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By Lisa Keen
Keen News Service
Thursday, Aug. 28 – The unusual trend of gay visibility being delivered entirely – with one exception – by straight politicians continued Wednesday night.
During his widely-anticipated speech, former President Bill Clinton told the convention, and the national television audience, that a President Barack Obama will see to it that every American has a chance to succeed.
“The values of freedom and equality,” he said, will drive Obama to give “all Americans, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability” a chance to build a good life. He added that Obama can also be counted on to “renew the battle against HIV and AIDS here at home.”
During the roll call vote to formalize Obama as the party nominee, the Massachusetts Senate President, Therese Murray, announced the state’s votes by reminding voters of Massachusetts’ role as the “first in equality in marriage.”
And just as Obama appeared onstage following Joe Biden’s acceptance speech for the vice presidential nomination, viewers watching CNN saw a factoid pop up saying that “gays and lesbians make up almost six percent of this year’s delegates, about 250 in total.”
The only openly-gay person on stage during Wednesday’s activities was lesbian musician Melissa Etheridge, who performed a medley of patriotic songs in the late afternoon.
The number of celebrities and elected officials dropping by to speak to the LGBT caucus was way down this year, too. But those who did won strong ovations.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom warned delegates that the California ballot measure over same-sex marriage is “the second most important election in America” this year.
Party Chairman Howard Dean also received a rousing welcome. Dean told delegates that the “most important thing” an LGBT person can do is “saying who you are.”
Speaking near the end of the caucus, Rep. Barney Frank criticized the media for making note that this year’s convention included only two openly gay people at the podium and no mention of the word “gay” in the platform. Frank said such matters are “trivial” compared to being “on the verge of one of the greatest moral victories in history.”
In an interview later, Frank took his trademark combative tone, dismissing questions about the difference in visibility for LGBT people and platform this year as unfair and “contemptuous.” The absence of gay visibility at the convention, he said, was a “sign of maturity” and a sign that the movement is “fully integrated” into the party.
In contrast, the Obama campaign’s openly gay deputy director, Steve Hildebrand, acknowledged a “failure” and vowed to do better.
Hildebrand said the campaign has “not done the effective job it needs to do to convince LGBT people that Obama will fight for us.”
Alexander Robinson, head of the National Black Justice Coalition, said he feels the Obama campaign conceded the gay vote early on to the Clinton campaign, but that since Obama secured the nomination, Obama’s LGBT supporters have worked hard to make up time.
“They’re behind the curve,” said Robinson, who is now supporting Obama and is on the Obama campaign’s LGBT steering committee.
Hildebrand urged delegates to do everything they can to help him convince supporters of Hillary Clinton not to sit out this election and to understand that “John McCain is not our friend.”