Despite social distancing requirements created by the novel coronavirus pandemic, over the last two weeks, both the Democratic and Republican Parties adapted and held their presidential nominating conventions for the upcoming 2020 election in November. While LGBTQ-specific issues were not the main focus of either event, each of the conventions had speakers from the community and touched upon LGBTQ-specific policies — directly or indirectly. Here’s a summary of the month’s events:
Democratic National Convention
– Multiple LGBTQ speakers took the stage including Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, soccer champion Megan Rapinoe, State Delegate Danica Roem and Kristin Urquiza, who drew national media attention in June when she wrote an obituary for her 65-year-old father who died of COVID-19.
– The Democratic Party’s official 80-page platform denounced the Trump administration’s actions that allow discrimination to target LGBTQ people. Additionally, the platform commits to helping LGBTQ youth with mental health needs and suicide prevention goals and pledges to “fight to enact the Equality Act and at last outlaw discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in housing, public accommodations, access to credit, education, jury service and federal programs.”
– Openly gay convention Secretary Jason Rae directed roll call votes.
– A video in lieu of a keynote speaker featured 17 people who pledge to vote for the party’s presidential nominee of Joe Biden. Three of the featured people were gay men: Long Beach, California, Mayor Robert Garcia, Pennsylvania State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, and Georgia State Rep. Sam Park.
– Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, whose campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination made history as he emerged as one of the top contenders as an openly gay candidate, announced Indiana’s delegation vote.
– State Rep. Craig Hickman, the first openly gay African American to serve in the Maine House of Representatives, announced that state’s votes.
– Wyoming’s vote was announced by the parents of Matthew Shepard, the victim of a 1998 assault that inspired legislation to prevent crimes motivated by hatred of LGBTQ people and other minorities. Dennis and Judy Shepard credited Biden with helping to pass that legislation and for his “commitment to equality and compassion for others.”
– Before the convention’s evening schedule, the Democratic Party’s official LGBTQ+ Caucus held its first meeting on Tuesday afternoon. It hosted various LGBTQ leaders like Pete Buttigieg, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, U.S. Reps. Mark Takano of California, David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Mark Pocan of Wisconsin and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
– Emma González, a bisexual student who became one of the leaders of a youth movement against gun violence after a 2018 shooting at her high school in Parkland, Florida, was one of the first voices heard by people tuning in to Wednesday night’s broadcast of the Democratic National Convention. Viewers then heard from the mother of Jerald Wright, a 31-year-old man killed during a gun massacre at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in 2016. The broadcast’s host, actress Kerry Washington, noted the increasing violence against transgender people.
– Speaker Nancy Pelosi noted at the start of her address that the Democrats in the U.S. House include 60 percent women, people of color and LGBTQ people, standing on the shoulders of those who fought for them at Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall.
– A video celebrating the accomplishments of women included a wide range of women, including several lesbians – Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, soccer champion Megan Rapinoe, Texas Congressional candidate Gina Ortiz Jones, U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids of Kansas and Virginia’s transgender Delegate Danica Roem.
– Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David called Harris an “exceptional choice” for vice president saying, “Throughout her groundbreaking career, Senator Harris has been an outspoken advocate for the LGBTQ community,” David said, “standing with us when many, even sometimes those within her own party, did not.”
– Baldwin, who was said to be have been on Biden’s list of potential vice presidential running mates, noted Wednesday that Harris came to Wisconsin to help with her last reelection campaign. Baldwin was speaking to a Zoom audience organized Wednesday evening by the Lesbian Political Action Committee to pay tribute to the fact that she was the first lesbian elected to the U.S. Senate.
– Buttigieg used his time on Thursday night to share the story of his time in the military, too, in Afghanistan. This followed a video recounting the life of Biden’s late son Beau, who served as a member of the National Guard in Iraq. Buttigieg said he grew up at a time when “firing me because of who I am wasn’t just possible — it was policy.”
– Two other openly LGBTQ people were briefly highlighted during the last night of the convention. One was Virginia Delegate Danica Roem, the first transgender person to win office in that state. Roem spoke as part of a video of various people sharing what they hope the nation will be like “this time next year.” Roem said she hopes there will be a president who can look a transgender woman in the eyes and “tell her her rights are important.” The other was openly gay Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, who said he hopes there will be “comprehensive immigration reform.”
– The event’s invocation was delivered by Sister Simone Campbell of “Nuns on the Bus,” a Catholic social justice group that has supported respect for same-sex marriage.
Republican National Convention
– In June of this year, the COVID-19 prompted the Republican party to forego a meeting of its platform committee this year and adhere, instead, to the platform it adopted in 2016. It was a platform that had prompted Log Cabin Republicans to place a full-page ad in USA Today, calling the platform the “most anti-LGBT platform in the Republican Party’s 162-year history.” On July 29, the Log Cabin Republicans issued a press release announcing a public education program, Outspoken — featured at getoutspoken.com — to “articulate our conservative voices and amplify them across the nation.” The most recent posting criticizes LGBTQ comedian Randy Rainbow for his “anti-Trump” videos.
– The 2016 Republican National Convention included one openly gay primetime speaker, Paypal founder and Facebook board member Peter Thiel.
– On Monday night, no speaker mentioned LGBTQ people outright, but several referred to “values” and “morality” in ways that seemed to conflate efforts to achieve equality with “vengeful mobs” and the closing of churches due to COVID-19.
– There was a thinly veiled criticism of equal rights for LGBTQ people by Cissie Graham Lynch, the granddaughter of the Rev. Billy Graham and daughter of evangelical minister Franklin Graham. Lynch told viewers that the Obama-Biden administration had “tried to force adoption agencies to violate their deeply held beliefs.” That was an apparent reference to the ongoing controversy over whether local and state governments with laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity can withhold funding for religious adoption agencies that violate those laws.
– There was no mention of LGBTQ people during night three of the 2020 Republican National Convention Wednesday night. However, Richard Grenell, openly gay former acting director of National Intelligence and ambassador to Germany, was given time in the spotlight. He did not discuss equal rights for LGBTQ people or even mention his role as the newly appointed leader in the Trump campaign’s outreach to LGBTQ voters.
– The final night of the 2020 Republican National Convention ended with President Trump highlighting the distinct differences between his intended leadership going forward and the leadership of Democratic nominee Joe Biden. This mirrored both presidential nominees’ inclusion, or lack thereof, of LGBTQ people.