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Barack Obama on Civil Rights

Democratic incumbent President; IL Senator (2004-2008)


Constitution stained by nation's original sin of slavery

Our Founders began the painful process, in the adoption of the Constitution, of ending the evil practice of slavery. Barack Obama himself acknowledged as much in his widely hailed speech on race during the 2008 campaign. Here's an excerpt:

"The documen they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation's original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations. Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution--a Constitution that had at its very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time."

Source: America by Heart, by Sarah Palin, p. 30-31 , Nov 23, 2010

2008 speech on race expedited by Rev. Wright fiasco

On March 13, ABC News aired a story about his pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, using [controversial] excerpts from videotapes of Wright's sermons that were for sale at his parish, Trinity United Church of Christ. Obama's initial attraction to the parson sprang from its commitment to the social gospel: day care programs; encouragement of HIV testing--all appealed to a young community organizer. He had lifted the title of "The Audacity of Hope" from one of Wright's sermons. And although Obama considered the words that were causing the current controversy beyond the pale, he well understood the context--generational, cultural, and social--by which Wright had come to the views that animated them.

The idea of doing a big race speech had been on Obama's mind for months. Convinced that he would be the nominee, Obama wanted to start dealing with issues he was destined to confront in the general election, of which race was plainly one. The Wright fiasco has simply sped up the timetable on the speech.

Source: Game Change, by Heilemann & Halpern, p.234-237 , Jan 11, 2010

Balance isolation & engagement for international rights

It is the responsibility of all free people and free nations to make clear to [international civil rights] movements that hope and history are on their side. The promotion of human rights cannot be about exhortation alone. At times, it must be coupled with painstaking diplomacy. I know that engagement with repressive regimes lacks the satisfying purity of indignation. But I also know that sanctions without outreach--and condemnation without discussion--can carry forward a crippling status quo. No repressive regime can move down a new path unless it has the choice of an open door.

In light of the Cultural Revolution's horrors, Nixon's meeting with Mao appeared inexcusable--and yet it surely helped set China on a path where millions of its citizens have been lifted from poverty, and connected to open societies. There is no simple formula here. But we must try as best we can to balance isolation and engagement; pressure and incentives, so that human rights and dignity are advanced over time

Source: Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in Oslo, Norway , Dec 10, 2009

OpEd: Not the seed of civil rights, but the flower

Despite his own background, Obama paradoxically is a post-racial figure in a society weary of racial division. Both for younger, more tolerant Americans who are electrified by his promise, and for an older generation of more conservative whites skeptical of racial preferences, Obama shines out as the opposite of affirmative action--a biracial African American who, against all odds, succeeded based on sheer merit. After a generation of blacks helped up the ladder by affirmative action, Obama is not a black man who got his preset position thanks to the need for racial symbolism, such as, say, Clarence Thomas. He rather evoked Jackie Robinson--one whose talent was so exceptional that he could not be denied. He is what Americans of goodwill dreamed could occur once we put racism behind us; as Leon Wieseltier memorably put it, not the seed of civil rights but the flower.
Source: Obama`s Challenge, by Robert Kuttner, p. 17 , Aug 25, 2008

Admired repeated acts of "self-creation" by Malcolm X

In relating his development in high school, Obama singles out the impact Malcolm X's autobiography had on him. "His repeated acts of self-creation spoke to me," Obama writes. Obama is quick to add that he rejected Malcolm's "talk of blue-eyed devils and apocalypse."

Obama alludes to Malcolm X's autobiography, where Malcolm railed at the white man who had raped his grandmother, saying, "If I could drain away his blood that pollutes MY body, and pollutes MY complexion, I'd do it! Because I hate every drop of the rapist's blood that's in me!"

The passage takes up one paragraph in Malcolm X's autobiography, a book of 455 pages. Yet it is one that stuck in Obama's mind.

Reflecting on the passage, Obama wrote, "I knew that my own white blood would never recede into mere abstraction. I was left to wonder what else I would be severing if and when I left my mother and my grandparents at some uncharted border." At this point, Obama's race, he self-determines, is African-American.

Source: Obama Nation, by Jerome Corsi, p. 90-91 , Aug 1, 2008

Has stood together with Latino leaders for last 20 years

I’ve been working with Latino leaders ever since I entered public service more than 20 years ago. We stood together when I was an organizer, lifting up neighborhoods that had been devastated when the local steel plants closed. We stood together when I was a civil rights attorney, working to ensure that Latinos were being well represented. And we marched together to fix our broken immigration system. That’s why you can trust me when I say that I’ll be your partner in the White House.
Source: Obama & McCain back-to-back speeches at NALEO , Jun 28, 2008

People want to move beyond our divisions

I am absolutely convinced that white, black, Latino, Asian, people want to move beyond our divisions, and they want to join together in order to create a movement for change in this country. I’m not entirely faulting the media because, look, race is a factor in our society. There’s no doubt that in a race where you’ve got an African-American, and a woman, and there’s no doubt that that has piqued interest. They are desperate to move beyond the same, old arguments that we’ve been having and start actually getting something done in this country. The Republicans may have a different attitude, because they haven’t been appearing before forums that are diverse. The policies that they have promoted have not been good at providing ladders for upward mobility and opportunity for all people. That is a fight that all of us will fight. But I don’t want us to get drawn into this notion that somehow this is going to be a race that splits along racial lines.
Source: 2008 Congressional Black Caucus Democratic debate , Jan 21, 2008

2004 DNC speech merged “heritage” with “diversity”

The story of his interracial background is usually the first thing one hears about Obama. But it is also very often the first story he tells about himself.

At the 2004 Democratic Convention in Boston, Obama made the famous speech that launched him as a new star in national politics. By the third sentence of that speech we had heard about his Kenyan father and grandfather, and by the eighth sentence we had met his white mother from Kansas. By the third paragraph we had the white grandparents as well as a reference to his parents’ “improbable love.”

