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Penn State LGBT Group Focuses On Voter Registration

This story was written by Shannon Simcox, Daily Collegian

Penn State junior Daniel Kolbe said this election will directly affect how he lives his life.

"It's important to me to have the right to be an equal citizen in our country," said Kolbe, a member of Penn State's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Passionate about his beliefs, Kolbe is president of LGBT Students for Obama, created in March. Kolbe would like to bring LGBT issues into the spotlight this election by informing voters.

Both Kolbe and sophomore Zachary Zabel, president of Penn State Students for Barack Obama, said Obama has the community's best interests in mind.

At this time, LGBT Students for Obama focuses mainly on registration, with a forum planned for the upcoming Coming Out Week. In the future, Kolbe has strong goals for the group.

"One of our plans, our goals I guess, is to try and include the State College community with it. We also want to basically try and bring a lot of LGBT and basic human rights issues to the front and have people look honestly at all the issues within the campaign and make informed decisions on who they are going to be voting for," Kolbe said.

Obama addresses many of the issues the LGBT community is interested in, Zabel said.

"Senator Obama opposes a constitutional ban on same sex marriage, supports full civil unions and wants to protect federal rights for LGBT couples," Zabel said.

Encompassed in federal rights of marriaged are the right to assist a loved one in the hospital, the right to equal health and equal property rights.

"When [Obama] was Illinois state senator he worked to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation in public housing and public accommodation," Zabel said.

Ultimately, considering the age of the average college students, this election is what's going to affect their future, Kolbe said.

"A lot of people in the group are passionate about their beliefs. This is an important election for us as far as LGBT rights," Kolbe said.

Nationally, LGBT students are mobilizing for Obama. There is a national network, Obama Pride, set up by the campaign, for LGBT supporters, Zabel said.

There are a few LGBT student groups across the nation, Kolbe said, as well as multiple recent pride events for Obama.

As an active member in the LGBT community on campus, junior Steve Lucas, vice president of LGBT Students for Barack Obama, thought it was time to get involved.

"I was involved with the Hillary [Clinton] campaign when she was still running and attended the Democratic National Convention and decided it was time to get involved," Lucas said.

Lucas' primary goal within the group is to get the word out on LGBT issues. There has been much focus on big-ticket issues, Lucas said, and he would like to bring more visibility to LGBT issues.

Lucas said he thinks students support LGBT Students for Obama and expect them to advocate specific issues.

"Usually they are interested in [LGBTA] issues, and there's something specific to certain issues that they can get involved with," Lucas said.

LGBT Students for Obama has roughly 65 people as of the group's first meeting, held last Tuesday. The group works closely with the larger group Students for Barack Obama, co-sponsoring events and coming together for volunteer events, Kolbe said.

All the members of the LGBT group are also members of the larger group, Zabel said.

"They are all part of Students for Obama," Zabel said. "They attend regular Obama meetings, but there are also specific meetings that their president holds."

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