DNC treasurer, and Jeremy Bernard, the White House Social Secretary whose partner Rufus Gifford is a major fundraising powerhouse in California.

Obama may also be hoping that his repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and his vigorous opposition to DOMA’s gay marriage ban will entice LGBT voters to support his re-election bid wholeheartedly. He’s also recently been outspoken about bullying, having held an anti-bullying conference that addressed gay issues, and passed more legislation against hate crimes that seek to protect and enforce harsh penalties. And we can’t forget the gay partner visitations at hospitals that would never likely have been considered should a conservative have won office (the McCain-Palin ticket was vehemently anti-gay, having opposed even “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”).

In many ways, Obama’s first years in office have been considerably more gay-friendly than his campaign when he seemed to think marriage should be between a man and a woman. He was also a lot less likely to discuss LGBT issues favorably in a public forum compared to his primary opponent at the time Hillary Clinton who now serves in the administration.

So should Obama’s good deeds erase his slow start on gay issues?

Should gay voters choose to accept Obama for a second term, this constituency has the opportunity to make a major power play in the 2012 presidential election, especially as more wealthy democratic voters may be less than pleased with the president’s first term (apparently catching and killing Osama Bin Laden isn’t enough). Yes, we’re still at war. And, yes, we paid billions to bail out corrupt companies. And yes, we still have states passing laws against gay marriage and gay rights each day. But as LGBT voters consider the options (there’s one Republican running for office who’s openly gay, but doesn’t seem to stand a chance in the primary) Obama may start looking better and better – especially if by giving support to him, it means having more clout this second time around.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that if gay voters support the president that he will absolutely address some of the more pressing issues on the minds of LGBT citizens (it would be his second term after all) but one can’t help but wonder if his legacy depends on it. Obama seems to care a great deal about his legacy. And as more Americans voice support for LGBT rights, his advocacy could make his presidency stand out as not only a first for African-Americans, but also for gay Americans. No other president has truly taken homophobia to task in the way that Obama potentially could.

It looks as if many LGBT voters have more than made their minds up. There’s already a DNC fundraiser scheduled next month in New York that expects to welcome unprecedented numbers of supporters.

And if anyone looks at the potential pool of candidates from the GOP, like Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, Donald Trump and Newt Gingrich – all of whom have made disparaging comments about gays and lesbians throughout their careers – electing the guy who’s a “moderate” when it comes to LGBT rights hardly seems like such a bad thing.

Bottom line: If Obama gets the gay vote, there’s no telling what successes may become a reality in his second term. If he doesn’t, we could have a president who reverses all the progress that’s been done – and who wants gold fixtures in the Oval Office bathroom (we’re looking at you, Trump).