And then came a deft recasting of his pedigree that would have scandalized most Americans only a generation ago. “I stand here today, grateful for the diversity of my heritage.” And “in no other country on earth is my story even possible.” Here, he both compliments his nation and gilds his heritage with today’s golden word, “diversity.”

Source: A Bound Man, by Shelby Steele, p.101-102 , Dec 4, 2007

The politics of fear undermines basic civil liberties

What we cannot continue to do is operate as if we are the weakest nation in the world instead of the strongest one, because that’s not who we are and that’s not what the US has been about, historically. It is starting to warp our domestic policies, as well. We haven’t even talked about civil liberties and the impact of that politics of fear--what that has done to us, in terms of undermining basic civil liberties in this country, what it has done in terms of our reputation around the world.
Source: 2007 Democratic debate at Drexel University , Oct 30, 2007

1980s boss predicted Obama would be heir to MLK’s voice

After seeing how Obama’s poitical career unfolded, Jerry Kellman, [Obama’s boss for his 1980’s Chicago communnity organizing job] made a bold prclaimation: Despite chatter in some quarters of the black community that Obama hadn’t lived the typical African-American experience, Kellman predicted that he would be the most likely heir to Martin Luther King’s legacy as both the chief advocate and the moral voice of black Americans. He said Obama saw this role for himself years ago, even if he is reluctant to admit it publicly today for fear of sounding immodest and perhaps distancing himself from his non-black constituents.

Kellman also predicted that Obama would assume this mantle with thoughtfulness and a full understanding of its gravity. “If you look at the King analogy,” Kellman said, “Barack has become the expectation of his people, similar to King. Barack will take on that burden of being that person who changes the situation for African Americans.”

Source: From Promise to Power, by David Mendell, p. 74 , Aug 14, 2007

Racial equality good for America as a whole

Q: Is race still the most intractable issue in America?

A: [Those who worked on civil rights in the past realized that] to achieve racial equality was not simply good for African-Americans, but it was good for America as a whole; that we could not be what we might be as a nation unless we healed the brutal wounds of slavery and Jim Crow. Now, we have made enormous progress, but the progress we have made is not good enough. As many have already mentioned, we live in a society that remains separated in terms of life opportunities for African-Americans, for Latinos, and the rest of the nation. And it is absolutely critical for us to recognize that there are going to be responsibilities on the part of African-Americans and other groups to take personal responsibility to rise up out of the problems that we face. But there has also got to be a social responsibility, there has to be a sense of mutual responsibility, and there’s got to be political will in the White House to make that happen.

Source: 2007 Democratic Primary Debate at Howard University , Jun 28, 2007

Put the Confederate flag in a museum, not the state house

Q: The NAACP has asked tourists, groups and sporting events not to come to South Carolina until the confederate flag has been removed from the statehouse grounds. Do you agree with that? Why are you, the candidates, in South Carolina if they support the NAACP?

A: I think that the Confederate flag should be put in a museum. That’s where it belongs. But we’ve got an enormous debate that’s taking place in this country right now. And we’ve got to engage the people of South Carolina in that debate.

Source: 2007 South Carolina Democratic primary debate, on MSNBC , Apr 26, 2007

Muslim heritage gives Obama unique influence in Muslim world

Pro’s and Con’s: Muslim heritage gives Obama unique influence in Muslim world

Pro: We need to be more popular in the Muslim world. US policies are highly unpopular in the Muslim world and are blamed for most of the region’s ill. We need to be more popular with them.

Con: The Muslim world needs to be more popular with us. Who cares? They need to be more like us.

Pro: Obama will be uniquely positioned to deal with the foreign policy challenge of the century, the Muslim world. “I will go to Pakistan,” Obama might pledge. The dramatic gesture might tilt the balance in a close race. The newly inaugurated President Obama’s visit to Pakistan, where he scattered ashes from the World Trade Center at the footsteps of a mosque, is widely credited with the change in Pakistani sentiment that led to Bin Ladin’s capture in 2009.

Con: The principal foreign policy challenge of the early 21st century is China, and Obama brings nothing to the table there.

Source: Should Barack Obama be President, by F. Zimmerman, p. 70-71 , Oct 17, 2006

No black or white America--just United States of America

A line in my speech at the 04 Democratic National Convention struck a chord. “There is not a black American and white American and Latino America and Asian American--there is the United States of America.” For them, it seems to capture a vision of America finally freed from the past of Jim Crow and slavery, Japanese internment camps and Mexican braceros, workplace tensions and cultural conflict--an America that fulfills Dr. King’s promise that we be judged not by the color of our skin but by the content of our character.

I have no choice but to believe this vision. As the child of a black man and white woman, born in the melting pot of Hawaii, with a sister who is half-Indonesian, but who is usually mistaken for Mexican, and a brother-in-law and niece of Chinese descent, with some relatives who resemble Margaret Thatcher and others who could pass for Bernie Mac, I never had the option of restricting my loyalties on the basis of race or measuring my worth on the basis of tribe.

Source: The Audacity of Hope, by Barack Obama, p.231 , Oct 1, 2006

Forthright on racial issues and on his civil rights history

Obama has very strong support in the African American community, which was really long in coming. A lot of people had doubts about him. They thought he would downplay racial issues and civil rights. But he doesn’t do that. He speaks forthrightly about racial issues and has a great deal of history and experience in a civil rights-oriented struggles. So, in many ways, he breaks that mold of the black politician who really softens his message to the point of homogeneity to appeal to a wide range.
Source: Salim Muwakkil and Amy Goodman, Democracy Now , Jul 15, 2004

Defend freedom and equality under law

As a civil rights attorney and professor of constitutional law, Obama has a keen understanding and deep appreciation of our nation’s core values and guiding principles. Obama will be a fierce defender of the fundamental American values of freedom and equality under law.
Source: 2004 Senate campaign website, ObamaForIllinois.com , May 2, 2004

