LGBT Democrats in Dallas excited at the chance to have an impact on party’s 2008 presidential nomination
Regardless of whom they support, local gay Democrats are relishing the opportunity to help decide their party’s nominee for president on March 4.
Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama emerged from battles in 22 states on Super Tuesday, Feb. 5 in a virtual dead heat for delegates, meaning the late-voting state of Texas will be more than an afterthought for the first time in decades.
“It’s going to be a very exciting time because for the first time in my lifetime my primary vote is actually going to count for something,” said Jesse Garcia, president of the largest LGBT political group in North Texas, Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.
“It’s going to be a battle royale.”
Democratic and Republican presidential nominees historically have been decided prior to Texas’ primaries. But while John McCain is well on his way to the GOP bid after Mitt Romney withdrew on Thursday, Feb. 7, the race between Clinton and Obama is far from over. And Texas has the most delegates of any state that’s yet to vote.
Garcia and others agreed there is little if any difference between the positions of Clinton and Obama on LGBT issues.
Both favor substantial legal rights for same-sex couples but have stopped short of endorsing full marriage; both support pending federal legislation related to hate crimes and job discrimination that includes sexual orientation, and both want to repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
As a result, most gay Democrats in Texas likely will base their decision on things like accomplishments, experience, personality and electability, or issues like health care, the economy and the Iraq war.
A committee from Stonewall Democrats of Dallas voted last month to back Clinton, but Garcia said the endorsement has yet to be ratified by the group’s full membership.
“If we have enough Barack supporters, they might not want to accept that,” said Garcia, who supports Clinton. “In the end, we can’t go wrong. Both of their records are stellar on LGBT issues.”
Stonewall member Hardy Haberman said no matter whom the group endorses, he plans to vote for Obama.
“I think Hillary would probably be a pretty good president, but I don’t think she inspires people like Obama,” Haberman said, adding that he believes Clinton is also more vulnerable to Republican attacks. “I think it’s going to take a new voice and somebody who’s going to unify the country in general, because the more the country is unified, the more the gay community will benefit.”
Barbara Rosenberg, another Stonewall member, said she’s already been working as a volunteer for Clinton’s campaign.
“Over time, she has not changed her positions no matter what kind of heat she’s taken for those,” Rosenberg said.
“I think it takes someone who’s faced scrutiny, and she has faced all kinds of scrutiny for her whole life, and she’s still been able to be effective in bringing about change.”
Rob Schlein, president of Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas, said the gay GOP group doesn’t make formal endorsements in primaries.
Schlein said a majority of the group’s members supported Rudy Giuliani, who recently dropped out of the race.
“In our chapter, people are still grieving over the loss of Giuliani, and they’re still evaluating their choices,” Schlein said. “What I say to people is: “‘Giuliani endorsed McCain. We had a lot of faith in Giuliani’s judgment. That’s going to be my guide.'”
Early voting in the primaries begins Feb. 19.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 8, 2008