CHARLOTTE, N.C. As delegates and party activists arrived in Charlotte for the Democratic National Convention, several LGBT delegates from Colorado were mixing it up with the other party faithful. While the convention is always a flood of energy and excitement, Elizabeth Harris and Brayden Portillo are riding the high with unbridled enthusiasm.
Harris is in town with her partner, Debbie, who is an alterante delegate for the Centennial State. While Jesse Jackson's appearance at her state delegation breakfast Wednesday morning was a highlight of the week, what stands out to her most is how many LGBT people are participating this year.
"We went to the LGBT caucus and it was an overflow crowd. The fire marshall had to come and he wouldn't let anyone else in because there are so many of us," she said. "It's a remarkable thing to be an LGBT delegate at this year's convention. It's just remarkable."
"The platform advocates in favor of marriage equality now. That's huge. It's a real contrast to the 'real marriage' that Ann Romney spoke about at the Republican convention," she continued. "My partner is an alternate and we've been together for 19 years. In my mind, and the party's, we're a real marriage too."
Portilla is starting a career as a political consultant and says the networking opportunities alone made the trip worthwhile. "Meeting these people can help a lot. The networking is priceless," he said.
This is Portillo's first political convention and he's especially impressed with the choice of Charlotte as host city.
"I love it out here. The city of Charlotte has been amazing as they've put on the convention. All of the people here are so nice," he said. "Even the hotel workers and pedicab drivers are sweet."
Harris agrees. "It's a very friendly city and very safe."
Portillo also thinks that experiencing the event in person is vastly different than watching at home on TV. "The atmosphere is amazing. I've watched it on TV, but this is almost overwhelming to step out in the arena, see the stage lit up, and think, 'I'm finally here.'"
With more LGBT delegates than any other presidential convention, support for marriage equality and other LGBT written into the formal party platform, and President Obama's recently announced "evolution" on the freedom to marry, this year's LGBT delegates aren't just excited to attend. Their lives are part of the very fabric of the Party.