Politicians: don’t use religion to insulate from criticism

I am a great admirer of our founding charter and its resolve to prevent theocracies from forming and its resolve to prevent disruptive strains of fundamentalism from taking root in this country. I think there is an enormous danger on the part of public figures to rationalize or justify their actions by claiming God’s mandate. I don’t think it’s healthy for public figures to wear religion on their sleeve as a means to insulate themselves from criticism, or dialogue with people who disagree with them.
Source: Chicago Sun-Times, “I have a deep faith” , Apr 5, 2004

Miscegenation a felony in 1960 when Obamas practiced it

Miscegenation. The word is humpbacked, ugly, portending a monstrous outcome: like antebellum or octoroon, it evokes images of another era, a distant world of horsewhips and flames, dead magnolias and crumbling porticos. And yet it wasn’t until 1967 - three years after Dr. King received the Nobel Peace Prize, a time when America had already begun to weary of black demands for equality, the problem of discrimination presumably solved - that the Supreme Court of the US would get around to telling the state of Virginia that its ban on interracial marriages violated the Constitution.
Source: Dreams from My Father, by Barack Obama, p. 11 , Aug 1, 1996

The civil rights movement was a success

As segregated as Chicago was, as strained as race relations were, the success of the civil rights movement had at least created some overlap between communities, more room to maneuver for people like me. I could work in the black community as an organizer or a lawyer and still live in a high rise downtown. Or the other way around: I could work in a blue-chip law firm but live in the South Side and buy a big house, drive a nice car, make my donations to the NAACP, speak at local high schools.
Source: Dreams from My Father, by Barack Obama, p.254 , Aug 1, 1996


Barack Obama on Affirmative Action

FactCheck: Gender wage gap is $0.19, not $0.23

Obama said, "Today, women make up about half our workforce. But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it's an embarrassment."

Fact Check: There is clearly a wage gap, but differences in the life choices of men and women--such as women tending to leave the workforce when they have children--make it difficult to make simple comparisons.

Obama is using a figure (annual wages, from the Census Bureau) that makes the disparity appear the greatest. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, for instance, shows that the gap is 19 cents when looking at weekly wages.

In other words, since women in general work fewer hours than men in a year, the statistics used by the White House may be less reliable for examining the key focus of legislation pending in Congress--wage discrimination. The weekly wage is more of an apples-to-apples comparison, but it does not include as many income categories.

Source: Washington Post FactCheck on 2014 State of the Union , Jan 28, 2014

Pass the Paycheck Fairness Act

We know our economy is stronger when we reward an honest day's work with honest wages. But today, a full-time worker making the minimum wage earns $14,500 a year. Even with the tax relief we've put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line. That's wrong. That's why, since the last time this Congress raised the minimum wage, nineteen states have chosen to bump theirs even higher.
Source: 2013 State of the Union Address , Feb 12, 2013

I benefited from affirmative action in my academic career

The Ivy League preselects America's leaders. Michelle and Barack Obama are where they are because, in getting into Princeton, Columbia, and Harvard Law, and onto law review, they benefited from affirmative action.

Barack Obama himself conceded the point in 1990 when, as president of Harvard Law Review, he wrote in defense of its affirmative action policy:

"As someone who has undoubtedly benefited from affirmative action programs during my academic career, and as someone who may have benefited from the Law Review's affirmative action policy when I was selected to join the Review last year, I have not personally felt stigmatized."

Source: Suicide of a Superpower, by Pat Buchanan, p.258 , Oct 18, 2011

Many black disparities can be traced to legacy of Jim Crow

Consider these remarks less than a year after his 2004 convention debut, to an NAACP Freedom Fund Dinner in Detroit: "Our grandparents used to tell us that being Black means you have to work twice as hard to succeed in life. And so I ask today, can we honestly say our kids are working twice as hard as the kids in India and China who are graduating ahead of us, with better test scores and the tools they need to kick our butts on the job market? Can we honestly say our teachers are working twice as hard or our parents?"

Obama has insisted that black failure be considered in a wider context, one that is not victimology-centered but simply tells the full story. In the Philadelphia address he suggested that we need to "remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow."

Source: What Obama Means, by Jabari Asim, p.137-138 , Jan 20, 2009

Keep the promise of equal pay for an equal day’s work

Now is the time to keep the promise of equal pay for an equal day’s work, because I want my daughters to have exactly the same opportunities as your sons.
Source: Speech at 2008 Democratic National Convention , Aug 27, 2008

Past discrimination affects future generations

In a speech in Philadelphia, Obama stated what no one else had voiced:
"[Our Constitution] was stained by this nation's original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies & brought the Constitutional Convention to a stalemate, until the founders chose to leave any final resolution to a future generation.

"Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution, a Constitution that had at its very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time."

Obama understands how devastating discrimination is, not only to this generation, but to all future generations: "For all those who scratched & clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn't make it--those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations."
Source: Obamanomics, by John R. Talbott, p. 64-65 , Jul 1, 2008

Apply affirmative action to poor white college applicants

Q: You said about affirmative action that affluent African Americans like your daughters should probably be treated as advantaged when they apply to college, and that poor white children should get special consideration.

A: The basic principle that should guide discussions not just on affirmative action but how we are admitting young people to college generally is, how do we make sure that we’re providing ladders of opportunity for people? Race is still a factor in our society. And I think that for universities to say, “we’re going to take into account the hardships that somebody has experienced because they’re black or Latino or women...”

Q: Even if they’re wealthy?

A: I think that’s something that they can take into account, but it can only be in the context of looking at the whole situation of the young person. So I still believe in affirmative action as a means of overcoming both historic and potentially current discrimination, but I think that it can’t be a quota system.

