From the Floor: DNC Convention all-in on LGBT issues

By Jan Stevenson and Susan Horowitz

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Attending the 2012 DNC Convention as LGBT delegates from Michigan this week is an honor. It is like being at a big family reunion where everyone is glad to see you; everyone's welcoming and interested to hear your story - especially the gay story. It is a sea-change of historic proportion. The Democratic Party Platform has been growing more inclusive since the 1980s, and with this year's platform the DNC has fully embraced marriage equality for same-sex couples.

We know that the spirit of Jean O'Leary, Harvey Milk, Elaine Noble and thousands of others that came before this moment, made it possible to gavel in and approve a DNC platform calling for full equality and dignity for LGBT Americans. We carry them close to our heart as we marvel at what is taking place.

A record number of LGBT delegates are in attendance here in Charlotte, with the National Stonewall Democrats reporting 551 accounted for, as the first day of the convention opened on Tuesday. Fourteen of them are from the state of Michigan.

Every state in the union is represented by LGBT delegates. LGBT delegates are also here from Puerto Rico and Guam. That number includes an historic 13 openly transgender people, including Michigan's Amy Hunter, president of Equality Michigan Pride PAC.

For both of us, it is simply mind-blowing. As long-time activists in the LGBT movement, we can remember an early and far less welcoming time, when we could only dream that someday a national political convention could be this inclusive.

At Tuesday's LGBT Caucus meeting, the most senior advisors to President Obama came to speak, to welcome us, to talk about the progress already made, and the challenges ahead to finally get to where LGBT people have full legal status in America. Valerie Jarrett, Obama's most senior policy advisor, spoke passionately about LGBT issues, saying our struggle is her struggle too. Cabinet Secretary of HHS Kathleen Sebelius explained the many ways the Affordable Care Act is beginning to help the LGBT community, and how excited she was to host the International HIV Conference this past July. It was possible only after Pres. Obama lifted a ban that had prevented HIV positive people from entering the U.S.

Sebelius also talked about how pleased she is that the administration led the charge to pass hate crimes legislation, lift the "don't ask, don't tell" ban in the military, and to openly support same-sex marriage.

The star attraction of the LGBT Caucus was clearly U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), the only openly lesbian member of Congress. She is running this time for an open U.S. Senate seat, and if she wins, she will become the first-ever openly LGBT person in the United States Senate.

When the gavel dropped to open the convention Monday night at 5 p.m., every speaker on the podium made a point of talking about LGBT equality. The speeches by many, recognized that same-sex marriage is a basic human right that should be extended to everyone, "regardless of who you love," a line repeated often during the evening, culminating in First Lady Michelle Obama's transformational speech, in which she too included same-sex marriage as a priority and a goal for the Democratic Party.

Freedom to Marry

The 2012 DNC National Platform reads:

We support the right of all families to have equal respect, responsibilities, and protections under the law. We support marriage equality and support the movement to secure equal treatment under law for same-sex couples. We also support the freedom of churches and religious entities to decide how to administer marriage as a religious sacrament without government interference.

We oppose discriminatory federal and state constitutional amendments and other attempts to deny equal protection of the laws to committed same-sex couples who seek the same respect and responsibilities as other married couples. We support the full repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act.

See the entire DNC Political Platform here

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