Democratic convention: ‘A home for ourselves’


Barney Frank ignored the boos. Robby Mook ignored the question. But almost nobody ignored LGBT people.

That was the Democratic National Convention’s first two days, as the four-day confab got underway this week in Philadelphia to nominate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as its presidential nominee.

But for two things, this week’s Democratic gathering might have been a love fest compared to the contentious Republican National Convention last week: Supporters of Clinton’s chief challenger for the nomination — U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders– and a Wikileaks release of internal Democratic National Committee emails that suggested the DNC favored Clinton over Sanders.

Sanders supporters smarting from loss of the nomination and the fresh news about the DNC emails booed former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, who served as co-chair of the convention’s rules committee, when he reached the podium Monday afternoon. Frank supported Clinton publicly all along and the Sanders campaign had unsuccessfully tried to bump him from the co-chair post. That was enough to prompt some in the Wells Fargo arena to boo him. But others claimed to be unhappy with what one Sanders delegate characterized as Frank’s “condescending, abusive” treatment of Sanders delegates.

Although the boos could be heard only faintly from television, Frank apparently heard them.

“Thank you. Thank you or not, as the case may be,” said Frank, stepping up to the microphone.

Robby Mook, Clinton’s openly gay campaign manager, was confronted with a different source of discontent among the Sanders supporters: Emails. Not the State Department emails on Clinton’s private server, but emails from the DNC’s internal communications.

Close to 20,000 such emails were published online by on July 22 –the day after the Republican National Convention adjourned and three days before the Democratic convention opened. Most of the emails seemed to convey news blurbs and routine administrative communications about meetings and agendas, but some suggested the DNC, chaired by U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, favored Clinton over Sanders. In one email, the DNC’s finance officer suggests the DNC get “someone” in Kentucky and West Virginia to ask an unnamed candidate who says he has a “Jewish heritage” about his religious beliefs. Sanders was the only such candidate at the time.

CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Mook “What is the reaction of the Clinton campaign to the DNC emails suggesting that top officials …were actively discussing ways to hurt Bernie Sanders in the primaries?”

Mook replied that he thought “the DNC needs to look into this and take appropriate action, and I’m sure they will.”

“What’s disturbing to us,” said Mook, in his next breath, “is that experts are telling us that Russian state actors broke into the DNC, pulled these emails, and other experts are now telling us that Russian officials are releasing these emails for the purpose of helping Donald Trump.” He then pointed to changes in the Republican platform “to make it more pro-Russian” and Trump’s statements that U.S. might not come to the aid of certain NATO allies.

What most people watching the convention from home on their televisions or through mainstream media reports did not see was:

  • a record number of openly LGBT delegates (516, comprising almost 12 percent of delegates overall –up from eight percent in 2012)
  • a record number of openly transgender delegates (28)
  • a strong platform on LGBT-related concerns, including calls for efforts to combat discrimination in schools, housing, and other areas
  • a visit and a roundtable discussion by Clinton on the Friday before the convention to pay respects to the victims of the Orlando nightclub massacre, where a gunman shot and killed 49 patrons and wounded even more last month, and
  • at least five LGBT people were named DNC vice-chairs, including HRC’s Griffin, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, LPAC co-chair Laura Ricketts, and transgender activist Marisa Richmond.

In addition to Barney Frank, many LGBT speakers spoke or will speak from the podium, including U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, National Basketball Association player Jason Collins, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, and the first openly transgender speaker at any major party convention, Sarah McBride, a press spokesperson for the HRC Foundation. Also at the podium with speaking time during the convention (4pm EDT Wednesday) will be Daniel Driffin, a young African American gay man who is a leader in efforts to prevent the spread of HIV among African American men in Atlanta.

Many of the straight allies who spoke from the podium, including many headline speakers during prime time, gave prominent nods to LGBT people and issues.

In her address to the convention Monday night, First Lady Michelle Obama recognized the devotion of people who donated blood following the Orlando nightclub massacre. U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts criticized Trump for choosing as a vice presidential running mate a man who supported making it legal to discriminate against lesbians and gays.

“We believe…no matter who you love, equal means equal,” said Warren.

“Thanks to marriage equality, more children grow up with two moms or two dads,” said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

Others including mention of LGBT people in their remarks included former President Bill Clinton and U.S. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey.

There were numerous LGBT-group events being held around the convention in Philadelphia, including a luncheon by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund on Wednesday, with guest speaker Chelsea Clinton.

In a call with reporters Monday, Rep. Maloney, co-chair LGBT Equality Caucus in Congress, said that, in the Democratic Party, LGBT people have “made a home for ourselves.”

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