Source: 2008 Philadelphia primary debate, on eve of PA primary , Apr 16, 2008

Community organizing continues the civil rights movement

Obama decided to try to become a community organizer, to help bring about change in black communities through grassroots efforts. He saw the task as a continuation of the work begun by the civil rights movement: "At night, lying in bed, I would let the slogans drift away, to be replaced with a series of images, romantic images, of a past I had never known. They were of the civil rights movement... the same images that my mother had offered me as a child."
Source: Obama for Beginners, by Bob Neer, p. 16 , Apr 1, 2008

Legalized discrimination meant blacks could not amass wealth

So many of the disparities that exist between the African American community and the larger American community today can be traced directly to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow

Segregated schools were and are inferior schools. We still haven’t fixed them, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today’s black and white students.

Legalized discrimination-- where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions--meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth & income gap between blacks and whites, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today’s urban and rural communities

Source: Speech on Race, in Change We Can Believe In, p.222-3 , Mar 18, 2008

Fight job discrimination to give women equal footing at jobs

AT A GLANCETHE PROBLEMOBAMA’S PLAN
Source: Campaign booklet, “Blueprint for Change”, p. 35-36 , Feb 2, 2008

Remove discriminatory barriers to the right to vote

AT A GLANCETHE PROBLEMOBAMA’S PLANOBAMA RECORD
Source: Campaign booklet, “Blueprint for Change”, p. 48-49 , Feb 2, 2008

Benefited from affirmative action but overcame via merit

As a black, Obama must display enough natural talent to be immune to the stigma of affirmative action--the perception that he is a mediocrity lifted up by lowered standards.

Still, he has clearly benefited from affirmative action. American universities impose this policy on black students with such totalitarian resolve that even blacks who don’t need the lowered standards come away stigmatized by them.

What began to separate Obama from this stigma was his editorship of the Harvard Law Review. Here was something that required genuine merit. Here was a position he had to gain through competition rather than through the suspension of competition. Obama’s fame began precisely with this achievement because it distinguished him from the general run of black students who carried the stigma of having been pulled forward by lowered standards. He was special because he was clearly more than an “affirmative action baby,” someone who could succeed without the ministrations of white guilt.

Source: A Bound Man, by Shelby Steele, p. 13-14 , Dec 4, 2007

Include class-based affirmative action with race-based

Obama declared his daughters “should probably be treated by any admissions officer as folks who are pretty advantaged. I think that we should take into account white kids who have been disadvantaged and have grown up in poverty and shown themselves to have what it takes to succeed.”

But Obama is not race blind, and neither is his ideal of affirmative action, which would combine both race-based and class-based preferences. He said, “I don’t think those concepts are mutually exclusive. I think what one can say is that in our society race and class still intersect, and there are a lot of African American kids who are struggling, that even those who are in the middle class may be first generation as opposed to fifth or sixth generation college attendees, and that we all have an interest in bringing as many people together to help build this country.“

Source: The Improbable Quest, by John K. Wilson, p. 65-66 , Oct 30, 2007

Better enforce women’s pay equity via Equal Pay Act

Despite decades of progress, women still make only 77 cents for every dollar men make. Obama believes the government needs to better enforce the Equal Pay Act, fight job discrimination, and improve child care options and family medical leave to give women equal footing in the workplace.

Women are majority owners of more than 28% of US businesses, but head less than 4% of venture-capital-backed firms. Obama encourages investing in women-owned businesses, and reducing discrimination in lending.

Source: 2008 Presidential campaign website, BarackObama.com “Flyers” , Aug 26, 2007

Blacks should infiltrate mainstream to affect change

[In his State Senate race], one of Obama’s central themes was the powerful potential of multiculturalism in American society. Rather than continually castigating whites for an oppressive history of mistreating blacks, Obama suggested, blacks would do better if they infiltrated the mainstream power structure and worked from there to effect social change.

“Any solution to our unemployment catastrophe must arise from us working creatively within a multicultural, interdependent economy,” Obama said. “Any African Americans who are only talking about racism as a barrier to our success are seriously misled if they don’t also come to grips with the larger economic forces that are creating economic insecurity for all workers.”

His steadfast beliefs made him less than a unifying force in Chicago’s black community. The idea of building bridges to people of all races was anathema to many old-school black leaders who still sounded a voice in Chicago’s African American community.

Source: From Promise to Power, by David Mendell, p.113 , Aug 14, 2007

Commitment to diversity by CEOs is advisable

I believe in vigorous enforcement of our non discrimination laws. But I also believe that a transformation of conscience and a genuine commitment to diversity on the part of the nation’s CEOs could bring about quicker results than a battalion of lawyers.
Source: In His Own Words, edited by Lisa Rogak, p. 34 , Mar 27, 2007

African-Americans vote Democratic because of issue stances

I don’t think the Democratic Party takes the African-American voters for granted. I’m happy that the president spoke at the Urban League. He should have spoke at the NAACP. I want Republicans to compete for the African-American vote. They’re not getting the African-American vote not because African-Americans aren’t open-minded, but because Democrats have consistently championed those issues-civil rights, voting rights, concern for working families-that are of greatest concern to African-American voters.
Source: Meet The Press, NBC News, 2004 interview with Tim Russert , Jul 25, 2004

Supports affirmative action in colleges and government

Source: 1998 IL State Legislative National Political Awareness Test , Jul 2, 1998


Barack Obama on Gay Rights

Journey not complete until gays treated like anyone else

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths--that all of us are created equal--is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.

It is now our generation's task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law--for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.

Source: Second Inaugural Address , Jan 21, 2013

Same-sex couples should be allowed to marry

Today, I was asked a direct question and gave a direct answer: I believe that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.

I've always believed that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally. I was reluctant to use the term marriage because of the very powerful traditions it evokes. And I thought civil union laws that conferred legal rights upon gay and lesbian couples were a solution.

But over the course of several years I've talked to friends and family about this. I've thought about members of my staff in long-term, committed, same-sex relationships who are raising kids together. Through our efforts to end the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, I've gotten to know some of the gay and lesbian troops who are serving our country with honor and distinction.

