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Ready or Not,
LGBT Clinton Supporters Move Toward Obama

Ready or Not,
LGBT Clinton Supporters Move Toward Obama


As many diehard LGBT Clinton fans conclude that Hillary's bid is over, about to be over, or should be over, they are making peace with an Obama nomination.

While the 2008 presidential election long ago deflated confidence in predictions, many observers agree that one thing seems reasonably clear now as the long, competitive Democratic primary season draws to a close: Hillary Clinton's window is closing fast if it hasn't already shut.

Obama is expected to grasp the majority of pledged delegates after Tuesday's contests in Kentucky and Oregon, and he has now taken a lead in support from the decisive superdelegates whom Clinton once dominated. Even if Clinton herself never says die, some LGBT backers are shifting their focus from whether she can still emerge victorious to when and how she might withdraw from the race.

The realization that Clinton could not win the nomination happened gradually for Cathy Renna, managing partner of Renna Communications in Washington, D.C. A long-term supporter who recalls the transformative, if imperfect, impact Bill Clinton exerted on gay rights in the early '90s, she also cites the former first lady's commitment to child welfare and women's issues. But Renna invokes the pragmatic reality of the numbers as her reason for backing Obama now.

"Really, if you look at the map, she's in a lot of trouble," she says. "You do the math, and she's up against a lot of challenges, financial and electoral. The reality is that he's way far ahead of her on a number of different levels."

Still, Renna declines to set a timeline for Clinton to exit, and she dismisses the conventional theory that an extended campaign might weaken the Democratic Party as it seeks to unify before the general election.

"I think Hillary needs to do what she feels is the right thing and the best thing in terms of the people supporting her," she says. "Playing it out to get as many people involved as possible is not going to be a huge detriment to Obama and his candidacy. People in so many different states feel like they're having an impact."

On the other hand, Sara Whitman, a married mother of three and activist in Newton, Mass., with a finance background, cites money as the chief reason why she believes Clinton needs to step aside immediately.

"I don't think we can afford more of this race more than anything else," says the self-described suburban lesbian housewife who with her wife contributed to Clinton up to the legal limits and enlisted friends. "This race has cost us an enormous amount of capital. It's time for it to end, and for it just to be about Obama versus McCain."

Having been impressed by Clinton's performance during the televised Logo/Human Rights Campaign presidential forum last August, Whitman definitively backed Clinton in January, but withdrew her support after the candidate suffered a romp in the North Carolina primary and narrowly won Indiana on May 6. "She really needed to either lose North Carolina only by a couple of points or win, and she needed to sweep Indiana dramatically," says Whitman. "She didn't do either of these things. At that point, it felt like, 'Game's up.'"

While the transition to Obama has felt more like a relationship of convenience than love at first sight for Whitman, she does express baseline affection for him.

"I think that he is going to definitely promote the general values of the Democratic Party in a way that will make me proud," she says. "I do believe that he will appoint good Supreme Court justices, and that for me, if there was a single issue, that would be it."

A focus on the bigger picture in 2008 also motivates blogger Lane Hudson. He remains ferociously committed to Clinton, having selected her after John Edwards, for whom he was a delegate in 2004, failed to gain traction this fall. His feeling is that she should continue to play out the race.

"Every time she's had her back against the wall," Hudson says, "she's found a way to fight back, even in the midst of unfair media coverage."

A strong critic of Obama who calls his reference to Clinton as "Annie Oakley" in Pennsylvania last month an instance of sexism, Hudson says that no matter the outcome of their contest, his emotions will not affect his vote in November. "When Obama's the Democratic nominee, I suppose I'll have to find a way to figure out how to support him," he says. "There's no way I'm going to support a Republican, that's for sure."

Meanwhile, writer and gay dad Terrence Heath worries about the harm already potentially caused by the protracted primary campaign.

"I'm concerned that continuing this process only damages the party," says the sidelined Dennis Kucinich voter who describes himself as moving toward Obama. "We could be giving the Republicans more and more to work with in the fall."

Specifically, Heath, an African-American from the South, frets over racial overtones in the Democratic campaign. He notes Clinton's recent remarks about white voters, the furor over statements Geraldine Ferraro made about Obama in March, and early speculation about whether Obama was a Muslim. His opinion is that the contest should have ended after North Carolina.

"When I can't tell the difference between a Democrat and Ann Coulter, there's a problem," says Heath. Although his words may shock, their emotion is rooted in the concern that Democrats not waste the unprecedented opportunity before them, especially in the wake of the California marriage decision.

"I just think this can be a really hopeful time for our community and for the country beginning to move forward and making the promises of this country available to all," he says. "We could be moving in that direction. I hope we can pull it off." (Julie Bolcer, The Advocate)

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Julie Bolcer