President Obama’s campaign operation, Obama for America, created a DNC-connected offshoot in January of 2009 called Organizing for America (OFA). In January of 2013, Organizing for America transformed into an independent non-profit, Organizing for Action. And today we find out that Organizing for Action is organizing in Illinois for action on gay marriage.
It’s a big deal. Here’s why.
It wasn’t that long ago that a common complaint in the gay community was that the large Obama’s campaign apparatus was avoiding the issues of gay and trans rights entirely.
The issue came to a head in November of 2009, when a measure to repeal marriage equality was being voted on in Maine. OFA sent an email to Mainers urging them to vote the next day, but not telling what was being voted on, a hugely important assault on gays and lesbians in the state.
Things only got worse when a subsequent OFA email asked Mainers to get involved in a local New Jersey race on election day, but not their own gay marriage battle.
It wasn’t until June of 2010 that OFA finally sent an email about a gay rights issue, in this case “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” but it was only a fundraiser for the DNC – not a real effort to help us move forward on repealing the military’s gay ban. But at least they acknowledged us, which was a step forward.
One of the excuses we were given for OFA’s inaction was that the DNC doesn’t get involved in “state” issues. Now it appears they do, and good for them.
The newest iteration of OFA is joining the battle for marriage equality in Illinois. Which is important symbolically and substantively. It matters that an organization created, in effects, by President Obama is fighting for gay marriage in a state where black voters are being barraged with anti-gay messages by the pedophile-enabling Catholic church, among others.
Last year in Marland there were concerns that the quite Democratic African-American community might turn out in record numbers for President Obama last fall, but also vote in large numbers against the gay marriage legislation on the ballot in that state. Many now believe that the President’s open endorsement of marriage equality last summer had a huge impact on changing the minds of African-American voters, and ultimately helping marriage equality now become the law of the land in Maryland.
Hopefully, the same will hold true in Illinois.
Now, I know some will argue that OFA is late to the ball, as it were. The same criticism was lobbed against former RNC chair, and now openly-gay, Ken Mehlman when he came out and started working publicly on gay rights issue. And the same criticism was lobbed at GOP Senator Rob Portman when he announced last week that his son was gay, and as a result he was now in favor of same-sex marriage. And it’s understandable that people are skeptical about, and angry at, those who weren’t with us before, but are now.
But that doesn’t change the fact that we need their support, we’re better off with their support than without it, and as a former Log Cabin spokesman wrote to me on Facebook recently, we can’t keep urging people to “do the right thing” and support our civil rights, but then when they finally do what we ask, criticize them for it.
I think it’s fair to tell OFA, Mehlman, and Portman that we’re glad they’re now on our side on the marriage issue, and that the proof will be in the pudding. If they really come through for us, if they sincerely are interested in helping advance our civil rights struggle, and put their proverbial money where their mouth is, then they are most welcome.