I'm a gay man, and I care about my civil rights. I care about who I love, where I work and my freedom to walk down the street and be proud of who I am.
Because I care about my rights, I would be foolish not to vote for Barack Obama.
I really wasn't political 12 years ago. But I remember what it was like living under an administration that didn't care about gay rights -- to have a leader who didn't value me as equal to other American citizens simply because I'm gay. After four years of steady progress, it's easy to forget about how it felt to turn on the TV and hear the leader of this great country dismiss you and tell you your rights aren't important or that it's wrong for you to be who you are.
But today, we have a president who supports us. Obama has done more to advance gay rights than any prior president; he has publicly endorsed marriage equality, supported of the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and ordered the Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act in federal court.
Mitt Romney, on the other hand, won't take a clear stand on most gay rights issues, such as hate crimes legislation and employment nondiscrimination. That worries me.
Even more worrisome is that the Republican presidential candidate has made his stance clear on one issue: he opposes marriage equality. Romney plans to use the U.S. Constitution to restrict our rights, a fact that's right there in black and white on his campaign website, which promises that a Romney presidency would "champion a Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman."
With his backward-looking proclamations that blatantly disregard us, Romney has made it clear that gay men and lesbians do not deserve full rights and should remain quiet, docile second-class citizens. Is that someone who can lead this country to a happy and prosperous future? I think not. History moves in one direction: forward.
This upcoming presidential election means everything for our rights as gay citizens, and it's the battleground on which the fight for those rights will play out. With our votes, we'll be fighting for our right to marry the man or woman of our dreams. We'll be fighting for our right to keep our jobs and not face termination just for being gay. We'll be fighting for our right to be considered equal citizens whose relationships -- and indeed, whose humanity -- are deserving of the same acknowledgment that's given unflinchingly to our straight counterparts.
If this sounds like a rallying cry, it is. We've seen the outcome of assuming that voters will choose equality, which is what many of us in California thought would happen with Proposition 8. We expected that such a narrow-minded breach of basic human rights wouldn't fly in such an enlightened state. But it did. Can we really afford another wake-up call?
As a gay man in America today, I can't afford to take it as a given that my rights will be protected. And none of us can. The next president will shape the U.S. Supreme Court, and this election is also about control of Congress. These decisions and laws have a direct impact on the core of how I am valued by this society far beyond the next four years.
We must inform ourselves about who's running to represent us in our states and in our congressional districts -- and how they plan to vote on our rights once they take office. We must fight off disillusionment and apathy. We must make politics part of our lives. We must remind one another to register to vote, to donate to campaigns of politicians who'll guarantee our rights, to get out and volunteer. It's time that gay men and lesbians harness our numbers as a voting bloc.
I know where Obama stands. I know what it means to be a gay man in Obama's America. I know I'm respected. And I know that Romney doesn't respect me. For him, it's quite simple: a gay person in a relationship -- a relationship of which Romney does not personally approve -- does not deserve the same rights as that person would enjoy if he were a heterosexual citizen.
President Barack Obama has made it clear that he supports me, a gay man in America. That's why I personally support Obama in his bid for re-election -- and why you should too.