What I've come to realize is that for loving, same-sex couples, the denial of marriage equality means that, in their eyes and the eyes of their children, they are still considered less than full citizens.

Source: 2012 Presidential campaign website, barackobama.com, "News" , May 9, 2012

No federal laws should hinder state-based same-sex marriage

I decided it was time to affirm my personal belief that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. I respect the beliefs of others, and the right of religious institutions to act in accordance with their own doctrines. But I believe that in the eyes of the law, all Americans should be treated equally. And where states enact same-sex marriage, no federal act should invalidate them.
Source: 2012 Presidential campaign website, barackobama.com, "News" , May 9, 2012

Opposes CA Prop. 8, one-man-one-woman marriage

Presidential candidates can command instant national attention when they want it. But John McCain and Barack Obama each took a hushed approach to letting the world know where they stand on the California ballot measure to ban same-sex marriage.

The muted announcements--McCain supports the proposed ban, Obama opposes it--will have little if any bearing on the presidential contest in California, but the ramifications are serious elsewhere.

Obama first announced his opposition to the measure only in response to media inquiries. He said the nation should recognize lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans “with full equality under the law.”

Obama called the ballot measure “divisive and discriminatory” and concluded by congratulating “all of you who have shown your love for each other by getting married these last few weeks.” Left unstated was that Obama has declined to endorse gay marriage, saying that civil unions would suffice to protect partners’ rights.

Source: By Michael Finnegan and Cathleen Decker, Los Angeles Times , Jul 2, 2008

Hate crimes related to the immigration issue is unacceptable

Because immigration reform was used as a political football instead of a way of solving a problem, nothing happened. It is absolutely critical that we tone down the rhetoric when it comes to immigration, because there has been an undertone that has been ugly. Oftentimes, it has been directed at the Hispanic community. We have seen hate crimes skyrocket in the wake of the immigration debate, & that is unacceptable. We are a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants, and we can reconcile those two things.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin , Feb 21, 2008

Being gay or lesbian is not a choice

Q: You had one supporter on a Bible tour in South Carolina who said that homosexuality was a curse and that he had been cured by prayer. Do you believe homosexuality’s a curse?

A: No.

Q: Do you believe that it is something that you are born gay or that you can change your behavior?

A: I do not believe being gay or lesbian is a choice. And so I disagree with [that supporter]. But part of what I hope to offer as president is the ability to reach to people that I don’t agree with, and the evangelical community is one where the Democratic Party, I think, we have generally seen as hostile. We haven’t been reaching out to them, and I think that if we’re going to makes significant progress on critical issues that we face, we’ve got to be able to get beyond our comfort zones and just talk to people we don’t like. I’ve tried to do is to reach out to the evangelical community and tell them very clearly where I disagree.

Source: Meet the Press: 2007 “Meet the Candidates” series , Nov 11, 2007

Decisions about marriage should be left to the states

One of Obama’s pragmatic stands troubling to progressives is on gay marriage. In the Senate debate, Obama opposed the right-wing Federal Marriage Amendment to ban gay marriage nationally and said: “I agree with most Americans, with Democrats and Republicans, with Vice President Cheney, with over 2,000 religious leaders of all different beliefs, that decisions about marriage, as they always have, should be left to the states.” However, Obama also declared, “Personally, I do believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.” At the same time, Obama has strongly supported civil unions, arguing that it is a way to protect equal rights without taking the politically risky approach of gay marriage.
Source: The Improbable Quest, by John K. Wilson, p.114-115 , Oct 30, 2007

Homosexuality no more immoral than heterosexuality

A reporter asked Obama, “What do you think about General Pace’s comments that homosexuality is immoral?” Obama said, “I think traditionally the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman has restricted his public comments to military matters. That’s a good tradition to follow. I think the question here is whether somebody is willing to sacrifice for their country, should they be able to? If they are doing all the things that are needed to be done.”

Obama later said, “I don’t think homosexuals are immoral any more than I think heterosexuals are immoral.” Obama has taken a forthright stand calling for the end of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. He said, “It is time to review the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy and do what is in the best interests of our national security. At time when the services are having a tough time recruiting and training troops, it seems foolish to kick out good soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who want to serve.”

Source: The Improbable Quest, by John K. Wilson, p.115 , Oct 30, 2007

Ok to expose 6-year-olds to gay couples; they know already

Q: Last year some parents of second graders in Lexington, Massachusetts, were outraged to learn their children’s teacher had read a story about same-sex marriage, about a prince who marries another prince. Would you be comfortable having this story read to your children as part of their school curriculum?

A: My 9-year-old and my 6-year-old are already aware that there are same-sex couples. And my wife and I have talked about it. And one of the things I want to communicate to my children is not to be afraid of people who are different, and because there have been times in our history where I was considered different. And one of the things I think the next president has to do is to stop fanning people’s fears.

Q: Have you sat down with your daughters to talk about same-sex marriage?

A: My wife has.

Source: 2007 Democratic primary debate at Dartmouth College , Sep 6, 2007

Has any marriage broken up because two gays hold hands?

The notion of gay marriage has been used to divide people in black churches. I pointed out that if there’s any pastor here who can point out a marriage that has been broken up as a consequence of seeing two men or two women holding hands, then you should tell me, because I haven’t seen any evidence of it. And if you think that issue is more important to the black family than the fact that black men don’t have any jobs and are struggling in the inner cities, then I profoundly disagree with you.
Source: 2007 HRC/LOGO debate on gay issues , Aug 9, 2007

We need strong civil unions, not just weak civil unions

It is my strong belief that the government has to treat all citizens equally. I come from that in part out of personal experience. When you’re a black guy named Barack Obama, you know what it’s like to be on the outside. And so my concern is continually to make sure that the rights that are conferred by the state are equal for all people.

That’s why I opposed DOMA in 2006 when I ran for the Senate. That’s why I am a strong supporter not of a weak version of civil unions, but of a strong version, in which the rights that are conferred at the federal level to persons who are part of the same sex union are compatible.

