In 2004, Michael Burke and Robert Charles wrote a letter to then Illinois State Senator Barack Obama and enclosed a modest check of support for his campaign for the U.S. Senate.
In the letter they told State Senator Obama that they "enthusiastically" supported his candidacy for U.S. Senate, but were disappointed to learn "that while you support civil unions you do not support gay marriage. While we understand the political calculation of such a strategy ... we are disturbed by the moral dissonance that such a stance tolerates."
They mailed the letter off to Obama's Hyde Park address, hoping to sidestep the hoops of his campaign office. Imagine their surprise when they received two to three weeks later what appeared to be a personalized reply from State Senator Obama explaining in detail the political history and strategy informing his stance.
What was truly amazing to Burke and Charles was the last paragraph of the letter: "Let me end by thanking you for your support in this campaign. I've enclosed the check you wrote, just so that you can consider my response before offering further support. Warm Regards, Barack Obama."
The couple was floored. Could this be yet another political ruse to garner their support? What kind of politician -- especially in Chicago -- returns a campaign check?
"I still get goose bumps thinking about it," Burke said.
Although neither is rolling in dough -- Burke is an author and freelance writer, and Charles is a magician and founder of Magic Chicago -- they were so awestruck by the state senator's high ground that they sent Barack Obama a second check -- for double the first amount.
Today, Burke and Charles are thrilled by President Barack Obama's May 9, 2012, statement "Same-sex couples should be able to get married."
And although they sound a note of caution in celebrating the president's position on behalf of civil rights, they are more hopeful than they have ever been.
In 2004, "We actually had a glimmer of hope that someone could be elected into office such as Barack Obama and he could help move civil rights further ahead," Charles said. " We are actually seeing that happening now."
"While the game is still playing out in state legislature and in the courts, the president has set the goal posts. The president very forcefully said yesterday, 'The goal is gay marriage,'" Burke said. He added, laughing: "I'd like to get married before I turn 60."
Will Burke and Charles be writing President Obama another letter any time soon?
"We've talked about this," Burke said. "It will be four words, 'Thank you, Mr. President."
"Short and sweet," Charles said.
To hear an audio recording of this interview and see other background materials related to this report, visit my personal blog at sallyduros.com
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