With only a few weeks remaining before Election Day, several members of D.C.’s LGBT community are literally going to great lengths to ensure President Obama wins another four years in the White House.
Opportunities to help push Obama over the edge in battleground states are driving local LGBT supporters to travel to far off places — including Colorado and Ohio — where the results on Nov. 6 could decide the election.
Crosby Burns, 25, a gay D.C. resident, said he agreed to travel to Colorado to help the Obama campaign — an expedition he made during Obama’s first campaign in 2008 — after looking at polls showing a tightening race between Obama and Mitt Romney.
“A couple of weeks ago, I was just looking at polls and seeing Mitt Romney speak, and I was just thinking the president needs us more than ever,” Burns said. “That’s what I did back in 2008, I’m going to do the exact same thing, if not more, to ensure that the president is re-elected and that Colorado stays ‘blue’ for him in 2012.”
Burns, a research associate on LGBT issues at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, said the Obama campaign is sending him Monday to West Denver, Colo. — a predominately Latino area — where he intends to employ his Spanish-speaking skills to help with get-out-the-vote efforts.
“I’m going to be going door-to-door using my Spanish skills and talking with people about the election and making sure they know where their polling place is and making sure they support the president,” Burns said.
Collin Burton, 32, a gay D.C. resident, said he’s taking personal leave from his job to make a similar trip to his hometown of Columbus, Ohio, on Monday to help manage out-of-state volunteers coming into the battleground state to campaign for Obama.
“As we get closer to Election Day, we’ll be running some GOTV operations and helping out with the regional work, so it’ll be good,” Burton said. “We will hopefully get a lot of people through and get a lot of voters contacted, make sure that they know they need to turn out.”
Burton, who handles government relations as an appointee to the Corporation for National & Community Service, estimated that he would manage between 20 and 100 Obama supporters coming into the state from more assuredly Democratic parts of the country, such as D.C., New York and Eastern Pennsylvania.
It’s not the first time Burton has helped with Democratic Party efforts. In 2010 for the mid-term elections, he was designated the LGBT caucus director for the Ohio Democratic Party.
But Burton said he hopes the outcome is different this time around as opposed to the mid-term election, when an anti-incumbent wave swept a sea of Republicans into office, including in Ohio.
“I hope it’s a hell of a lot better, I’ll be honest, because the outcome in 2010 in Ohio was pretty bad,” Burton said. “It went from a wonderfully “blue” state to an incredibly red state. I’m confident that it will [be better this time]. I’m certain that the Obama ground game is up and running and will be rocking it for Ohio.”
Some LGBT Obama supporters in D.C. are taking advantage of opportunities within the area to campaign for the president, especially because the battleground state of Virginia is just across the Potomac River.
Clarence Fluker, 33 and a gay D.C. resident, said he’s been participating in LGBT phone banking each Thursday night at the Democratic National Committee to talk with potential voters — mainly in Virginia — and educate them about Obama’s record.
“Sometimes people say that they’re undecided, but we talk to them and log all of the information from the calls and send it over at the end of the night to the person who’s running the phone bank,” Fluker said.
Fluker, who works for the D.C. Commission on National and Community Service, said he also plans to make a trip during an upcoming weekend to Virginia to knock on doors and talk about Obama personally with voters.
“I think it’s helpful because this campaign is really going to be won on the ground, and it’s going to be won by reaching out to everyday Americans and asking for their support, educating them about all the wonderful things the Obama administration has done and all the things that we know that they’re going to do in the second term,” Fluker said.
Clo Ewing, an Obama campaign spokesperson, said Obama’s LGBT supporters recognize the president “has done more to advance gay rights than any other president” — citing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, mandating hospital visitation rights and calling for repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act as among his accomplishments.
“That record stands in stark contrast to Mitt Romney’s, who promised to be to the left of Sen. [Ted] Kennedy on gay rights and then made clear he would have left ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in place and is working to enshrine discrimination into the Constitution by passing a federal marriage amendment,” Ewing said. “From grassroots organizing to phone banking to registering voters, LGBT supporters are working hard because there’s too much at stake to sit on the sidelines.”
The Washington Blade was unable to find local LGBT supporters of Mitt Romney’s campaign who are undertaking efforts to help the Republican nominee win the White House.
Each of the Obama LGBT supporters who spoke with the Washington Blade said the president’s work on LGBT issues was deeply personal for them and a motiving factor in helping them decide to contribute to the campaign.
Burton said he was particularly grateful Obama took action to benefit LGBT people through administrative steps, such as the hospital visitation rights memo he issued for same-sex partners.
As a federal employee, Burton took particular note of the memorandum Obama signed in 2009 granting limited domestic partner benefits to government workers.
“Extending those rights, it matters quite a bit, and it’s incredible to see him actually move the pen for that,” Burton said.
Fluker said he was moved when Obama announced in May he had completed his evolution to support marriage equality — particularly because those words came from the nation’s first black president.
“When President Obama talked about his own personal walk, how he got to the point where he also supports same-sex marriage, that meant a lot to me not just as black gay man, but as an American, to have a leader who felt that way,” Fluker said.
For Burns, the president’s announcement that he now supports marriage equality was important, as well as Obama’s other work in advancing gay rights.
“That’s an issue that’s near and dear to my heart and to see him fully evolve on this issue was just very validating as an Obama supporter and as a gay man,” Burns said.