Gay Rights More Fully Integrated At 2008 DNC

09/28/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

In alignment with the Democratic National Convention, the Stonewall Democrats held their national convention in Denver, bringing together gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) Democrats from across the nation to insure their issues were included at the Democratic National Convention. Of the 4,489 delegates at the DNC, 270 are openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, according to the National Stonewall Democrats.

Jon Headley, National Stonewall Democrats Executive Director said, "We elect pro-equality Democrats and have come together to discuss the national platform language to insure that it is more inclusive for GLBT people who seek equality as Americans." Headley believes that gay people will have greater voting power at the upcoming DNC than they've had in previous years.

A DNC Platform Committee drafts an official statement of the Party's articulation of their beliefs and priorities. The platform is revised every four years and presented to the delegates at the convention for their vote of approval. GLBT people are seeking a statement to be equal in status and rights with other Americans.

"We have 20 GLBT people serving on the Platform Committee of 186 Democrats," Headley said. "In 2004 we were able to succeed in having 'gay and lesbian families' included in the language of that year's platform, and this year 'all families' (GLBT) have been included in the language not just gay and lesbian."

Joe Kaplan, a member of the Platform Committee said, "We are creating a positive vision for the future. We want a platform that most Americans will embrace."

The Democratic National Party officially recognizes the Stonewall Democrats and listens to their concerns. "We are included and empowered in the Democratic Party. The party has target goals in terms of inclusion, and GLBT participation has exceeded the target goals. What's important to GLBT people are the same issues that are important to all Americans, including healthcare, jobs and union representation," said Kaplan.

Kaplan feels that it's beneficial to elect an African-American president. "A black candidate is important for civil rights. It's a barrier broken, which is a barrier broken for all," Kaplan also acknowledged that electing a woman president was equally as important and the Democratic party is leading in terms of equality.

Kaplan finds that there is a growing acceptance of GLBT people in the black community. "A black person's oppression is a gay person's oppression. A gay person's oppression is a woman's oppression. The communities are coming together."

This year, California legalized same-sex marriage, and in 2004 Massachusetts was the first state to legalize same-sex marriage. Although the platform is not emphasizing same-sex marriage, "if you look around you will see that the sky has not fallen. The bigots are still bigots but mainstream people do not feel threatened by same-sex marriage in California," said Kaplan, a Massachusetts DNC delegate.

Kaplan is a Hillary Clinton supporter and I met him while he was having a good laugh with Obama supporter Faye Morrison. Faye is a heterosexual Massachusetts state delegate to the DNC who attended the Stonewall Democrats Convention. "The Hillary and Obama supporters are getting along. We are here to elect one president -- Barack Obama," said Kaplan.

"I've been an Obama supporter for over 15 years," said Morrison. "I was impressed that a young man of color was becoming a leader in the Democratic Party." Although she has been in awe with Barack Obama for many years she didn't expect Obama to announce his run for the presidency this soon. "I was shocked. I had heard rumors but still was shocked when it happened. I went to Springfield and was there when he announced his candidacy. It was very exciting. Obama is extremely supportive of gay rights as he is for equal rights for all Americans," said Morrison. "I believe that he will be a nurturing advocate of GLBT people".

Chris Crigler, Treasurer of the Colorado Stonewall Democrats said, "The Stonewall Democrats' purpose is to activate and mobilize the GLBT community to support Democrats, and encourage Democrats to support our issues."