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Democratic stars take stage, defuse drama
Michelle Obama, Warren, Sanders and Booker among speakers
by Chris Johnson, Washington Blade
2016-07-26

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PHILADELPHIA—Democrats appealed to both emotion and intellect while encouraging support for Hillary Clinton on the first day of their national convention, often peppering remarks with references to LGBT rights.

The most well-received speech came from First Lady Michelle Obama, who made a case to elect Clinton based on her tenacity and shared commitment to family.

"And make no mistake about it: This November, when we go to the polls, that is what we're deciding—not Democrat or Republican, not left or right," Obama said. "No, in this election and every election is about who will have the power to shape our children for the next four or eight years of their lives. And I am here tonight because in this election there is only one person who I trust with that responsibility, only one person who I believe is truly qualified to be president of the United States, and that is our friend Hillary Clinton."

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren ( D-Mass. ), a favorite among progressives, delivered the keynote speech of the night and sought to take down Donald Trump for policies—as well as a personal history—she said undermines America.

"What kind of a man roots for the economic crash that cost millions of people their jobs?" Warren said. "Their homes? Their life savings? What kind of a man cheats students, cheats investors, cheats workers? I'll tell you what kind of man. A man who must never be president of the United States."

At one point, Warren slammed Trump for selecting Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate, saying he's "famous for trying to make it legal to openly discriminate against gays and lesbians."

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders ( I-Vt. ), Clinton's rival during the primaries, sought to unify Democrats on a day when "Bernie-or-Bust" protesters raised their voices.

"I remember her as a great first lady who broke precedent in terms of the role that a first lady was supposed to play as she helped lead the fight for universal health care," Sanders said. "I served with her in the United States Senate and know her as a fierce advocate for the rights of children. Hillary Clinton will make an outstanding president and I am proud to stand with her here tonight."

Sanders in part made the case for Clinton by saying her appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court would protect LGBT people.

"Her Supreme Court appointments will also defend a woman's right to choose, workers' rights, the rights of the LGBT community, the needs of minorities and immigrants and the government's ability to protect the environment," Sanders said.

A noteworthy appearance was made by comedian and Sanders supporter Sarah Silverman. Declaring she'll vote for Clinton in the general election, Silverman told the "Bernie-or-Bust" crowd at the convention, "You're being ridiculous."

Similar to 2012, speakers at the Democratic National Convention enumerated support for the LGBT community throughout their remarks.

In a speech titled "We Will Rise," Sen. Cory Booker ( D-N.J. ) referenced gay people when touting the founding principles of the nation based on the Declaration of Independence.

"I am so proud that it was upon this foundation that we built a great nation and today, no matter who you are, rich or poor, Asian or white, man or woman, gay or straight, any religion or none at all, you are entitled to the civil rights and responsibilities of citizenship," Booker said.

Among the openly LGBT speakers on stage was Jason Collins, who was the first openly gay man to play for a team in the NBA and said the Clinton knew he was gay long before he came out publicly.

"Before I came out to the world on the cover of Sports Illustrated, I came out privately to the Clinton family. I have known their family for almost 20 years," Collins said. "I knew that they would accept me for who I was; and that they would help pave a path for others to do the same. I am forever grateful for their words of wisdom back then and their unconditional support. They know that my sexual orientation made no difference in my ability to play basketball, just as someone's gender makes no difference in his or her ability to lead our nation."

Appearing on stage with Collins was his twin brother, Jarron Thomas Collins, a professional basketball coach and a retired player in the NBA.

"How do you tell your kids not to be a bully if their president is one?" Collins said. "How do you tell your kids to respect their heritage if their president disparages it? How do you tell your daughters they are empowered if their president reduces women to their physical appearance?"

Other openly LGBT speakers at the event included Randi Weingarten, a lesbian and president of the American Federation of Teachers, and Mary Kay Henry, a lesbian and international president of the Service Employees International Union.

Gay former Rep. Barney Frank, chair of the rules committee for the convention, made brief opening remarks when he asked the convention to ratify the rules proposed for the event. Also appearing briefly on stage without speaking as a vice chair of the convention was Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign.


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