CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The LGBT Caucus of the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte last week signaled it finally has attained real power within the national Democratic party, successfully inserting full marriage equality into the ratified 2012 Democratic Party Platform. The victory was yet another high-level LGBT-affirming political win for the group under the first term of President Barack Obama.
Outgoing DNC LGBT Caucus chair Rick Stafford characterized the caucus’s two meetings as celebrations.
“We had two great days, rocking and rolling Tuesday and Thursday. This was a week to celebrate our growth within the institutional party, and to celebrate the advancement in equality for all Americans including LGBT Americans,” he said in an interview.
Stafford called the 520 LGBT delegates in attendance the “next generation” of leaders in the equality movement. In caucus meetings, his last as Chair, Stafford encouraged new young LGBT leaders continuing their predecessors’ fight for full equality, even as U.S.
Congressman Barney Frank was honored for a lifetime of service as the first openly gay member of Congress. The 2012 DNC was Congressman Frank’s last as a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, having announced earlier this year his retirement at the end of his current term.
“As time goes on the old bigotry and old stereotypes are falling by the wayside,” Stafford said. “This new generation that is coming—it is why we are seeing all these constitutional amendments. The right wing knows the time is coming, demographics are changing, people’s attitudes and trends are changing,” Stafford said as Republicans continue to attempt to insert discriminatory legislation into the books, “we’ll get rid of them.”
When asked how the caucus this time was able to insert full equality into the platform, Stafford credited a coalition of stakeholders who have been out and proud as the reason. He predicted that the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) will eventually be enacted.
“When you compare this to the Civil Rights act, they are still fighting, and so we will continue to fight too, until all Americans, gay or straight have full equal rights,” he said.
The 2012 DNC LGBT Caucus included a contingent of more than 20 retired military officers appearing at the podium to be recognized for pushing President Obama’s executive order repealing the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. The order, issued and implemented during Obama’s first term, allows LGBT U.S. military service members to serve openly for the first time.
Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden, and Members of Congress U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-MN), U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and U.S. Congresswoman and U.S. Senate Candidate Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), the first openly-lesbian U.S. Congresswoman, spoke before the caucus, each calling the DADT repeal the most significant equality legislation to pass in the last 20 years.
Prior to President Obama’s nomination acceptance speech Thursday night, Baldwin opened the night’s proceedings as the first speaker during network TV primetime news coverage. During her address, hundreds of members of the LGBT delegation waved “Stonewall Democrats for Obama” signs, cheering Baldwin as one of its most revered LGBT officials. Baldwin’s Thursday night opening speaking slot was widely lauded as indicative of the importance President Obama’s Administration places on Baldwin winning her tight race for U.S. Senate in the 2012 General Election November 6.
An estimated 35.7 million Americans watched Thursday’s DNC live event coverage nationwide, according to Nielson ratings measured on the convention’s closing night. Baldwin faces former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, who has garnered support from far-right-wing PACs, and is running neck and neck in several recent polls.