As Democrats approach their convention in Charlotte, N.C., there isn’t much that will be left to chance. President Obama and his team will script things down to the last minute. But there are some things that can still be done related to the platform and how the people of D.C. get out their message that we aren’t accorded full democracy.
As members of the Platform Committee convene they need to hear from as many individuals and delegates as possible, including the delegates recently elected to the D.C. Democratic State Committee’s caucus.
The elected delegates from the District and those who will be appointed as part of the District’s contingent of 39 delegates and two alternates should support two specific planks in the platform. The first is a call for marriage equality and the second would support budget autonomy for the District of Columbia. The first may create a problem for the president if he doesn’t intend to fully ‘evolve’ on the issue of marriage equality before the election. But to be on the right side of history Democrats should support this plank. The second should be no problem as it is in the president’s budget message to Congress.
Twenty-two United States senators along with some of the vice chairs of the Obama campaign have already endorsed the marriage equality plank. It would be great if we could have a unanimous vote in support of this from the D.C. delegates but since Marion Barry is one I assume that we lose his vote. But we didn’t need it to get marriage equality in the District and he will have no impact on whether or not this goes into the platform. A number of the non-LGBT delegates that were elected, including Susan Meehan who received the most votes for a female delegate in District 1, are fully supportive of such a plank and will advocate for it. Supporters like Susan have always been critical as the LGBT community moves forward in its quest for full civil and human rights.
The issue that our delegation must take the lead on is bringing to the attention of the nation, and the world, how D.C.’s brave young men and women in the military fight for democracy around the world and then come home to the capital of the United States, which doesn’t have it. At the annual meeting of DC Vote, Phil Pannell reminded people how the issue of lesbian and gay rights was brought to the world at the Democratic National Convention in 1980. At the time, Mel Boozer, an elected delegate from the District of Columbia, became the focal point of a petition circulated at the convention by members of the gay and lesbian caucus to place his name in nomination for vice president of the United States. This was done successfully with more than 400 delegates signing the petition so that Mel would get a prime speaking slot at the convention to talk about lesbian and gay rights.
This model could be used again to create a platform to talk about the lack of democracy in the nation’s capital. A petition in the name of either Mayor Vincent Gray or Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton should be circulated to have their name placed in nomination for vice president so they would get a prime speaking time and could share with the world through the thousands of credentialed press in attendance the plight of the people of the capital of the United States and our fight for full democracy.
Were that to happen it could be a seminal moment in our fight for democracy. It would share a message that people for decades have been trying to share without resounding success. While there will be little at the convention that won’t be scripted, this could be one of the few unscripted moments and would receive widespread coverage. The speech the nominee would make could end with the same eloquent words that Boozer used in 1980, “And so, my fellow Democrats, in keeping with the faith which has made this nation great, in keeping with the promise of the American vision, and in keeping with the belief that we are all equal Americans, I respectfully withdraw my nomination.”
The time has come for the Democratic Party to stand for marriage equality and to stand up for the people of the District of Columbia in our fight for democracy. These blemishes on our nation can be removed if we are willing to stand strong as a party and work toward these goals together.