When it comes to federal rights, the over 1,100 rights that right now are not being given to same sex couples, I think that’s unacceptable, and as president of the United States, I am going to fight hard to make sure that those rights are available.

Source: 2007 HRC/LOGO debate on gay issues , Aug 9, 2007

Legal rights for gays are conferred by state, not by church

Q: You have said in previous debates that it is up to individual religious denominations to decide whether or not to recognize same-sex marriage. What place does the church have in government-sanctioned civil marriages?

A: It is my strong belief that the government has to treat all citizens equally. I don’t think that the church should be making these determinations when it comes to legal rights conferred by the state. I do think that individual denominations have the right to make their own decisions as to whether they recognize same sex couples. My denomination, United Church of Christ, does. Other denominations may make a decision, and obviously, part of keeping a separation of churches and state is also to make sure that churches have the right to exercise their freedom of religion.

Source: 2007 HRC/LOGO debate on gay issues , Aug 9, 2007

Disentangle gay rights from the word “marriage”

Q: If you were back in the Illinois legislature where you served and the issue of civil marriage came before you, how would you have voted on that?

A: My view is that we should try to disentangle what has historically been the issue of the word “marriage,” which has religious connotations to some people, from the civil rights that are given to couples, in terms of hospital visitation, in terms of whether or not they can transfer property or Social Security benefits and so forth. So it depends on how the bill would’ve come up. I would’ve supported and would continue to support a civil union that provides all the benefits that are available for a legally sanctioned marriage. And it is then, as I said, up to religious denominations to make a determination as to whether they want to recognize that as marriage or not.

Source: 2007 HRC/LOGO debate on gay issues , Aug 9, 2007

Gay marriage is less important that equal gay rights

Q: On the grounds of civil marriage, can you see to our community where [your stance of separating gay rights from the word “marriage”] comes across as sounding like “separate but equal”?

A: Look, when my parents got married in 1961, it would have been illegal for them to be married in a number of states in the South. So obviously, this is something that I understand intimately, it’s something that I care about. But if I were advising the civil rights movement back in 1961 about its approach to civil rights, I would have probably said it’s less important that we focus on an anti-miscegenation law than we focus on a voting rights law and a non-discrimination and employment law and all the legal rights that are conferred by the state. Now, it’s not for me to suggest that you shouldn’t be troubled by these issues. But my job as president is going to be to make sure that the legal rights that have consequences on a day to day basis for loving same sex couples all across the country.

Source: 2007 HRC/LOGO debate on gay issues , Aug 9, 2007

Gay rights movement is somewhat like civil rights movement

Q: Would you put the fight among gays and lesbians for civil rights on a par with the civil rights movement for African-Americans?

A: My attitude is if people are being treated unfairly and unequally, then it needs to be fixed. So I’m always very cautious about getting into comparisons of victimology. You know, the issues that gays and lesbians face today are different from the issues that were faced by African-Americans under Jim Crow. That doesn’t mean, though, that there aren’t parallels in the sense that legal status is not equal. And that has to be fixed. I’m going to be more sympathetic not because I’m black. I’m going to be more sympathetic because this has been the cause of my life and will continue to be the cause of my life, making sure that everybody’s treated fairly and that we’ve got an expansive view of America, where everybody’s invited in and we are all working together to create the kind of America that we want for the next generation.

Source: 2007 HRC/LOGO debate on gay issues , Aug 9, 2007

Let each denominations decide on recognizing gay marriage

Q: The laws banning interracial marriage were ruled unconstitutional in 1967. What is the difference between a ban on interracial marriage and a ban on gay marriage?

A: We’ve got to make sure that everybody is equal under the law. And the civil unions that I proposed would be equivalent in terms of making sure that all the rights that are conferred by the state are equal for same-sex couples as well as for heterosexual couples. Now, with respect to marriage, it’s my belief that it’s up to the individual denominations to make a decision as to whether they want to recognize marriage or not. But in terms of, you know, the rights of people to transfer property, to have hospital visitation, all those critical civil rights that are conferred by our government, those should be equal.

Source: 2007 YouTube Democratic Primary debate, Charleston SC , Jul 23, 2007

Pass ENDA and expand hate crime legislation

We must be careful to keep our eyes on the prize--equal rights for every American. We must continue to fight for the Employment Non Discrimination Act. We must expand hate crime legislation and be vigilant about how these laws are enforced--.continue to expand adoption rights to make them consistent --and we must repeal the “Don’t ask, don’t tell’ military policy.
Source: In His Own Words, edited by Lisa Rogak, p. 44 , Mar 27, 2007

Opposed 1996 Illinois DOMA bill

I opposed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. It should be repealed and I will vote for its repeal on the Senate floor. I will appeal any proposal to amend the U.S. constitution to ban gays and lesbians from marrying. I know how important the issue of equal rights is to the LGBT community. I share your sense of urgency.
Source: In His Own Words, edited by Lisa Rogak, p. 52 , Mar 27, 2007

Supports health benefits for gay civil partners

On the Federal Marriage Amendment, Obama staked out his position on marriage rights for gays:
I realize that for some Americans, this is an important issue. I should say that personally, I do believe that marriage is between a man & a woman. But let’s be honest. That is not what this debate is about. Not at this time. This debate is an attempt to break a consensus that is quietly being forged.

