San Diego delegates return from DNC
Record number of GLBT delegates, progressive platform this year
Published Thursday, 05-Aug-2004 in issue 867
Nine members of the San Diego Democratic Club (SDDC) were among the record 255 GLBT delegates that attended the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Boston last week. While in Boston, members of the SDDC stood shoulder to shoulder with Democrats from across the country to hear addresses from past, present and future stars of the party, and took part in multiple LGBT Caucus meetings and social celebrations outside of the convention itself.
“One of the things that was so energizing was the electricity that comes from being around so many people who are so committed and have shared values and who get excited about the kinds of things that you get excited about,” said Pat Washington, an SDDC delegate who attended the convention for the first time. “You could look across the delegates and see all of society represented… and of course the platform, all of the people speaking on the platform were again a span of that humanity.”
Laurie Black, Marty Block, Verna King, Gracia Molina de Pick, Marilyn Riley, Alex Sachs, Gerry Senda and Ernie Barrera also represented the SDDC at the convention.
Sachs, who has been a long-time convention watcher and attended the 2000 convention in Los Angeles as a volunteer, also pointed out that the GLBT delegates represented a greater cross-section of the United States.
“Delegates were from all over the country,” he said. “They were not just California, New York and Massachusetts delegates; we had a delegate who was the vice chair of the Alabama State Democratic Party and he is an out, openly gay Democrat in a state like Alabama.”
One of the highlights of the week for the GLBT delegates in attendance was supposed to be the Unity 2004 event that was sponsored by 10 GLBT civil rights groups, including the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force. The event was expected to draw hundreds of delegates, but when the decision was made to disinvite the headline performer, Margaret Cho, it cast a shadow on the event and caused the NGLTF to pull it’s sponsorship of the event.
“I was extremely disappointed in the decision, which is sounds like it was made by the Human Rights Campaign, to disinvite Margaret Cho,” said Sachs, who was not able to attend the event because of other commitments. “I didn’t think that it was the right way to treat an ally, especially an ally that is known to be controversial and outrageous. The fact that she was possibly going to be controversial and outrageous should have been a given.”
Outside of the keynote speeches at the convention that were broadcast nationwide on television, members of the LGBT Caucus were treated to a cavalcade of stars including Rob Reiner, Carol King and Ben Affleck, along with a number of other political figures that included openly gay Congressmember Barney Frank and Teresa Heinz Kerry, the wife of Democratic nominee John Kerry.
“Two things that were really phenomenal and very embracing were the speeches that both Ben Affleck and Teresa Heinz Kerry gave at the GLBT Caucus,” Sachs said. “Both of those speeches, for different reasons were very energizing for the delegates.”
Affleck poked fun at his real life nuptial challenges while addressing the marriage equality debate saying, “If you want to defend marriage, find somebody and love that person, and care for that person, and be faithful to that person, and commit your life to that person, and don’t worry about your neighbor’s marriage. … As somebody who, to be perfectly frank, has enough trouble figuring out who to marry, I don’t need the federal or state government telling me who I can marry.”
Heinz Kerry also won the praise of GLTB delegates after she relayed her experiences with meeting one gay man who proclaimed that he wished he had a mother like her. She went on to tell the GLBT delegates that they would indeed have a mom in the White House if her husband were elected.
“The fact that we are going to have an absolute friend and ally in the White House,” Sachs said, “the little line that she used, that her friends called her ‘Mama T’, was something that totally resonated with the LGBT Caucus to the point that everybody spontaneously cheered her at the end of her speech [saying:] ‘Mama T, Mama T.’”
Washington added: “They felt as if they were coming from the heart. I wrestle with the difference between rhetoric and real activity, actual actions. Yet, for me, when I listened to the speakers and watched them interact and watched them joke… one of the most exciting things, quite frankly was that Teresa Heinz Kerry had no trepidation whatsoever that lesbians and gay men were telling her how sexy she was… she took it in stride.”
Proving that actions speak louder than words, the Democratic Party did more than pay lip service to the GLBT community. At the convention the party adopted it’s most GLBT-friendly platform in history, calling for “full inclusion of gay and lesbian families in the life of our nation” and seeking “equal responsibilities, benefits, and protections for these families.” The platform also denounced a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage, called for legislation that would ban workplace discrimination against GLBTs, and set its sights on the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, stating: “We are committed to equal treatment of all service members and believe all patriotic Americans should be allowed to serve our country without discrimination, persecution, or violence.”
Additionally, one of the convention co-chairs was out Congressmember Tammy Baldwin, who gave a prime time keynote address on the opening day of the convention on healthcare issues.
“We’ve grown a lot as a community as a part of the party,” Sachs said, comparing GLBT visibility this year with previous conventions. “We had a record number of LGBT delegates; we had a significant involvement in the platform and the other standing committees that really make a lot of the decisions. We had a record number of transgender delegates and that was pretty cool. The transgender delegates were able to really assert a place at the table as well. There’s progress to be made.”
The SDDC has also committed to taking a lead in the push for more transgender inclusion at the convention in the future, as well as adding more inclusive language about the transgender community to the party platform.
Washington said she is leaving the convention inspired to ensure a Democratic victory this in November. “For me, as someone who is trying to figure out what it’s going to take to get disillusioned voters who are registered but don’t vote anymore to the polls, one of the biggest things that came out of that convention for me personally and activist-wise was a more than renewed commitment to double my efforts to be involved in voter registration campaigns and efforts to get people to the polls,” she said. “I went there with that conviction and determination, but it’s more than doubled after the convention.”