From an LGBT perspective, the difference between the Republican and Democratic conventions couldn’t have been more stark. While Log Cabin Republicans did manage to keep anti-gay rhetoric off the convention stage, the Republican Party platform is as anti-gay and anti-choice as ever. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party platform not only included historic support for marriage equality, but almost every speaker at the DNC convention referred to LGBT equality.
“I’m very proud of the party, and particularly proud of the party’s embrace of marriage equality. It wasn’t shied away from. It was proudly a central part of the platform—and the components of many of the speakers and many of the videos and really part of the seamless whole of the convention,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-L.A., told Frontiers after the convention. “It is such a dramatic contrast from four years ago. I think the country has gone past a tipping point. I was having this discussion with Mark Leno last night. I think the President’s speech—not the convention speech but his embrace of marriage equality—was a really pivotal moment. Some have claimed there was a certain inevitability about that politically. I don’t think it was politically inevitable at all. I think it was a courageous thing for him to do, and I think it is having a catalytic effect.”
Indeed, speaker after speaker spoke about equality and seemed to reclaim and reframe the Right Wing’s favorite phrase “family values” to mean that all families must cope with the difficult economy and the need for jobs.
But while Obama got a ‘bump’ in the polls immediately after the convention, the somber commemoration of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks resulted in a shift away from the Republican-Democratic debate over equality and the economy to foreign policy when al Qaeda-style terrorists attacked the U.S. Embassy in Libya and killed American Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others. At the same time, protesters grew violent outside embassies in Egypt and Yemen over what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described as a “disgusting and reprehensible” anti-Islamic amateur film posted on YouTube besmirching the Prophet Muhammad. The film was produced in the Los Angeles area by a man now under investigation, and promoted by Steven Klein, a Christian extremist from Hemet who founded an anti-Muslim, anti-Mormon and anti-gay organization, Courageous Christians United.
In contrast to every other crisis when the United States is under attack, GOP Presidential nominee Mitt Romney used an early press release from the U.S. Consulate in Libya trying to pre-empt demonstrations over the film as a reason to say President Obama was “apologizing” for the assaults—which had not even occurred yet. Though Romney was immediately chastised for failing to wait for more accurate information and for undermining the president during an international crisis, many other Republicans started doubling-down and defending Romney. The attacks were expected to continue at the anti-gay Family Research Council-sponsored Value Voters Summit in Washington, D.C., Sept. 15-16.
Americans will undoubtedly look to the presidential debates starting Oct. 3 to figure out which of the two men—Obama or Romney—should lead the country for the next four years. But for LGBT people who caught a glimpse of the DNC Convention, the choice may be clear-cut.
“Look around you, everyone! This has been the most diverse, most inclusive convention ever held anywhere in the United States of America! A convention not only of symbolism, but of substance. This is the first time that a major party platform recognizes marriage equality as a basic human right,” Los Angeles Mayor and Convention Chair Antonio Villaraigosa, a leader of Mayors for the Freedom to Marry campaign, said during his convention remarks. “Whenever we’ve opened up our party and our country, whenever we’ve opened up doors for more of our people, whenever we’ve deepened our democracy and renewed our commitment to equal justice under the law, we’ve grown stronger as a nation.”
The plethora of gay and lesbian speakers included DNC Treasurer Andy Tobias; SEIU President Mary Kay Henry; Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez; Colorado Rep. Jared Polis; Wisconsin Rep. Tammy Baldwin, running for the U.S. Senate; Rep. Barney Frank; straight ally Zach Wahls, who spoke about his two moms; and young lesbian Alejandra Salinas talking about the DREAMers.
Thanks in large part to the hard work of DNC and Stonewall Democratic Club stalwart Garry Shay, who devised the DNC’s “Inclusion Rule,” a historic 550-plus LGBT delegates, alternatives and others participated at the convention. Additionally, top Obama administration and key elected officials spoke at the standing-room-only LGBT Caucus meetings, and First Lady Michelle Obama was fêted at an event hosted by the Human Rights Campaign and The Victory Fund.
Obama’s re-election and working to elect pro-equality candidates to Congress is happening at the same time as Freedom to Marry is asking people to take a “volunteer vacation” to help fight for marriage at the ballot this November in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington.
However, the fear of another attack on American shores—or fear of being pulled into a conflict in the Middle East—may throw a wrench into whatever predictions one might have about the outcome of the Nov. 6 elections. But whether one considers LGBT equality, the economy or foreign policy, this may be the most critical election in American history.