It is a consensus between a majority of Americans who say, “Maybe some of us are comfortable with gay marriage right now and some of us are not. But most of us do believe that gay couples should be able to visit each other in the hospital & share health care benefits; and should be treated with dignity and have their privacy respected.“

Obama’s position is sensitive to the rights of gay people. Health care benefits for partners is a huge issue. Keeping the federal government and the Constitution out of the marriage debate is a huge win for supporters of gay and lesbian rights.
Source: Should Barack Obama be President, by F. Zimmerman, p. 39-40 , Oct 17, 2006

Opposes gay marriage; supports civil union & gay equality

For many practicing Christians, the inability to compromise may apply to gay marriage. I find such a position troublesome, particularly in a society in which Christian men and women have been known to engage in adultery or other violations of their faith without civil penalty. I believe that American society can choose to carve out a special place for the union of a man and a woman as the unit of child rearing most common to every culture. I am not willing to have the state deny American citizens a civil union that confers equivalent rights no such basic matters as hospital visitation or health insurance coverage simlpy because the people they love are of the same sex--nor am I willing to accept a readingof the Bible that considers an obscure line in Romans to be more defining of Christianity than the Sermon on the Mount.

The heightened focus on marriage is a distraction from other, attainable measures to prevent discrimination and gays and lesbians.

Source: The Audacity of Hope, by Barack Obama, p.222-3 , Oct 1, 2006

Marriage not a human right; non-discrimination is

Q: Do you think marriage is a human right?

A: I don’t think marriage is a civil right, but I think that not being discriminated against is a civil right. I think making sure that we don’t engage in the sort of gay-bashing that, I think, has unfortunately dominated this campaign-not just here in Illinois, but across the country-is unfortunate, and that kind of mean-spirited attacks on homosexuals is something that the people of Illinois generally have rejected.

Source: IL Senate Debate , Oct 26, 2004

Gays should not face discrimination but should not marry

Q: [to Keyes]: You’ve criticized homosexuality throughout your career. What would you say to your child if he or she were a homosexual?

KEYES: Marriage is based upon heterosexual relations because they are connected to procreation. Where procreation is impossible, marriage is irrelevant. And that is the civic explanation against homosexual marriage. It is irrelevant. And the idea that one should have legislation that is regulating private friendships for no reason is a degrading of those friendships.

OBAMA: Well, to answer the original question, I would love that child and seek to support them. I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman but I detest the bashing and vilifying of gays and lesbians. Most gays and lesbians are seeking basic recognition of their rights so they’re not discriminated against in employment or renting a house, so they can see their partner in a hospital. These are rights for everybody, not just some people.

Source: Illinois Senate Debate #3: Barack Obama vs. Alan Keyes , Oct 21, 2004

Include sexual orientation in anti-discrimination laws

Q: Do you believe that the Illinois government should include sexual orientation in Illinois’ anti-discrimination laws?

A: Yes.

Q: Do you believe that the Illinois government should recognize same-sex marriages?

A: Undecided

Source: 1998 IL State Legislative National Political Awareness Test , Jul 2, 1998


Barack Obama on Voting Record

Strengthen the Americans with Disabilities Act

Obama is committed to strengthening and better enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Obama believes we must restore the original legislative intent of the ADA in the wake of court decisions that have restricted the interpretation of this landmark legislation.

One of the most devastating aspects of Hurricane Katrina is that most of the stranded victims were society’s most vulnerable members, including Americans with disabilities. Too many states and cities do not have adequate plans in place to care for special-needs populations. Obama passed legislation to require states to properly plan the evacuation of special-needs individuals.

Obama understands that children with special needs require meaningful resources to succeed both inside and outside the classroom. Obama is a strong supporter of increased funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Source: 2008 Presidential campaign website, BarackObama.com “Flyers” , Aug 26, 2007

Voted NO on recommending Constitutional ban on flag desecration.

The Senate voted on a resolution which would recommend a Constitutional Amendment banning flag desecration (not a vote on the Amendment itself). The resolution states:
  1. the flag of the US is a unique symbol of national unity...
  2. the Bill of Rights should not be amended in a manner that could be interpreted to restrict freedom...
  3. abuse of the flag causes more than pain and distress... and may amount to fighting words...
  4. destruction of the flag of the US can be intended to incite a violent response rather than make a political statement and such conduct is outside the protections afforded by the first amendment to the Constitution.
Reference: Flag Desecration Amendment; Bill S.J.Res.12 ; vote number 2006-189 on Jun 27, 2006

Voted NO on constitutional ban of same-sex marriage.

Voting YES implies support for amending the constitution to ban same-sex marriage. This cloture motion to end debate requires a 3/5th majority. A constitutional amendment requires a 2/3rd majority. The proposed amendment is:
Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.
Reference: Marriage Protection Amendment; Bill S. J. Res. 1 ; vote number 2006-163 on Jun 7, 2006

Ending racial profiling is part of fight for justice.

Obama adopted the CBC principles:

Source: Congressional Black Caucus press release 01-CBC8 on Jan 6, 2001

Sponsored bill for special-needs evacuation plans.

Obama sponsored including special-needs people in emergency evacuation plans

OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: A bill to ensure the evacuation of individuals with special needs in times of emergency.

SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Sen. OBAMA: One of the most striking things about the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina is that the majority of stranded victims were our society's most vulnerable members--low-income families, the elderly, the homeless, the disabled. Many did not own cars. Many believed themselves unable to flee the city, unable to forego the income from missed work, unable to incur the expenses of travel, food and lodging. Some may have misunderstood the severity of the warnings, if they heard the warnings at all. Some may have needed help that was unavailable. Whatever the reason, they were not evacuated and we have seen the horrific results.

This failure to evacuate so many of the most desperate citizens of the Gulf Coast leads me to introduce today a bill to require states and the nation to consider the needs of our neediest citizens in times of emergency. It appears that certain assumptions were made in planning and preparing for the worst case scenario in the Gulf Coast. After all, most of those who could afford to evacuate managed to do so. They drove out of town and checked into hotels or stayed with friends and family. But what about the thousands of people left behind because they had special needs?

Communities with special needs may be more challenging to accommodate, but they are every bit as important to protect and serve in the event of an emergency. What we saw in the Gulf Coast cannot be repeated. We may not be able to control the wrath of Mother Nature, but we can control how we prepare for natural disasters.

LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs; never came to a vote.

Source: Emergency planning bill (S.1685) 05-S1685 on Sep 12, 2005

Sponsored bill for a Rosa Parks commemorative postage stamp.

