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DNC 2012: The Gay Vote

Emma Teitel finds Hope and Change very much alive among LGBT delegates at the Democratic Convention


 

New York Times columnist Frank Bruni lamented the lack of gayness at the Republican National Convention, especially in light of how keen the GOP was to court other minority voters — women and Latinos, in particular. “You certainly didn’t see anyone openly gay on the stage in Tampa,” Bruni wrote on Sunday. (Apparently Marcus Bachmann had a prior engagement). “More to the point,” he wrote, “you didn’t hear mention of gays and lesbians.”

What the RNC lacked in gay voices, however, and more importantly, gay rights, the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, is making up for in—well—a hell of a lot of gay people. A total of 534 openly LGBT Democrats—the most in convention history—will take part in the DNC this week (the RNC had roughly two dozen). Charlotte will play host to gay and lesbian caucuses and parties all convention long, and openly gay Wisconsin rep. Tammy Baldwin (vying to become the first openly lesbian senator) is set to speak. In many ways, this convention is shaping up to be a kind of miniature political pride parade.

In fact, so great is the number of gays descending upon Charlotte that popular Conservative radio host and professional bigot Bryan Fischer, (the man who shamed Romney’s only openly gay staffer, Richard Grenell, into resigning) has cancelled his DNC appearance, literally fearing for his life. “I’ll miss the fun, and potentially vigorous interviews with folks on the other side of the aisle,” he said, “but I might live longer this way.”

Let’s hope he’s wrong.

The Democrats are expected to officially write marriage equality into their platform on Tuesday, which could give new life to a viciously negative campaign that desperately needs it. After all, as the Republicans rightly pointed out in Tampa last week, Obama’s lofty oratory doesn’t quite resonate in trying times. The best line in Paul Ryan’s convention speech (and possibly the only one based in reality) was his proclamation that “college graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life.”

The only problem is that for many Americans—and the LGBT community, in particular — it isn’t Barack Obama who’s preventing them from “getting going” in life, but the GOP.

I spoke with a number of gay and lesbian delegates last night at Unity Charlotte, what is likely to be the convention’s largest and most stereotypically gay event (Beyonce techno remixes were at full blast all night long), and it became clear to me that while the rest of America is increasingly aloof when it comes to Barack Obama’s last four years, the gay community (Log Cabin Republicans excluded) is decidedly not. What was a dissapointment for many Americans, was overall, a victory for the gays:

“With the president coming out for marriage equality,” says 42-year-old Texan Democrat Jeff Strater, “we’ve seen other elected officials come out in support.” In other words, another term of Barack Obama may mean another term of gay-friendly legislation averse to the kind preventing 30-year-old Erin Goldstein from getting married.

Goldstein, a third-generation North Carolinian and lesbian social worker (“I’m Rush Limbaugh’s worst nightmare,” she says) would like to start a family with her partner, but they want to get married first; something they can’t do in North Carolina, where a recently approved constitutional amendment—amendment 1—prohibits same-sex marriage. And they don’t want to move either. “I shouldn’t have to move to Canada to be treated equally,” says Goldstein.

This is a common sentiment among proud gay southerners. LGBT activist Omar Narvaez, from Dallas, Texas, would also like to marry his partner of 16 years, but he can’t because his state outlaws same sex marriage. “I shouldn’t have to move,” he says, echoing Goldstein. Narvaez believes that Barack Obama can and will (if he is elected) repeal DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act). “That’s not going to fix everything,” he says, “but once we get that fixed we will be a little closer.” Elect Romney, he argues, and the goal for equal rights will slip farther and farther away.

This is why the 2008 campaign spirit remains very much alive for this year’s LGBT delegates at the DNC. There is only one party, one leader who recognizes their civil rights. The Romney/Ryan “Comeback Team” is not “coming back” for gay people. And until it does, gays in America have only one viable political option: to look up at their fading Obama posters and hope for change.

 


 

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