Several hundred Democratic National Convention delegates and observers gathered at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered Caucus in Denver on Monday to discuss their political concerns and how to advance them. Focusing on the promotion of anti-discrimination laws and same-sex marriage, the delegates expressed a favorable attitude towards Sen. Barack Obama, and praised his support for many of their positions.
Caucus members and attending media received copies of an August 25 letter from Sen. Obama in which he praised the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered (LGBT) Caucus for “pushing our Party and our country to achieve equality for all Americans.”
Telling the delegates the Democratic Party is looking to the caucus to help reach, register, and turn out “LGBT voters” in “unprecedented numbers,” he praised their organizing abilities. Further, Obama wrote, “Our party and my candidacy are immeasurably stronger” because of such organizing.
Claiming as members at least 274 of the more than 4,000 delegates to the DNC, speakers at the LGBT caucus reported that their delegate numbers had grown between 30 and 41 percent since the last convention in 2004. They claimed about one third of their 2008 caucus is composed of youth and about 40 percent are “people of color.” One speaker welcomed the changes from past convention caucuses, which he said had been “almost entirely white.”
Many delegates and speakers addressed the gathering from a stage set up at the venue, a ballroom at the Colorado Convention Center.
Caucus member Evan Low, a city councilman of Campbell, California, projected an attitude of confidence and predicted the LGBT Caucus’ issues are going to be “by far a non-issue” in a few decades.
“We are making headway,” another delegate claimed. “We know we will prevail!” still another said.
California delegate John Perez, a state representative for Los Angeles, said that organized labor in the state was “pro-LGBT” and in favor of same-sex marriage.
“I look forward to the day when transgendered persons will have basic civil rights in school, home, and health care,” said Melissa Sklarz, a transgendered delegate from New York.
The caucus was also addressed by Tim Gill, a billionaire philanthropist who has reportedly donated over $150 million to many homosexual political candidates and causes. Gill encouraged the audience to donate to the opponents of “anti-gay” legislators at the state level to prevent any opponents of homosexual causes from rising to prominence through their party’s ranks. He targeted the Republican Party especially, characterizing it as “controlled by bigots.”
Arizona State Rep. Kyrsten Sinema told the caucus how she believed the Arizona same-sex marriage ban was defeated in a strategy dedicated to the “three Ms” of message, messengers, and money. She said homosexual activists’ message had to be carefully tailored to appeal to swing voters, while they also had to choose with care whom they put forward as “messengers” to oppose same-sex marriage bans. She said money was the “most important thing.”
“The radical right is scared to hell about people in this room. They will fight tooth and nail to keep what they have,” she alleged.
“Our time is coming!” she told the caucus.
However, Sinema claimed there was a “new wave of anti-gay initiatives” being proposed because, in her view, opponents of homosexual activism know they are losing the marriage debate and are changing tactics. She said an Arkansas ban on adoptions by single people was driven by animus against homosexuals, while she also decried a Maryland ballot proposal she considered “anti-transgendered” for seeking to repeal certain anti-discrimination laws.
California delegate Shannon Minter, who presented arguments in the California Supreme Court case that imposed same-sex marriage earlier this year, charged that the pro-traditional marriage Proposition 8 is “intended to take away dignity and hope.”
Claiming the opposition to Proposition 8 is “the largest field ever mobilized,” he praised Sen. Obama as the first Democratic nominee who he said “unequivocally opposes” initiatives seeking to ban or overturn same-sex marriages.
Rick Stafford, the LGBT Caucus Chair, praised the new party platform as the “most inclusive LGBT platform in the Democratic Party’s history.” He also noted that a former executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Leadership Council at the Democratic National Committee, Stonewall Democrat Brian Bond, has been appointed as the Obama campaign’s Director of Constituencies.
U.S. Representative Tammy Baldwin, who is from Wisconsin, also raised the issue of Statements of Administration Policy (SAPs), which she said are a critical medium by which activists may advance their cause with an ally in the White House.
“We’re going to love Obama’s SAPs,” she exclaimed.