There will be a lot of history made at this week’s Democratic National Convention. Some of it will be highly visible – like prime-time closing night speeches by two high-profile LGBTQ leaders. Some will be totally behind the scenes – like the role of an openly gay man as the convention’s chief executive for operations.
The most visible difference this year will be that most delegates and press will not converge on the convention host city – Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Milwaukee will serve as the “anchor” for activities, which begin Monday night, but the bulk of the convention will take place through broadcasts and live streaming from locations around the country.
Openly gay former presidential contender Pete Buttigieg will deliver a speech Thursday night from a landmark in his hometown South Bend, Indiana. Openly lesbian U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, who was reportedly on a list of potential vice-presidential candidates, will deliver a speech that same night from the Milwaukee.
The Thursday night slots are most coveted. That’s because Thursday night is when the convention hears the acceptance speech of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. Biden will be speaking from his home in Delaware.
Each night’s events begin at 8 p.m. EDT with entertainment, followed by speeches beginning at 9 p.m.
Monday, Aug. 17: Viewers will hear from former Democratic presidential candidates U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Bernie Sanders, and former First Lady Michelle Obama, among others.
Tuesday, Aug. 18: At noon, the party’s official LGBTQ Caucus will meet. To participate, viewers need to RSVP on the DNC website. During the prime time convention business meeting, viewers will see openly gay convention Secretary Jason Rae direct the roll call votes. Rae is a Democratic activist and partner in a media relations firm in Milwaukee. Speakers Tuesday night will include former President Bill Clinton and former Second Lady Jill Biden. And in a new format for a prime time speech, 17 speakers, including three openly LGBTQ officials, will participate in delivering the “Keynote Address,” at 9 p.m. The three are Long Beach, California, Mayor Robert Garcia; Pennsylvania State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta; and Georgia State Rep. Sam Park.
Wednesday, Aug. 19: The Lesbian Political Action Committee will host a “Salute to Tammy Baldwin” virtual event at 5 p.m., with recorded messages from a wide variety of prominent Democrats, including tennis legend Billie Jean King, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, and U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Duckworth, Kyrsten Sinema and many others. The prime time convention will hear from vice presidential nominee U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris. Other speakers will include U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 2016 presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama.
Thursday, Aug. 20: The LGBTQ Caucus will meet again at 12 p.m. The last evening of the convention will include openly gay U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. And, of course, will conclude with the acceptance speech of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, speaking from his home in Delaware.
LGBTQ people have played noticeable roles in Democratic National Conventions since 1980, when an unofficial LGBTQ Caucus nominated D.C. activist Mel Boozer to be vice president. Boozer, a prominent African American and gay activist in Washington, D.C., gave the first-ever speech by an openly LGBTQ person to the 1980 convention. Since then, the LGBTQ Caucus has become an official entity of the national convention, and many openly LGBTQ people have spoken before the gathering — some in prime time.
At the 2016 Democratic National Convention, openly lesbian Sheriff Lupe Valdez of the Dallas County Police spoke just a couple of hours before the presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, did on the Thursday night of the convention. Valdez urged communities to do what they can to restore good relations between police and minorities. Other openly LGBTQ speakers that year included Chad Griffin, then president of the Human Rights Campaign, and U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, co-chair of the Congressional LGBTQ Caucus.
About 12% of the delegates attending the 2016 convention in Philadelphia identified as LGBTQ. That was up from 8% in 2012. The numbers are not yet available for 2020.
This year, former Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese is the Democratic National Convention’s CEO. Solmonese said the party has focused on “new and innovative ways to engage more Americans than ever before” through this convention.
The Republican National Convention will take place Aug. 24 through 27 in Charlotte, North Carolina, with in-person attendance by a representative group of 336 delegates to cast votes on the first day. President Trump is expected to deliver his acceptance speech on Aug. 27 from a remote location.