A gathering of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Democrats and convention delegates is meeting in Denver to discuss strategy ahead of Monday's National Convention.
Fresh from several political wins, including California's decision to allow gay marriage, gay Democrats are seeking to hone strategies that will continue that winning streak.
The centerpiece of any political convention is the nominee himself, and on that score gay leaders seem to be pleased. The Democratic nominee-in-waiting, Senator Barack Obama, has given numerous eloquent speeches concerning his support for gay equality. Including a Beaumont, Texas rally where he said: “Sometimes, particularly in the African-American community, in the church sometimes, I hear people saying things I don't think are very Christian with respect to people who are gay and lesbian. ... When we start ... blaming gay people for our problems ... we're not solving problems; all we're doing is dividing each other.”
And while the senator favors civil unions for gay couples over marriage, his campaign does talk about the issue with some frequency, and the senator does support full repeal of Clinton's Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which federally mandates that no state needs to recognize the gay marriage of another.
“This is somebody who thinks that, at the core, one of our greatest challenges as a country is that disparate groups of Americans, like African-Americans and the GLBT community, ought to be working towards the same goals. But he sees that we're not and that we ought to change that,” Joe Solmonese, president of Human Rights Campaign told the Advocate. “You hear that, and on the surface it's like, 'Is that it?' But the more you ponder it, that's saying a lot. If you can clear those hurdles, then a legislative vote count becomes like the commentary on actual social change.”
So why are nearly 360 GLBT conventioneers attending the four-day event hosted by the National Stonewall Democrats and held at the Renaissance Denver Hotel?
The gathering is an opportunity to discuss equal rights and anti-discrimination laws, make the most of the National Convention, and strategize on the fall election.
“I think a lot of delegates, especially LGBT delegates, are looking at how they can use the convention effectively,” said John Marble, spokesman for the Stonewall Democrats. “If we do this right, we can really use this as an organizing convention.”
This year's Democratic Party Platform – the party's collective ideology presented at the convention – includes strong support for full equality in multiple policy areas.
“The Platform reflects the incredible educational, and persuasive, work by advocates in our community,” said Diego Sanchez, Director of Public Relations & External Affairs for the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts and the AIDS Action Council, and the first openly transgender member of the Platform Committee. “This comprehensive language demonstrates the Democratic Party's readiness to move legislation forward which leaves no one behind.”
Certainly, the four-day pre-Democratic National Convention gay convention is itself historic, because having enough openly gay Democrats attempting to parlay their attendance into political influence would have been all but impossible just a decade ago.
The group's convention will host several prominent political leaders.
Expected at a Saturday Awards Dinner are Kansas Governor – and VP contender – Kathleen Sebelius, and Jared Polis, a Colorado nominee for Congress who recently made headlines when he appeared in national newspapers holding hands with his partner in celebration of his primary victory.
And at Sunday's brunch, expect to see Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. Patrick, the nation's only elected African-American governor, is a strong gay ally who supports gay marriage.
But while organizers are upbeat over the prospect of an Obama victory and a friendlier political climate towards gays and lesbians, they understand many goals – such as federal recognition of gay couples – remain politically impractical.
Of primary concern is gathering support to defeat anti gay marriage ballot initiatives that will appear in three states, Florida, California and Arizona. Proposition 8, the California initiative, is the most contested, with millions of dollars pouring into the state from both sides.
Still, the 2008 Democratic National Convention promises to be the gayest ever.
Carlos Santoscoy is the Editor of On Top Magazine and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.