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LGBTQ Democrats achieve historic ‘firsts’ at Democratic National Convention

Three LGBTQ officials to address Democratic delegates as part of a larger group of up-and-coming party leaders

(From left to right) Robert Garcia, Sam Park, and Malcolm Kenyatta will all give part of the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention – Photos: Facebook

Three openly LGBTQ people will be part of a group of 17 future party leaders slated to give the keynote address on Tuesday evening at the 2020 Democratic National Convention, which runs from Aug. 17-20.

Robert Garcia, the first openly gay mayor of the city of Long Beach, California and an immigrant from Peru, Georgia State Rep. Sam Park, who represents a rapidly-changing district that has begun shifting towards Democrats in recent years, and Pennsylvania State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, the first openly gay black man elected to the Pennsylvania General Assembly, will become the first LGBTQ people to serve as keynote speakers at a major party convention.

The group will also feature former Georgia gubernatorial candidate and voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams, a well-known figure among party loyalists; Rep. Colin Allred (D-Texas), a former NFL player and civil rights attorney who flipped a longtime Republican House seat in 2018; Nevada State Sen. Yvanna Cancela, the first Latina to serve in the state’s Senate; and other young politicians who have been labeled “rising stars” in the party who are expected to run for higher office at some point, reports Fox News.

Democratic Party leaders are hoping that the 17 keynote speakers will give a nod to the diversity within the party and symbolize a coalescing of the party’s disparate factions as it heads into battle against President Donald Trump and his fiercely loyal base of Republican voters in November. The theme of the keynote is “Leadership Matters.”

“Amidst all of the chaos and crises our nation is facing, Democrats are focused on finding new and innovative ways to engage more Americans than ever before — because that’s how we’ll mobilize the nation to defeat Donald Trump in November,” Joe Solmonese, the CEO of the 2020 Democratic National Convention, said in a statement on Sunday.

“The convention keynote has always been the bellwether for the future of our party and our nation, and when Americans tune in next week they’ll find the smart, steady leadership we need to meet this critical moment.”

Former presidential candidate and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who will become the first LGBTQ presidential candidate to earn delegates and speak to a party convention, will address the DNC on Thursday, in the run-up to presumptive nominee Joe Biden’s speech. U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), an out lesbian, who has previously spoken at other Democratic National Conventions, will also speak on Thursday evening.

Virginia Del. Danica Roem will become the first transgender elected official to participate in the convention, although it is not clear yet whether she will have a speaking role or simply address one of several caucus meetings occurring throughout the four day convention. Roem, the first openly transgender official elected to a state legislature, has been credited as a trailblazer whose success inspired and prompted other transgender individuals to seek elective office in other states.

See also: The Democratic Party platform is the most pro-LGBTQ in history

If Roem is granted an opportunity to speak, she will be the second transgender person to address the convention, just four years after HRC National Press Secretary Sarah McBride, now seeking a seat in the Delaware State Senate, became the first to address the party’s delegates.

In addition, the 2020 Democratic platform, as drafted, is being touted as one of the most pro-LGBTQ party platforms in history. If delegates officially approve the platform, it will be the first major party platform to specifically recognize transgender women of color, nonbinary individuals, and gender-nonconforming individuals, in addition to the LGBTQ community generally.

Party leaders say there will be a larger number of out LGBTQ delegates participating in the convention than any other convention in history, including an historic number of transgender delegates.

The Human Rights Campaign praised the inclusion of the LGBTQ leaders in the convention, saying that those participating represent “not only the diversity of our community but the future of our movement.”

“From the most pro-equality platform in history to the first LGBTQ people to speak as keynote speakers, the 2020 Democratic National Convention marks a turning point for our community,” HRC President Alphonso David said in a statement.

“We have fought for a seat at the table for generations, and at this convention more LGBTQ people will serve as delegates than any other party convention in history. It’s clear our voice is not only valued but seen as essential by the Democratic party.

“This convention season, one thing is clear: Democrats are leading with unity, inclusivity and diversity while Republicans are leading with ignorance, divisiveness and bigotry.”

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

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