Metro Weekly

Democrats putting on “gayest convention ever”

From the number of LGBT delegates to its platform, the Democratic Party shows its embrace of LGBT rights

Obergefell (Photo: DemConvention.com)

Jim Obergefell and the Ohio delegation – Photo: DemConvention.com

When it comes to LGBT issues, Democrats aren’t clowning around. In looking to provide a contrast with the Republicans, who held their convention in Cleveland last week, the Democrats have fully embraced LGBT causes as one of the ways to distinguish their party’s stance on lived equality.

It’s something almost unimaginable to older veterans of the movement, who have witnessed their issues gain more traction among the bulk of the party’s base over the past decade. Even four years ago, when President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden had embraced marriage equality, many members of Congress lagged behind. Even this year’s nominee Hillary Clinton, who had supported various pro-LGBT measures throughout her career, fell short on the issue of marriage equality at the time. Now, four years later, establishment Democrats — even from the most conservative states — are no longer hiding in the closet, choosing instead to openly back pro-LGBT positions and expend political capital in fighting against laws that seek to discriminate against their fellow Americans.

This year’s Democratic National Convention has already been dubbed the “gayest convention ever” by both LGBT organizations and the media, including increased representation. More than 11% of the delegates attending the convention identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer, according to NBC 10 Philadelphia. Twenty-eight of those delegates are transgender. 

Another reason for the moniker is the Democratic Party’s platform, which was approved Tuesday. In contrast with the Republicans, whose platform was criticized as “the most anti-LGBT platform in the party’s history,” Democrats support not only the concept of marriage equality but appointing supreme Court Justices who would uphold the Obergefell v. Hodges decision that struck down all state bans on same-sex marriage. They support the right of transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. The Party, and its LGBT allies, have been pushing for the Equality Act, a piece of legislation that would add LGBT people to protected classes under the Civil Rights Act and outlaw discrimination in employment, housing, credit and public accommodations.

Even critics of the platform praised it as one of the most progressive ones ever put forth by a major political party. The National LGBTQ Task Force said the platform builds on the legacy of President Obama and his administration’s efforts on behalf of the LGBT community. 

“This platform promotes important policies on issues as varied as: LGBTQ freedom, justice and equality — with a focus on comprehensive protections in the areas of housing, employment, public accommodations, credit, jury service, education, and federal funding, and ending the epidemic of violence against transgender people of color,” Russell Roybal, the Task Force’s deputy executive director, said in a statement. Roybal also praised the platform for its acknowledgement of intersectionality between LGBT issues and issues such as racial justice, civil rights, policing policies, homelessness, unemployment, immigration, criminal justice reform, and gun violence.

And the party’s stated commitment to LGBT rights is not just empty promises: Democrats are walking the walk. As liberal blog Think Progress reported, while right-wing media was having a collective freakout over the presence of an all-gender restroom at the DNC, Democrats had no problem going about their business. 

Members of North Carolina's Democratic delegation (Photo: DemConvention.com)

Members of North Carolina’s Democratic delegation – Photo: DemConvention.com

Even during Tuesday’s roll call vote, many states hailed advances in LGBT rights, denounced anti-gay laws, or sought to symbolically show their support for the community. The Massachusetts delegation bragged about being the first state to legalize marriage equality as it cast its delegate votes. The Ohio delegation turned the microphone over to Jim Obergefell, whose case served as the basis for the Supreme Court’s sweeping marriage equality decision. Wisconsin tapped its own out lesbian senator, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, to read the allocation of delegate votes for each candidate.

What received some of the loudest applause, though, was the North Carolina delegation’s presentation as it prepared to report its votes. Praising the special characteristics and quality of life in their state, the delegation gave a special nod to their gubernatorial nominee, Roy Cooper, whom they hope will oust incumbent Gov. Pat McCrory. But the delegation then announced that they would work hard to repeal HB2, a law that eliminates protections for all LGBT people and forces transgender people to use the bathroom of their assigned sex at birth. The room erupted in cheers.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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