Obama’s Gay Backers

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Stampp Corbin’s connection to the Obama campaign goes back to his childhood in Chicago, where he and Michelle Obama (née Robinson) went to school together.

Their paths crossed again at Harvard – Corbin was finishing up business school as the Obamas were starting their law degree. Many years and a successful computer scrapping company later, Corbin ran into Michelle at their high school’s 30th birthday.

They reconnected and when it came time to launch the campaign, Corbin signed on as the National LGBT Policy Committee Co-Chair. His childhood with Michelle Robinson doesn’t motivate Corbin, however. Nor does the fact that Obama’s also black.

Unlike his colleague Tobias Wolff, Corbin says his gay identity motivated him to back Obama.

AB: Obviously I’m curious to know why you support Barack Obama for president.

SC: One, Barack Obama is great on LGBT issues and that’s of primary importance to me. Secondarily, I look at all of the other issues across the spectrum. There are a variety of them, from the war in Iraq to economic policies, but from an LGBT perspective, I think he’s better on those issues, particularly with the DOMA situation. He wants the full deal and Clinton believes – it’s just a difference of opinion. It’s strategic to leave parts of this Defense of Marriage Act so our opponents can’t get a federal marriage amendment passed. [But] I don’t think a federal marriage amendment can get passed if we have a Democratic president.

AB: What about after a Democratic president?

SC: I hope that’s eight years from now or twelve years from now. I think the progress that we’ve made in the past twelve years will only be usurped by the progress we make over the next twelve years. If you had talked to me or any host of activists twelve years ago, when the concept was 80/20 – 80% of the American people against, 20% of the American people for – compared to where we are with civil unions today with Americans support civil unions. That is progress. Why would I expect there to be a regression in the next twelve years?

AB: Yes, but just because you don’t expect it to happen doesn’t mean it couldn’t.

SC: No, but I don’t think we should have policies that discriminate against LGBT folk because we think it’s a defensive strategy. That’s sort of like telling us African-Americans, “The reason that we’re not giving you the right to vote is because we think that it’s going to create a wave of anti-minority legislation”. It’s counter-intuitive to me. We should try to move forward while we can.

AB: You said you’re primarily motivated by Obama’s stance on gay issues.

SC: Primarily, yes, gay issues are important to me. I am fortunately one of those Americans who has had much success in his life and was fortunate enough to go to Harvard and Stanford and so, you know, I don’t have necessarily the monetary issues. I line up exactly with both Hillary and Barack in terms of their economic policies. There’s not that much difference between them, but there are some differences and DOMA happens to be a difference.

AB: As a black man, how do you feel about having a black candidate who’s actually a viable candidate for the presidency?

SC: That is not a factor in my decision. In 1988 a gay man Mike Duffy decided that he wanted to run for a city council seat in Boston. He was running for the south end, which was at that time a gay neighborhood, and he was going to run against the African-American sitting city council person who had sponsored the gay rights bill. The gay people said, “We have to support one of our own” and I was sitting there thinking, “Gosh, both candidates represent me” and that’s when I had an epiphany: it’s not really about this tribalism, it’s really about who’s the best candidate. And I went with the African-American candidate, because he had sponsored the gay rights bill! How could a gay person say they’re going to be better than a person who really took the risk and sponsored the gay rights bill? Ultimately that city council person won… So, when you ask me, “Am I happy he’s an African-American candidate?” Sure. Is that why I supported him? Of course not.

AB: What happens if Barack Obama doesn’t win the nomination?

SC: First, I don’t live in that possibility, I really don’t. I think that if you crunch the numbers and you look at Texas and Ohio, we’re going to go into the convention with a lead in terms of pledged delegates. I think that ultimately based upon the way that superdelegates are falling these days, we’re positive sixteen, I think that we’re going to win the nomination. I also believe that the vision, optimism and enthusiasm that Barack Obama brings to the campaign vis a vis John McCain, I think you’re going to see independents and former Reagan Democrats will break to the Obama camp and ultimately he will be successful in his bid to be the next president of the United States.