Overall, the local lesbians and gays who were out on the convention floor as delegates during the four-day Democratic National Convention ( DNC ) in Denver called it inspirational because of its inclusion and diversity, and a stark contrast to the Republican National Convention RNC ) .
Openly gay Illinois delegate Mark Demich told Windy City Times that the DNC showed "how truly vast and diverse our country and our party are."
Demich spoke of the emotions felt by many during the convention, in particular, during Sen. Barack Obama's speech.
"I left with a sense of pride in my country, pride in my party and a renewed passion to keep our country from being run, yet again, by the wackos on the Republican ticket," he said.
Lesbian delegate Vernita Gray attended with her mother. She was very moved by what she saw at the convention, as well.
"The diversity that I saw every day in Denver was what brought tears to my eyes," Gray said. "I love to smile and say that I do not have to wait for the last Sunday in June to have Pride. My pride is every day, and so it was at the DNC."
The presence of over 300 LGBT delegates wasn't the only reason Gray felt proud, she said. She also felt pride because of the presence of powerful women such as Hillary Rodham Clinton, and because Obama became the first African-American man to accept a major party nomination.
"Black, white, Asian, Hispanic, gay, lesbian, transgender, old and young had come to hear the senator from Illinois," Gray said. "The stands were filled to capacity."
Tom Tunney, alderman of Chicago's 44th Ward, spoke with Windy City Times at Invesco Field before Sen. Obama spoke. Talking about speeches that took place earlier in the week, he said, "I thought Michelle [ Obama ] was great and I thought [ the speech of Ted ] Kennedy was poignant. The enthusiasm was certainly evident on [ Aug. 25 ] ; Michelle was so articulate and so personable. [ Sen. ] Hillary [ Clinton's ] speech was probably the highlight for me"and I'm an Obama delegate; I thought she was unbelievable. I think she's committed 150 percent to electing Barack in November."
Jackie Kaplan, a lesbian delegate, attended the DNC back in 2000, as well. "The experience then was very exciting, but the energy level was nothing compared to what it felt like to be in Denver last week," Kaplan said. "It truly felt like we were standing on the edge of history."
Kaplan also told Windy City Times that she felt so much has changed for the LGBT community since 2000, and even in 2004, when same-sex marriage was used as a wedge issue.
"This year, while our community was not a focal point, and while no one stood up and waived a rainbow flag in solidarity, at least most of the prime time speakers mentioned gays and lesbians in their speeches," Kaplan added.
Lesbian delegate Debra Shore responded to what she saw as "stark" differences between the two parties following both conventions. "The Democratic convention in Denver included more open LGBT people than ever before and the platform is progressive and inclusive. The sea of faces at the convention looked diverse and was diverse, like America!
"But the Republican Party will continue to try to win by pushing an agenda that demeans women, derides LGBT people, dismisses the concerns of working people, and degrades the environment.
During the RNC convention in St. Paul, Minn., delegates passed the party platform, which contained a few references to LGBT people. The platform mentioned "the incompatibility of homosexuality with military service," which means the party continues to support the military policy "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
The platform also mentioned the party's continued support of a Federal Marriage Amendment, which would ban same-sex marriage across the nation. The platform also went after activist judges who rule in favor of advancing LGBT rights.
However, Steve Schmidt, senior campaign strategist for the McCain campaign, stopped by a Log Cabin Republican ( LCR ) luncheon Sept. 4, calling the group "an important one in the fabric of our party," and speaking about his lesbian sister. The organization has endorsed Sen. John McCain.
One of the most talked-about news coming out of the RNC was the announcement of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as McCain's running mate. Palin supported a 1998 Alaska constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Ironically, one of the first things she did when elected to office was veto a bill that would have banned same-sex partners of state employees from obtaining domestic partner benefits. ( However, the bill she vetoed in 2006 was a response to a state supreme court decision from the previous year stating that the state's policy of denying those benefits violated the Alaska Constitution. ) The nation's largest gay-rights organization, Human Rights Campaign, announced its disappointment in McCain's pick, and called Palin's stance on equality "frightening."
Palin is also a strong supporter of pro-life, even in cases of rape.
Following Palin's RNC speech, Gray told Windy City Times that her comments "had a lot of snap and [ were ] nasty," but had "very little substance."
Kaplan called Palin "ill-equipped" because of her "extremist views on issues from evolution to abstinence-only education."
Debra Shore said, "The selection of Sarah Palin as candidate for vice president was hastily made, a real gamble for the ticket and a telling window into John McCain's method of making decisions."
Photo of Renae Ogletree and Mike Bauer by Debra Shore