An Unconventional Convention —“Live” From Philly
The Democratic National Convention, which recently met in Philadelphia, has created quite a buzz across the country. Of particular note, and by now this is old news to all, Donald Trump took umbrage over a speech delivered by Khizr Kahn, whose son, Capt. Humayun Kahn, died in military service in Iraq in 2004. How Donald Trump handled Mr. Kahn’s speech has become fodder for the media since, and has been the salient reason for his drop in the polls.
The Republican National Convention did notch a first when Peter Thiel, an openly gay CEO, spoke on the national stage. To his credit, he did state in his remarks that he did not “pretend to agree with every plank” in the Republican platform. This was pretty much a given, when that platform specifically states that marriage is only between one man and one woman, that gay couples should not be permitted to adopt children, that non-discrimination language toward transgender people should be deleted, and that gay children should be placed into gay conversion therapy. Interestingly enough, or perhaps ironically enough, this platform was written in spite of the pleadings of a gay member of the Platform Committee. Rachel Hoff, a Washington, D.C., delegate serving on the committee, implored committee members to “include me and people like me.” They didn’t.
But let’s go back to Philadelphia for a few moments, if we can. Let’s push the balloons back into their waiting nets. Let’s take our attention away from the stage, and scan the crowd of gathered delegates. Who do we see? Who is sitting there, ready to vote their conscience?
In a very stark contrast, the Democratic National Convention had more transgender delegates than the Republican National Convention had African-American delegates. There were twenty-eight transgender delegates to the DNC, while the RNC had eighteen African-American delegates at their gathering in Cleveland. Across the board, the DNC had just under seven hundred of its delegates in the LGBT spectrum, or 11% of the delegates in attendance.
One of those transgender delegates in Philadelphia was Joanne Carroll, President of TransCentral PA. TCPA, as they call themselves, is a 501(c)(3) organization that provides advocacy and support to transgender persons, their families, and allies in the Harrisburg, PA, region. For full disclosure, Ms. Carroll and I are good friends. She has given me permission to quote her remarks submitted in a recent article in Central Voice.
“The platform adopted by the Democratic Party for 2016 is the most comprehensive LGBT friendly platform ever adopted by a major political party and here it is: ‘Guaranteeing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Democrats applaud last year’s decision by the Supreme Court that recognized that LGBT people—like other Americans—have the right to marry the person they love. But there is still much work to be done. LGBT kids continue to be bullied at school, restaurants can refuse to serve transgender people, and same-sex couples are at risk of being evicted from their homes. That is unacceptable and must change. Democrats will fight for the continued development of sex discrimination laws to cover LGBT people. We will also fight for comprehensive federal nondiscrimination protections for all LGBT Americans, to guarantee equal rights in areas such as housing, employment, public accommodations, credit, jury service, education, and federal funding. We will oppose all state efforts to discriminate against LGBT individuals, including legislation that restricts the right to access public spaces. We support a progressive vision of religious freedom that respects pluralism and rejects the misuse of religion to discriminate. We will combat LGBT youth homelessness and improve school climates. We will support LGBT elders, ensure access to necessary health care, and protect LGBT people from violence—including ending the crisis of violence against transgender Americans. We will also promote LGBT human rights and ensure America’s foreign policy is inclusive of LGBT people around the world.
“[One] significant feature [of the Convention] was the speech by [Joanne’s] friend, Sarah McBride, the first openly transgender person to speak at any national convention. Sarah is credited with being the force majeure behind the passage of non-discrimination in Delaware. Following her graduation from college, she served as a White House intern, and currently serves as the National Press Secretary for the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. As a side note, she was a keynote speaker for the eighth annual Keystone Conference (a transgender conference held in Harrisburg) in March of 2016.”
In the months leading up to the DNC Convention, there was plenty of intentional planning that took place with LGBT-owned businesses. The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce played a significant role in connecting its members with those who had specific needs for the Convention. It is refreshing to know that the LGBT community was not only welcome to attend the Convention, but was part and parcel of the foundation and platform of the Democratic Party.
An unconventional Convention took place in Philadelphia. But then, is not this whole Presidential campaign, on both sides of the aisle, rather unconventional? There is a lot of buzz about many aspects of the Democratic Convention, and the various speakers who addressed the nation. Of all the messages spoken from the stage, the one that stands out for me is the motto that Michelle Obama encouraged the nation to adopt as its own: “When they go low, we go high.”