Tuesday night’s Democratic National Convention launched with a video “keynote” in which 17 people — including three gay men — shared the time to explain why they are voting for the party’s presidential nominee Joe Biden. Throughout the night, LGBTQ people — some well-known, some obscure — appeared in various roles at the nominating convention.
Jason Rae, the openly gay secretary for the Democratic convention, directed the night’s main event: the formal roll call vote to nominate former Vice President Biden as the party’s 2020 presidential nominee. It was a roll call unlike no other in the history of conventions and one that was arguably more interesting and appealing because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Instead of state delegation chair people standing on the floor of a convention hall announcing their vote, each spoke via webstream and video from their homes or localities in their home state.
Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, whose campaign for the Democratic nomination took on historic proportions as he emerged as one of the top contenders, 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.
“My husband and I aren’t corporate tycoons,” said Hickman, who runs an organic farm and bed and breakfast in Winthrop, Maine. “We just want to make an honest living and feed our community.”
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 LGBT 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.”
And during the opening keynote address, Georgia State Rep. Sam Park, Pennsylvania State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia each spoke from their homes, in support of Biden. Park’s remarks noted that he was the first gay man elected to the Georgia state legislature. Garcia highlighted the need to pay off student loans. Kenyatta, in his final video clip, had his husband on the couch with him.
“When I wanted to marry the man I loved,” Kenyatta said, “Joe Biden was the first national figure to support me and my family.” His husband, Dr. Matt Miller, spoke to Biden, saying, “Appreciate you, man.”
LGBTQ+ Caucus celebrates
Before the convention night activities, the Democratic Party’s official LGBTQ+ Caucus held its first meeting Tuesday afternoon, playing host to a star-studded lineup of LGBT leaders: 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, among others.
Earl Fowlkes, chair of the Caucus, said it had 635 members this year, “the most ever” and making the 2020 convention “the gayest” party convention ever.
The 635 number is up 23 percent from the 2016 count of 516 delegates and official party convention participants.
Fowlkes, who led the online caucus meeting, praised Democratic nominee Biden and running mate U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris as the “most pro-LGBT ticket” in history. It was a sentiment echoed by others.
“We have the most pro-equality leaders that we have ever had,” said Baldwin, referring to Biden and Harris. Baldwin said Biden’s speaking publicly in favor of marriage equality is what “really got the ball moving” toward marriage equality. And she noted that Harris, during Baldwin’s last re-election campaign, helped her work the crowd at a Wisconsin pride festival.
U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, also from Wisconsin and a co-chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus, said the Trump administration has been “anti-equality at every turn.”