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by Jessica Carreras
On June 14, the remaining delegates set to represent Michigan at the 2008 Democratic National Convention were chosen. Four of them are openly gay.
The convention will be held August 25-28 in Denver and will officially announce November’s Democratic presidential and vice presidential candidates. Following Hilary Clinton’s withdrawal from the race earlier this month, it is presumed that Illinois Senator Barack Obama will be the presidential candidate.
The number of gay delegates from Michigan is up from two in 2004. It is the highest number of gay delegates ever sent to represent the state. The first openly gay delegate, Governor Jennifer Granholm’s former Chief of Staff John Burchett, was sent in 1996.
The four delegates are Brandon Hynes, Nan Melke, Jason Morgan and Dave Coulter. Michigan is sending 178 delegates, including 21 alternates, affording them 157 votes at the convention.
Coulter, who is the executive director of the Michigan AIDS Fund, was ecstatic when he found out he would be attending the convention. “I love politics and I’ve never been to a convention,” he said. “I thought it would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
The opportunity comes after uncertainty as to whether or not Michigan and Florida would be permitted to participate in the nomination process at all. Both states moved their primaries forward in January, violating Democratic Party regulations and drawing into question their delegation rights.
It was decided that the punishment would be that each state would only receive half a vote for each delegate sent at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, meaning that the actual number of Michigan Democratic votes cast would only total 78.5.
However, Sen. Obama then agreed to allow each state to vote at full strength, a choice given to the presumed candidate.
Hynes, Melke and Coulter will all be permitted to cast their votes.
Morgan is serving as an alternate from the first district, which covers the Upper Peninsula and part of the Lower Peninsula, including counties Leelenau, Kalkaska, Cheboygan and Alpena. Alternates attend the convention, but are not permitted to cast a vote unless chosen following the withdrawal of another delegate.
Coulter noted that he was proud to represent both the LGBT community and the Democratic party to make a historically groundbreaking nomination.
Moreover, Coulter noted that he and the other gay delegates were proud of the Michigan Democratic Party’s efforts to diversify their representation, including more women, more gays and lesbians and more minorities. “I’m proud to represent the gay community,” Coulter boasted. “I think it speaks to the Democratic Party’s commitment to diversity.”
However, he noted that there should be more, adding that accurate representation of Michigan gays and lesbians would mean 10 percent of the delegates would be LGBT. He hopes that the number will continue to rise in the future. “It’s not full representation,” he admitted, “but it’s farther than we’ve ever been.”
And even though Coulter – along with Hynes – was originally a Clinton supporter, he is happy to be there when Obama receives his expected nomination. “I support him 100 percent,” Coulter said. “I’m excited to go to Denver and cast a vote for the first African-American nominee and – I think – the next president of the United States.”