Five ways to make the Democratic Convention truly fantabulous

by Matt Comer  Editor  editor@goqnotes.com
Published: November 23, 2011 in Blog

Yesterday, The Charlotte Observer‘s Tim Funk posted his “Five ways to juice up the Democratic Convention,” slated for September 2012 in Charlotte.

Funk included some really great ideas, some of them, at least partly, based on already existing rumor or past convention antics: 1. An Obama-Clinton ticket in 2012; 2. GOP picks Burr for VP; 3. Arizona’s Rep. Gabby Giffords appears on the DNC stage; 4. A third and/or fourth party stage their own debate during the event; and 5. The Democrats invite an Occupier to speak from the DNC stage.

Be sure to head over to The Observer‘s Convention Watch blog to read Funk’s full post and ideas.

Funk’s brainstorming got me thinking. As I’ve said before, the Democratic National Convention will bring more LGBT people to the city than any other event in history. It’s a perfect time for the city’s LGBT folk and convention organizers to team up and make the event not just fantastic and, no, not even fabulous… but truly fantabulous!

Hey, there’s always room for dreaming, right? So, here goes…

1. An openly gay cabinet member

Earlier this year, LGBT politicos went crazy with the idea that an openly LGBT person could be appointed to a cabinet position (Washington Blade: “Tongues wagging over gay Cabinet member”). The Commerce Secretary’s seat was open and several names were floated around. It didn’t happen, but President Barack Obama could make a move right before the convention and announce his intention to do just that.

An openly gay, high-ranking cabinet member would be a phenomenal advance for the LGBT community and set the stage for high spirits during the convention and a truly progressive and LGBT-inclusive administration and government upon the president’s reelection.

2. A blessing from the president

It’s already a foregone conclusion that the convention will bring more parties and receptions to this city than it’s likely ever seen before. The Observer’s already catching wind of parties with headliners along the likes of Bono. Surely, the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBT civil rights organization in the nation, is planning their own party, too. Set against the backdrop of a town with an historic reticence to address LGBT equality, the convention is the perfect place to push local LGBT issues into the limelight (especially if those votes City Councilmember Patsy Kinsey promised never materialize).

With the help of HRC, the local LGBT movement could get a big push. Invite the heads of major, local or statewide LGBT organizations on stage at the HRC party where — surprise, surprise! — President Barack Obama or any number of other high-ranking administration officials just happen to show up, too.

“Our Democratic Party is a party of equality and inclusion,” the president or one of his surrogates say while putting an arm around a local LGBT leader, like newly-elected, openly lesbian LaWana Mayfield, Equality North Carolina Executive Director Stuart Campbell or LGBT Community Center Chair John Stotler. “We stand with you in your fight for full inclusion in matters of local and state policy and law. We encourage the City of Charlotte and State of North Carolina to make changes and include your community in full citizenship.”

3. Gays hit the primetime

Openly gay speakers at the Democratic National Convention are nothing new. It’s happened before, but it’s still a rarity if you discount already-elected-to-office speakers like Massachusetts’ Rep. Barney Frank.

The first gay appearance at any national convention was at the 1972 Democratic National Convention in Miami Beach, Fla. A truly historic and momentous occasion, it set the stage for further LGBT inclusion in the decades to come.

In 1980, openly gay Mel Boozer, president of the Gay Activists Alliance, was nominated by petition at the convention for the vice presidency and addressed a primetime audience at the convention that year in New York City.

“Would you ask me how I dare to compare the civil rights struggle with the struggle for lesbian and gay rights,” Boozer asked. “I can compare them and I do compare them, because I know what it means to be called a ‘nigger’ and I know what it means to be called a ‘faggot,’ and I understand the differences in the marrow of my bones. And I can sum up that difference in one word: none.”

In 1992, openly gay, HIV-positive Clinton advisor Bob Hattoy addressed the convention, again in New York City. “I am a gay man with HIV,” he told the crowd.

Gay and lesbian people have had their historic moments on the DNC stage and this year would be a perfect time to include us again. Important political and legal issues are raging on topics of LGBT equality, especially here in North Carolina. No matter the outcome of the May 2012 anti-LGBT amendment vote, the topic of marriage equality will, no doubt, remain a highly-emotional issue in this state and across the country.

Putting an LGBT person on stage would allow our voices to be heard on important issues that affect our lives and the life of our nation, states and communities.

Just imagine:

A transgender man or woman addresses the convention audience and delivers a fiery speech. “I am an American citizen and deserve the right to equal and fair employment, housing and healthcare.”

Or, a same-sex couple comes out on stage with their children in tow. “We are a family and we deserve the same protections opposite-sex couples receive for themselves and their children,” they’d say.

Or, the best of all scenarios: A same-sex couple adorned in their best military dress blues. “We are American citizens and American soldiers. We can finally serve our nation and protect our nation’s freedoms with honesty and integrity. Yet, we are still discriminated against. Allow us our full citizenship: Repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and grant us the same rights as our fellow soldiers in opposite-sex relationships.”

The possibilities are endless. Guaranteed prime-time ratings booster, for sure, especially considering the GOP’s mostly antithetical positions on most LGBT equality issues.

Which brings me to me next idea…

4. Democrats adopt LGBT-friendly platform

The Democratic Party’s platform goes far and above the Republican Party’s platform on issues of LGBT equality, but it is still lacking. Set against the contrast of the GOP’s continued anti-LGBT animus, the Democrats’ adoption of a decidedly LGBT-inclusive platform would surely make this convention the most fantabulous national political event yet. Repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. Support for full marriage equality in all 50 states. Full equality in all aspects of U.S. law for LGBT people. No if’s, and’s or but’s about it.

5. An openly gay veep?

While Funk is positing the idea of an Obama-Clinton ticket, I’m dreaming of something much more significant. If a replacement for Vice President Joe Biden truly is in the works — remember, that’s just a rumor or a pipe dream, depending on perspective — and if the Democratic Party wants to take LGBT inclusion to the max, then the nomination of an openly gay or lesbian person to run side-by-side with President Obama is the way to go. Talk about friends in high places!

Special coverage of the
2012 Democratic National Convention
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...and through the generous support of Ken Badgett, Dobson, N.C.