DENVER –Wednesday, Aug. 27—On the heels of a riveting keynote address to the Democratic National Convention ( DNC ) , Barack Obama's wife, Michelle, spoke to a luncheon of LGBT delegates Aug. 26, telling them that 'discrimination has no place in a nation founded on equality.' And at the end of the day—in what amounts to her final concession speech—Hillary Clinton urged Democrats to work for an America 'defined by deep and meaningful equality … from women's rights to gay rights.'
( Pictured: LGBT delegates Renae Ogletree and Mike Bauer at the DNC. Photo courtesy of Debra Shore. Joe Biden speaks at the DNC; Michelle Obama listens to her husband, Sen. Barack Obama, accept the Democratic nomination for president. Photos from C-SPAN )
'America, we're here!' said Barney Frank, one of two openly gay representatives in a 535-member Congress, in welcoming more than 600 people to a luncheon sponsored by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and the National Stonewall Democrats. It was an exclamation that conveyed what many LGBT delegates and alternates are saying at this week's convention: that LGBT Americans and their issues have arrived. They feel fully ensconced, heard and accepted in the Democratic party. And they talk the talk: They must see to it that U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., becomes President Barack Obama this November.
There was a roar of approval at Tuesday's luncheon when Michelle Obama tipped her hat to Clinton, saying that her 'historic candidacy banished forever the notion that a woman cannot be president.' There were loud and prolonged cheers for her at Tuesday night's plenary—especially when she uttered the word 'gay.'
But while the media has found dissenters in the party who cannot overcome their lament that Clinton did not win the nomination, those dissenters are not within the LGBT caucus. At Tuesday's luncheon, the throng that had waited two hours for Michelle Obama's appearance—albeit with the comfort of a fancy meal and a line-up of gay-elected celebrities—leapt to their feet to give her a standing ovation that lasted almost two minutes. Although she relied heavily on written remarks that patched Monday night's speech with audience-specific material, her 20-minute speech seemed to satisfy the constituency's expectations.
'Five years after Lawrence v. Texas and 40 years after Stonewall, we've still got work to do before we achieve equality,' said Obama.
Then she ticked off that work—repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, full funding for the Ryan White CARE Act and the development of a national strategy to defeat HIV—'hold [ s ] employers accountable for discrimination against LGBT Americans,' and opposes 'divisive constitutional amendments.' Without mentioning Republican nominee John McCain by name, Obama said the differences between the two parties' nominees is stark, noting that their difference on such things as family and adoption rights 'goes directly to dignity and freedom.'
Until Tuesday night's plenary session, there was little else on the agenda for LGBT caucus members yesterday. Colorado philanthropist Tim Gill hosted a discussion among LGBT elected officials but closed out the press.
U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin had five minutes at the convention podium at about 6:30 p.m. CT Aug. 26 but focused strictly on health-insurance coverage. She was followed a little while later by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a staunch supporter of gay civil rights. Patrick started his speech with a reference to his daughter, Katherine, but he did not share with the audience that Katherine recently acknowledged being gay.
As longtime LGBT Democratic activists explain it, gays don't have to clamor to be mentioned and seen at the convention anymore because, on substance, they are recognized and heard.
Said Glenn Maxey, the first openly gay person ever elected to a state office in Texas, who is here attending his ninth convention: 'We are at every level of the Democratic party now—high, middle level, and low.'
© 2008 Keen News Service