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Obama Makes Gay
History

Obama Makes Gay
History

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Sen. Barack Obama accepted his Party's history making nomination for president Thursday night with a speech that was also momentous for its inclusion of gays and lesbians.

In his speech Thursday night centered around renewing America's promise, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama made perhaps the strongest statement of support for gays and lesbians in this country's political history, rousing a crowd of some 84,000 at Denver's Invesco Field to cheers and bringing the cause of equality straight into the homes of middle America.

"I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination," the Illinois senator said on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" address.

The affirmation came as Obama accepted his party's nomination for president, in a passage where he squarely took on the Republican values triumvirate of God, guns, and gays. He started with a woman's right to choose. "We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country," Obama declared. Gun control was next: "The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than for those plagued by gun violence in Cleveland, but don't tell me we can't uphold the 2nd Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals." Then came the line about gays, which drew the loudest reaction of the three.

The pointed appeal was intended to bridge the gap between liberals and conservatives, in keeping with the bipartisan spirit of the Obama campaign. His message: Don't let social issues keep you from pulling the lever for me come November, we can find common ground on the most divisive issues of the day.

Obama's remarks were the culmination of a steady drumbeat of pro-LGBT rhetoric throughout the 2008 Democratic National Convention -- and arguably went a long way towards assuaging the disappointment and frustration felt by many gays over the candidate's general-election strategy of framing marriage as a union between one man and one woman, a belief he reiterated just two weeks ago at the Saddleback Church forum with his Republican opponent John McCain. Though he's clearly walking a fine line on LGBT issues -- during the primaries, for instance, Obama specifically avoided the one-man-one-woman phrase with its Christian-right overtones -- the inclusion of gays and lesbians in his call to take back America from George W. Bush and the GOP ranks up there with Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign promise to repeal the ban on gays serving in the military.

However imperfect, the Clinton administration helped usher in greater acceptance of gays and lesbians, bringing many out into the open for the first time in their lives. Will Barack Obama's potential presidency push beyond that to make LGBT citizens equal partners in the American dream? His powerful speech -- and the crowd's enthusiastic response -- certainly inspires hope.

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