Obama sponsored issuing a commemorative postage stamp of Rosa Parks

EXCERPTS OF RESOLUTION:

LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs; never came to a vote.
Source: Rosa Parks Stamp (S.2154/H.R.4343) 05-S2154 on Dec 20, 2005

Rated 89% by the HRC, indicating a pro-gay-rights stance.

Obama scores 89% by the HRC on gay rights

OnTheIssues.org interprets the 2005-2006 HRC scores as follows:

About the HRC (from their website, www.hrc.org):

The Human Rights Campaign represents a grassroots force of more than 700,000 members and supporters nationwide. As the largest national gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, HRC envisions an America where GLBT people are ensured of their basic equal rights, and can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.

Ever since its founding in 1980, HRC has led the way in promoting fairness for GLBT Americans. HRC is a bipartisan organization that works to advance equality based on sexual orientation and gender expression and identity.

Source: HRC website 06n-HRC on Dec 31, 2006

Rated 100% by the NAACP, indicating a pro-affirmative-action stance.

Obama scores 100% by the NAACP on affirmative action

OnTheIssues.org interprets the 2005-2006 NAACP scores as follows:

About the NAACP (from their website, www.naacp.org):

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has worked over the years to support and promote our country's civil rights agenda. Since its founding in 1909, the NAACP has worked tirelessly to end racial discrimination while also ensuring the political, social, and economic equality of all people. The Association will continue this mission through its policy initiatives and advocacy programs at the local, state, and national levels. From the ballot box to the classroom, the dedicated workers, organizers, and leaders who forged this great organization and maintain its status as a champion of social justice, fought long and hard to ensure that the voices of African Americans would be heard. For nearly one hundred years, it has been the talent and tenacity of NAACP members that has saved lives and changed many negative aspects of American society.

Source: NAACP website 06n-NAACP on Dec 31, 2006

Recognize Juneteenth as historical end of slavery.

Obama co-sponsored recognizing Juneteenth as historical end of slavery

A resolution recognizing the historical significance of Juneteenth Independence Day and expressing that history should be regarded as a means for understanding the past and solving the challenges of the future.

Recognizes the historical significance to the nation, and supports the continued celebration, of Juneteenth Independence Day (June 19, 1865, the day Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, with news that the Civil War had ended and that the enslaved African Americans were free). Declares the sense of Congress that:

  1. history should be regarded as a means for understanding the past and solving the challenges of the future; and
  2. the celebration of the end of slavery is an important and enriching part of the history and heritage of the United States.
Legislative Outcome: House versions are H.CON.RES.155 and H.RES.1237; related Senate resolution S.RES.584 counts for sponsorship. Resolution agreed to in Senate, by Unanimous Consent.
Source: S.RES.584 08-SR584 on Jun 4, 2008

Provide benefits to domestic partners of Federal employees.

Obama co-sponsored providing benefits to domestic partners of Federal employees

Sen. LIEBERMAN: This legislation would require the Government to extend employee benefit programs to the same-sex domestic partners of Federal employees. It is sound public policy and it makes excellent business sense.

Under our bill, Federal employee and the employee's domestic partner would be eligible to participate in benefits to the same extent that married employees and their spouses participate. Employees and their partners would also assume the same obligations that apply to married employees and their spouses, such as anti-nepotism rules and financial disclosure requirements.

The Federal Government is our Nation's largest employer and should lead other employers, rather than lagging behind, in the quest to provide equal and fair compensation and benefits to all employees. That thousands of Federal workers who have dedicated their careers to public service and who live in committed relationships with same-sex domestic partners receive fewer protections for their families than those married employees is patently unfair and, frankly, makes no economic sense.

I call upon my colleagues to express their support for this important legislation. It is time for the Federal Government to catch up to the private sector, not just to set an example but so that it can compete for the most qualified employees and ensure that all of our public servants receive fair and equitable treatment. It makes good economic and policy senses. It is the right thing to do.

SUMMARY: Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act of 2007

Source: Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act (S.2521/H.R.4838) 2007-S2521 on Dec 19, 2007

Re-introduce the Equal Rights Amendment.

Obama co-sponsored re-introducing the Equal Rights Amendment

Sen. KENNEDY. "It's a privilege to join my colleagues in reintroducing the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. The ERA is essential to guarantee that the freedoms protected by our Constitution apply equally to men and women. From the beginning of our history as a Nation, women have had to wage a constant, long and difficult battle to win the same basic rights granted to men. That battle goes on today, since discrimination still continues in many ways.

"Despite passage of the Equal Pay Act & the Civil Rights Act in the 1960s, discrimination against women continues to permeate the workforce and many areas of the economy. Today, women earn about 77 cents for each dollar earned by men, and the gap is even greater for women of color. More than 60% of working women are still clustered in a narrow range of traditionally female, traditionally low-paying occupations, and female-headed households continue to dominate the bottom rungs of the economic ladder.

"A stronger effort is clearly needed to finally live up to our commitment of full equality. The ERA alone cannot remedy all discrimination, but it will clearly strengthen the ongoing efforts of women across the country to obtain equal treatment.

"We know from the failed ratification experiences of the past that amending the Constitution to include the ERA will not be easy to achieve. But the women of America deserve no less."

Source: Equal Rights Amendment (S.J.RES.10/H.J.RES.40) 2007-SJR10 on Mar 29, 2007

Reinforce anti-discrimination and equal-pay requirements.

Obama co-sponsored reinforcing anti-discrimination and equal-pay requirements

A bill to restore, reaffirm, and reconcile legal rights and remedies under civil rights statutes. Amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for:

  1. establishing discrimination based on disparate impact; and
  2. rights of action and recovery for unlawful discrimination.
Source: Civil Rights Act of 2008 (S.2554&H.R.5129) 2008-S2554 on Jan 24, 2008

Other candidates on Civil Rights: Barack Obama on other issues:
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