by Rex Wockner
Some 365 openly LGBT delegates and other participants attended the Democratic National Convention in Denver – up from 275 at the 2004 convention, according to National Stonewall Democrats.
California led the way with at least 63 LGBT delegates, alternates, state committee members and pages, followed by New York with 28 and Florida and Texas with 21 each, Stonewall reported. At the other end of the spectrum, states with a single LGBT attendee included Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi and Wyoming. And there were none from American Samoa,
Nebraska, North Dakota and the Virgin Islands.
Stonewall said it was happy with Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s selection of Sen. Joseph Biden as his running mate. “The Democrats now have a national ticket that is ready to lead our party to victory this November,” said Executive Director Jon Hoadley.
The Human Rights Campaign called Biden “a proven and effective advocate for fairness and equality.”
“Sen. Biden’s record in the United States Senate is one of support and understanding that has been unwavering throughout his career,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese.
As the convention opened Aug. 25, speakers at the main podium addressed gay issues.
“Barack Obama will close the book on the old politics of race and gender and group against groups, and straight against gay,” said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who is ill with brain cancer.
Democratic National Committee Treasurer Andrew Tobias told delegates: “In just the last eight years, the Republicans have cut the value of the U.S. dollar almost in half and added $4 trillion to our children’s debt. They’ve done this in just eight years. And now they want four more? As an investor, I yearn for a president who looks to financial heroes, not corporate lobbyists, for economic advice. As a gay man, I yearn for a president who believes in equal rights for all Americans. But most of all, as an American, I yearn for a president that the world can root for and be inspired by. Because having much of the world on our side again would not only be good for our national security, it would be good for business. Vote Obama, my fellow Democrats. Because, boy, do we ever need
Obama and the party platform are in agreement with gay leaders on every gay issue except marriage. Obama has said he believes “marriage is the union between a man and a woman … a sacred union – God’s in the mix.” But he opposes constitutional amendments – state or federal – to enforce his definition of marriage, and supports civil union laws that grant same-sex couples the rights of marriage.
On Aug. 26, Michelle Obama attended a luncheon for gay delegates and dignitaries, receiving a raucous reception. “We can work together to repeal laws like DOMA and ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ and we can oppose divisive constitutional amendments that would strip civil rights and benefits away from LGBT Americans, because discrimination has no place in a nation founded on the promise of equality,” she said. “In the world as it should be, anyone willing to put in an honest day’s work can make a good living and support their family. (And) employers are held accountable for discrimination against LGBT Americans. The federal government fully protects all of us – in the world as it should be – including LGBT Americans, especially against hate crimes. That’s the world as it should be.”
Hillary Clinton mentioned gays briefly in her remarks to the full convention. “I ran for president … to fight for an America defined by deep and meaningful equality – from civil rights to labor rights, from women’s rights to gay rights, from ending discrimination to promoting unionization to providing help for the most important job there is: caring for our families,” she said.
Openly lesbian U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., addressed the convention on health care issues. She didn’t mention gay issues or her sexual orientation.
At the convention’s end, in his nomination acceptance speech, Obama said, “I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination.”