Words matter, and Michelle Obama is a woman of powerful words.
Last night, in a passionate address to the Democratic National Committee's Gay and Lesbian Leadership Council, Mrs. Obama delivered a rousing call-to-equality and put her husband on record as a fighter for the full equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. "Barack believes," she said, "that we must fight for the world as it should be, a world where we work together to reverse discriminatory laws."
Invoking "those who marched and bled and died, from Selma to Stonewall," Michelle implored Democrats to continue those early crusaders' march "in the pursuit of a more perfect union."
And it was unions, no doubt, that were on the minds of the LGBT audience that Michelle was reaching out to. With marriages under way in California, and a national debate about marriage equality for all couples taking place in living rooms and legislatures from coast to coast, many in the gay community are looking and listening to see if Obama will stand up strongly for our families or allow the country to be divided and conquered over the issue once again.
The question, for many gay voters, boils down to whether the Obamas can change the tone of the conversation, within the country and the party, about what it means to be equal and free?
According to Michelle, yes, they can.
Within her remarks to the GLCC last night, Mrs. Obama shared an extraordinary insight into the Obama campaign's respect for same-sex couples that set Senator Obama apart from almost any other Democratic lawmaker in the country . . . and certainly apart from any other nominee.
The Associated Press, using the creative and unfortunate powers of the editing pen, reported that Mrs. Obama told the crowd on Thursday evening that, "states should make their own decisions on the matter" of marriage and civil unions. But in fact, she went progressively further. What she actually said was that states should "decide for themselves how best to pursue equality for gay and lesbian couples -- whether that means a domestic partnership, a civil union, or a civil marriage. "
She did not endorse the option to simply push any form of recognition to the side.
Those remarks are a far cry -- and light years ahead -- of the characterization that AP used in its reporting. Indeed, it's the (very significant) difference between hiding behind states rights and calling on states to do the right thing.
Michelle Obama's words should also set the campaign apart from the GOP for gay voters who have openly raised concerns about Senator Obama's lack of a track record on our issues. As Senator McCain endorses a divisive anti-marriage amendment in California, Senator Obama and his wife have taken the latest, meaningful step in that march that began in Selma and Stonewall.
"The world as it is should be one that rejects discrimination of all kinds," Michelle Obama told the DNC. And, she made clear, should be one that embraces families of all kinds, too.
"A world that recognizes that equality in relationship, family, and adoption rights is not some abstract principle," she declared, "it's about whether millions of LGBT Americans can finally live lives marked by dignity and freedom. "
"[I]t's not just about the positions you take, it's also about the leadership you provide," she told the crowd at the DNC.
Words are powerful, and on Thursday, Michelle Obama was a woman of much more powerful words than the media is giving her credit for.
Can the LGBT community take heart in the leadership Michelle brings, and in the words she says?
Yes, I think, we certainly can.
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