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Denver--“Barack Obama will close the book on the old politics of race and gender and group against group and straight against gay,” promised the ailing Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts in a surprise Monday night prime time speech to the Democratic National Convention.
The next night, Sen. Hillary Clinton also noted gays during her highly anticipated speech.
“I ran for president to renew the promise of America,” she said. “To fight for an America defined by deep and meaningful equality--from civil rights to labor rights, from women’s rights to gay rights, from ending discrimination to promoting unionization to providing help for the most important job there is: caring for our families.”
Michelle Obama spoke to a group of LGBT delegates and other conventioners at a Tuesday luncheon sponsored by openly gay and lesbian Reps. Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin, the Human Rights Campaign, and the Victory Fund.
“It has been five years since Lawrence v. Texas and 39 years since Stonewall. Still, we have a lot of work to do to achieve equality,” she told the gathering.
“We know what fairness and opportunity and justice look like,” Obama said. “It’s up to us to fight and work hard to close the gaps between the two ideals to make the world as it is and the world as it should be one in the same.”
As predicted, the convention drew more openly LGBT delegates than any in history. According to the National Stonewall Democrats, there are 275, of which 18 were from Ohio.
California’s LGBT delegation was the largest with 55.
Ohio’s LGBT voting delegates were Sandra Anderson, Jason Bristol, Alycia Broz, Melanie Falls, Caroline Gross, Sarah Hamilton, Leslye Huff, David Mann, Rick Neal, Terry Penrod, Bo Shuff, Katherine Snyder, and Mark Williams; plus three alternates, Michael Council, Joshua Hayes, and John Kelly; and two Steering Committee members,` Karen Aronoff and Lisa Zellner.
Gay and lesbian speakers from the podium were Baldwin and Democratic National Committee treasurer Andrew Tobias.
“As an investor, I yearn for a president who looks to financial heroes, not corporate lobbyists, for economic advice,” Tobias said. “As a gay man, I yearn for a president who believes in equal rights for all Americans. But most of all, as an American, I yearn for a president that the world can root for and be inspired by.
Oddly, Baldwin’s speech about the number of Americans without health insurance contained no clue that she is lesbian.
This is counter to the National Stonewall Democrats goal of increased visibility around the convention to “show we are part of the party’s electorate.”
The delegates, however, were quite visible.
Shuff wore two things that got him noticed. One is his grandfather’s credentials to the 1960 Democratic Convention, which caught the eye of Caroline Kennedy. Her father, John F. Kennedy, was nominated that year. The other is his “Out for Hillary” button, which got the attention of reporters from CNN and the BBC.
“There are a slew of Obama rainbows around, too,” said Shuff.
Penrod said the business at the LGBT caucus meetings included an explanation of the party’s platform, which was ratified on Monday, and discussions on ways to increase voter participation.
Anderson attended the Ohio House Democratic Caucus lunch hosted by Ohio House Minority Leader Joyce Beatty.
There, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland praised the party for its commitment to inclusiveness and its affirmation of LGBT equality.
Neal marveled at the intensity in the convention hall and at the accessibility to celebrities and elected officials the Ohio delegation enjoyed. He was particularly pleased to see actress Susan Sarandon and political comedian Bill Maher.
Anderson, who was also a delegate to the 2000 convention in Los Angeles, said the LGBT delegates were far more visible this year.
On Tuesday night, the LGBT delegates attended “Rock to Win,” a party sponsored by HRC featuring Melissa Etheridge, Cyndi Lauper, Rufus Wainwright, Margaret Cho and Thelma Houston.
“This is such an exciting place to be right now,” concluded Baldwin.
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