Gayest Moments during the Democratic National Convention
Some would jokingly argue the most visible gays at the Republican National Convention were Tampa’s male prostitutes, who expected to rake in the cash with the GOP’s presence in the city. But the Democratic National Convention (Sept. 4 to 6) was a little more inclusive of the LGBT community.
From the issues discussed to the political players, here’s a look at the gayest moments of this year’s DNC in Charlotte, North Carolina.
More gays were out of the closet and on the campaign trail than ever before. According to the National Stonewall Democrats, a record-breaking 534 LGBT participants were expected to attend the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
The number shows a positive difference compared to 2008, when the group identified 350 LGBT participants in Denver.
"We not only set a new record for LGBT participation in a national convention, we have sent the clearest message possible that the Democratic Party is the party of inclusion," said Jerame Davis, executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats, in a statement.
The Democratic LGBT activists credit the increase in gay participants to various programs within the Democratic Party to increase the role of LGBT community members in politics.
"You cannot overstate the critical role presidential campaigns play in working with state parties and Democratic leaders to meet the demographic goals set by state parties," said Rick Boylan, director of Pride in the Party, one of the programs for LGBT inclusion. "The Obama campaign understands that the LGBT community is a key constituency in the 2012 election. Their support for the community and the issues important to LGBT Americans will help reelect the president and elect Democrats down the ballot in all states."
First Lady Michelle Obama spoke to an estimated 500 guests on Sept. 5 during a luncheon by LGBT rights organizations the Human Rights Campaign and the Victory Fund at the DNC.
"If you do not live in a battleground state, get to one," said Michelle Obama, asking attendees to do everything they can to help re-elect President Barack Obama.
Michelle Obama touched on LGBT accomplishments of the first Obama term, such as the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" repeal, the president’s refusal to defend the Defense of Marriage Act and his support for gay marriage.
"And that’s why all of you are here today, because you know that all of that and so much more is at stake in this election," Michelle Obama said. "We can’t take anything for granted because it’s all still on the line. And I know you’re here today because you believe, like I believe, that our president, my husband, he’s done an extraordinary job."
Zach Wahls, the 21-year-old straight son of two lesbian mothers who recently gained popularity for speaking out against the ban on gay marriage in his home state of Iowa, took the stage during the convention to tell the crowd why he’ll be voting for Barack Obama: the President supports same-sex marriage.
"President Obama understands that. He supports my moms’ marriage," Wahls, who was also an Eagle Scout pushing to end its gay ban, said. "President Obama put his political future on the line to do what was right. Without his leadership, we wouldn’t be here. President Obama is fighting for our families, all of our families. He has our backs. We have his."
He also contrasted Obama’s position on the issue to that of Mitt Romney.
"Gov. Romney says he’s against same-sex marriage because every child deserves a mother and a father," Wahls said. "I think every child deserves a family as loving and committed as mine. Because the sense of family comes from the commitment we make to each other to work through the hard times so we can enjoy the good ones. It comes from the love that binds us; that’s what makes a family. Mr. Romney, my family is just as real as yours."
Openly gay Massachusetts state Rep. Barney Frank, who recently tied to knot to his longtime partner, focused on Romney’s financial success as governor of Massachusetts, calling him "Myth Romney." He also briefly attacked the Republican presidential candidate on his stance on LGBT rights, something which is said wasn’t part of his speech, but the soon-to-be-retired state representative decided to add on the run.
Another high-profile openly gay public official speaking at the convention was Tammy Baldwin. Baldwin, a Wisconsin state representative running for a Senate seat, pointed out to Obama’s repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" as reference of the President’s commitment toward equal rights.
"He repealed ’Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ so that no American ever again has to lie about who they are in order to serve the country we love," Baldwin said. "Republicans want to write discrimination into our Constitution. But the Wisconsin I know believes that with each passing year and each generation, our country must become more equal, not less."
Miami’s Andrew Tobias, the openly gay treasurer of the Democratic National Committee, talked about finances, as it was expected, but also dedicated a few minutes to praise Obama for his advancement of LGBT rights.
"The Democratic Party under the leadership of Barack Obama has dramatically improved the lives of millions of LGBT Americans," he said.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who’s also the Democratic National Convention chair, boasted about the unprecedented inclusion of a marriage equality plank in the Democratic Party platform.
"For the first time, a major party platform recognizes marriage equality as a basic human right" Villaraigosa said. "This is a reflection of who we are as a party and who we can be as a nation, because as Democrats, as Americans, whenever we’ve opened up our party and our country, whenever we’ve opened up doors for more of our people, whenever we’ve deepened our democracy and renewed our commitment to equal justice under the law, we’ve grown stronger as a nation."
During the convention, a video was played showing the Democratic Party’s commitment to marriage equality, which showed Obama saying the relationships of gay and men women should be respected.
Another video played at the convention talked about Obama’s repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," showing footage of the signing ceremony for the legislation in 2010.
"For we are not a nation that says ’Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ we are a nation that says out of many, we are one," Obama says in the video.
The video was followed by remarks from Iraq war veteran and retired Army Capt. Jason Crow. Crow, who’s straight, took the stage to commend Obama for ending the military’s gay ban and expanding veterans’ benefits.
"It was wrong that men and women I served with could be told they weren’t good enough just because of their sexual orientation," Crow said. "Soldiers who I trusted with my life, and fought alongside with, could be discharged because of who they loved. President Obama did the right thing by ending ’Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’"