CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Hundreds of LGBT Democratic National Convention delegates and their guests attended a caucus meeting early Tuesday afternoon at the Charlotte Convention Center. Speakers at the event included openly lesbian North Carolina state Senate candidate Deb Butler, openly gay North Carolina state Rep. Marcus Brandon, White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and Wisconsin’s openly lesbian Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin.
Rick Stafford, LGBT caucus chair and activist, hosted the event alongside Raymond Buckley, the first openly gay president of the Association of State Democratic Chairs. Stafford noted that this is his tenth convention and his ninth as an openly gay politician. The caucus itself highlighted the immense progress made by the LGBT community since President Barack Obama’s initial election, particularly the visibility gained by the amount of LGBT officials elected to public office over the last few years.
“The sheer size of this caucus is but one example of the progress we’ve made toward equality,” said Baldwin who, if elected, will serve as the first openly LGBT member of the U.S. Senate.
Further cause for celebration came from the release of the Democratic Party Platform earlier Tuesday, which contained a plank affirming the party’s commitment to marriage equality. Many attendees were visibly moved during the caucus, as the party’s support for marriage equality evidences the culmination of decades of work for many veteran activists.
“I wanted to be here,” said Weingarten during her speech, “not just as a lesbian, not a member of the LGBT caucus, but as a member of the platform committee when the marriage plank passed without any dissent.”
The dire necessity for the LGBT community to reelect Obama served as the visible theme unifying all speeches during the caucus. Multiple speakers emphasized how virtually all progress gained over the past decade would be lost under a Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan administration.
“There has been a lot of progress in a relatively short period of time, but there is still a lot more to do,” said U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. “November is the most important election of your lifetime — and my lifetime.”
Sebelius also highlighted the importance of the Affordable Care Act and the imperative nature of the legislation for the LGBT community.
Steve Kerrigan, CEO of the Democratic National Convention Committee, was the final speaker at the event. Kerrigan is the first openly gay man to serve in the position.
The caucus itself closed with a roll call of all LGBT delegates state by state, in similar fashion to the traditional roll call at the convention itself. In all, the Democratic National Convention is playing host to over 500 openly LGBT delegates – more than any other political convention in history.