Hillary and Barack court gay voters

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The frontrunners for the Democratic party nomination for President of the United States have been highlighting their gay-friendly credentials ahead of today’s vital primary contests.

New York Senator and former First Lady Hillary Clinton posted a message on lesbian website ourchart.com outlining why she thinks LGBT Americans should vote for her.

Illinois Senator Barack Obama has revealed that many gay supporters of John Edwards, who withrdrew from the race last week, are now supporting him.

22 states will chose a Democratic candidate today, among them California, New York, Illinois and New Jersey.

These populous states have large numbers of convention delegates – California alone has 441, New York 280.

Going into Super Tuesday, Senator Clinton has 246 delegates, or 57% and Senator Obama has 40%.

Democrats Abroad and in the US territory of American Samoa will also vote.

“America deserves a President who appeals to the best in each of us, not the worst,” wrote Senator Clinton.

“A President who values and respects all Americans and treats all Americans equally no matter who they are or who they love.

“I want to be that President. I want to be your President.”

She listed her achievements for gay rights as a Senator and First Lady, among them fighting the Federal Marriage Amendment and co-sponsoring the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

“I am proud to have marched in gay Pride parades as both First Lady and as Senator and to have spoken in front of so many LGBT audiences ranging from the Human Rights Campaign, Empire State Pride Agenda, the Hetrick Martin Institute, PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), GMHC (Gay Men’s Health Crisis), and the American Foundation for AIDS Research,” she wrote.

Read the full message here.

On his website Barack Obama announced that nearly half of John Edwards’ original LGBT steering committee are throwing their support behind him, while most of the other former members remain formally uncommitted.

“We believe that Obama can pick up more delegates if the 12% to 15% of Edwards supporters nationwide, and even more in some states, will turn out for Obama,” said Eric Stern, former political adviser to the Edwards campaign and a former National Stonewall Democrats executive director.

“We believe we can make a difference.”

Polling data released yesterday indicated that Senator Obama is edging into the lead over Senator Clinton.

The national CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll of 500 registered Democrats had Obama on 49% and Clinton on 46%, with a 4.5% margin of error.

“Coming out of his overwhelming victory in South Carolina and followed quickly by his Kennedy family endorsements, Obama clearly has the momentum in this campaign,” said Bill Schneider, CNN’s senior political analyst.

Last week Caroline Kennedy, the only living child of former President John F Kennedy, endorsed Obama, along with her uncle Senator Ted Kennedy.