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DEM. NAT'L CONVENTION Obama kicks off campaign
by Amy Wooten

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The historic Democratic National Convention ( DNC ) came to a close Aug. 28.

The DNC—held in Denver, Colo.—was historic in many respects, especially for the LGBT community. Representation of LGBT people increased dramatically—41 percent since 2004—with 275 LGBT delegates and 366 official LGBT participants. Many of those participating were LGBT people of color, as well.

( Pictured: LGBT delegates Renae Ogletree and Mike Bauer at the DNC. Photo courtesy of Debra Shore. Joe Biden speaks at the DNC; Michelle Obama listens to her husband, Sen. Barack Obama, accept the Democratic nomination for president. Photos from C-SPAN )

This DNC had the largest LGBT caucus to date, and over the course of the convention, several of the key speakers, including presidential hopeful Barack Obama, included statements about the gay and lesbian community in their high-profile speeches.

Also, for the first time in the party's history, this year's platform ( a new one is adopted every four years ) explicitly opposes discrimination based on gender identity, as well as sexual orientation. The platform also calls for the repeal of the military's 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy.

On the first day of the convention, Michelle Obama made a passionate speech. Although she did not discuss LGBT issues, she did discuss the importance of values and treating people 'with dignity and respect.'

However, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who also spoke that day, mentioned lesbians and gays. 'Barack Obama will close the book on the old politics of race and gender, group against group, straight against gay,' Kennedy said.

The second day of the convention was dominated by a rousing speech made by Hillary Clinton, who in her address to the DNC, said she is a 'proud supporter' of Obama. She encouraged her supporters to do the same.

Her mention of the LGBT community received much applause. She said that she ran to 'fight for an America that is defined by deep, meaningful equality, from civil rights to labor rights, from women's rights to gay rights.'

Her speech was made on the anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. This would not be the last time such a coincidence occurred during the convention.

Day three of the convention included a much-anticipated speech by former President Bill Clinton, who mentioned gay rights and the battle against HIV/AIDS in the United States.

The former president said that Obama would give 'all Americans, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability' a chance for equality and a good life.

That afternoon, lesbian musician Melissa Etheridge performed on stage. Meanwhile, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean and openly gay U.S. Rep. Barney Frank stopped by the LGBT caucus and addressed the crowd.

The four-day convention ended with a rousing acceptance speech by presidential hopeful Barack Obama on Thursday, Aug. 28.

Prior to Obama taking the stage, many notable people made appearances, including former Vice President Al Gore, who mentioned gay rights and received loud applause. Gore said that if he had been elected, all Americans would be protected, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. He most spoke about the war in Iraq, the country's dependency on foreign oil and the environment.

Finally, in a moment everyone had been waiting for, Obama took the stage as more than 80,000 people filled the Denver Broncos' outdoor stadium in Denver. The poignant words of this first African-American candidate to win a major party nomination fell on the 45th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s historic 'I have a Dream' speech.

During his speech, Obama addressed ending discrimination of gays and lesbians.

He said, 'I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination.'

His statement gave many LGBT people and gay rights activists across the country hope, and sent a powerful message. His remarks also received loud applause from those present.

Renae Ogletree—a Chicago Obama delegate who was on the platform committee—e-mailed Windy City Times Aug. 28 from Denver, stating 'It's a tremendous honor to be here at the convention and be part of such an incredible time in our history. I'm here as a very proud African-American lesbian from Chicago. I've been able to talk to legislators and others about the needs of gay youth within the education system and housing.

'Being here has inspired me to work even harder to ensure the representation of people of color in state and local politics. There are too few of us here. BUT first we MUST ELECT OBAMA.'

Mike Bauer—a local gay activist who was an at-large delegate for Obama, commented that 'there were so many emotional highlights—Ted Kennedy's physical presence Monday evening to support Barack's candidacy; and Hillary Clinton's incredibly gracious speech [ Aug. 26 ] throwing her support behind Barack; Bill Clinton's masterful rhetoric endorsing Barack followed by Joe Biden's acceptance speech—both speeches that launched a biting critique of the Bush administration record.'

'Out of a week that was so [ emotional ] , perhaps the two most stirring moments came when Michelle Obama addressed a luncheon for LGBT delegates on [ Aug. 26 ] and firmly committed the Obama administration to including our community's fight in making this country what it should be rather than accepting what it is now and, finally, of course, Barack's acceptance speech, in which he committed himself to the fight for LGBT rights,' Bauer continued. 'I believe that all of us from Illinois shared a tremendous sense of pride at the historic accomplishment of this year's Democratic Convention by someone so many of us have known for so long.'

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