LGBT political groups are preparing for the upcoming Democratic and Republican national conventions as one gay GOP organization announced its involvement in the party’s platform drafting process for the first time.
R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, said Tuesday a team from his organization will be credentialed to attend the platform committee meeting, which will take place the week of Aug. 20 in Tampa, Fla., prior to the start of the convention.
“Just looking at the 2008 document, Log Cabin has gone through and we’ve noted language in there that’s either directly unhelpful, or seen as anti-gay, and have marked it for deletion,” Cooper said. “We’ve also found language that could be strengthened to be more inclusive. That said, there’s going to be a completely new document. It’s not as if they’re taking the ’08 document and just updating it.”
Cooper said the group has already identified language in the 2008 platform that it will push to remove in the 2012 document, including language related to marriage. Under the heading “Preserving Traditional Marriage,” the 2008 platform endorses the Federal Marriage Amendment and affirms passing same-sex marriage bans through state initiatives.
Gary Howard, a spokesperson for the Republican National Committee, confirmed Log Cabin’s involvement in the platform process, but also said other organizations, including social conservative groups, will take part.
“As has been the practice in previous years, the Platform Committee Staff maintains an open door policy and welcomes input and suggestions from outside groups,” Howard said. “This year the staff has heard from hundreds of different groups as they presented their views on the Platform, this includes suggestions submitted by the public at-large at the gopplatform2012.com website. The Log Cabin Republicans reached out to the RNC to share their ideas as well. Additionally, the Platform Staff hosted meetings with dozens of social conservative groups to emphasize the importance of keeping the GOP’s commitment to traditional marriage.”
Log Cabin’s four-member delegation to the platform committee consists of Cooper; Casey Pick, Log Cabin’s program director; James Abbott, a trustee for Log Cabin; and Kathryn Lehman, another Log Cabin trustee. Cooper said it’s the first time Log Cabin has been directly involved in the platform drafting process.
The organization’s team will likely have its work cut out for them. The Republican Party has longstanding ties to social conservative groups like the National Organization for Marriage and the Family Research Council, which will likely be advocating for anti-gay language as well as opposition to marriage equality.
Cooper’s announcement that Log Cabin will be involved in the platform drafting process comes on the heels of news — first reported by the Washington Blade — that the Democratic Party has adopted a marriage equality plank as part of its platform. The Democratic platform is still in a draft phase; the full platform drafting committee will meet this weekend in Detroit to hammer out a final version of the platform that will be sent to delegates at the Charlotte convention. The exact language of the marriage equality plank wasn’t immediately available.
Jerame Davis, executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats, said the language for the Democratic platform won’t likely be made public until after the meeting in Detroit.
“The reason they’re doing that is because the platform drafting committee vote wasn’t on specific language, as I understand it, it was on just the idea of having some certain language, then they would finalize the language and it would be approved in Detroit,” Davis said. “Once it’s approved in Detroit as the official draft of the platform, it will then be adopted by the full committee at the convention. So they’ll release it once it’s an official draft. We should see it shortly after the Detroit meeting.”
Davis said he was told the LGBT language will be “relatively strong, but relatively short” and the platform itself will be relatively short — possibly just a list of bullet points. A Democratic National Committee staffer had previously told the Blade the language not only endorses marriage equality, but rejects the Defense of Marriage Act and has positive words about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
Cooper said the process for drafting the Republican platform is different from the Democrats’ process. There have already been early meetings in the past few weeks in which constituent groups, including Log Cabin, have talked with the drafting team. The actual process of resolutions, amendments and language consideration happens the week of the 20th with most work happening on Aug. 20 and 21.
Jimmy LaSalvia, executive director of the gay conservative group GOProud, predicted he’ll “disagree” with elements of the Republican platform once it’s made public, but dismissed its significance.
“The truth of the matter is, the platform is a piece of paper,” LaSalvia said. “The platform conveys no rights and responsibilities, the platform does not have the force of law, and routinely the day after the platform is written candidates all over the country say they don’t agree with everything in the platform.”
Asked about his own political goals for the Republican convention, LaSalvia said his group has a singular focus that is shared with the other groups attending the convention: the election of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
“We’re the national gay organization who’s endorsed Mitt Romney, and our goal is the goal of every organization who will be in Tampa, and that is to elect Mitt Romney as president: that’s our political goal,” LaSalvia said. “That’s the reason for this convention. The reason for this convention is nominate Mitt Romney and to help elect him president of the United States. There is no other goal.”
For the Democratic National Convention, which will take place in Charlotte, N.C., the expectations are significantly higher because the party has a tradition of LGBT-inclusivness, although some goals remain unrealized.
Stonewall’s Davis said one of the goals is having the most openly LGBT delegates ever at the Democratic convention. His organization has identified more than 350 LGBT delegates to the convention, but said the DNC hasn’t released its final count. The official goal for the Democrats is 410. The Republicans don’t keep track of whether their delegates identify as LGBT.
“We’re expecting that goal to be exceeded,” Davis said. “Even if they only break the 410 mark that is the goal, it will still be a record number of delegates.”
In 2008, the total number of LGBT delegates at the convention was 277. At the time, Stonewall also counted other LGBT participants at the convention to reach an “LGBT participation” number of 359. In addition to the 277 delegates, the group counted 42 alternate delegates, 34 standing committee members and six convention pages.
This year, Stonewall is planning a presence at the two LGBT caucus meetings involving LGBT delegates on Sept. 4 and 6, but it’s not yet clear what the group’s involvement will be because the final details on the caucus meetings aren’t ironed out.
Having openly LGBT speakers is a goal that both Republicans and Democrats share, although none have been announced so far.
For the Democratic convention, Davis said he’s personally requested LGBT speakers and would like to see retiring gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) be given a slot because “it’s his last year in office and I think it would be an excellent send off.”
Frank’s office said the lawmaker has no comment on whether he’d like to address the convention during his final year in office. Other announced speakers at the convention include San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, who’ll deliver the keynote address. As a U.S. Senate candidate, President Obama’s 2004 keynote speech at the Democratic convention propelled him into the national spotlight.
Openly gay speakers were given slots at the 2008 convention, including Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), who’s now a U.S. Senate candidate, and Democratic National Committee Treasurer Andy Tobias.
Cooper said he’d also like to see openly gay speakers at the Republican convention, suggesting as possibilities Mary Cheney, former Republican National Committee chair Ken Mehlman and former U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe. It’s not unprecedented for a gay speaker to address the Republicans; Kolbe addressed the 2000 convention, although many in the audience bowed their heads in prayer.
Already announced speakers at the Republican convention include former Sen. Rick Santorum, who continued his record of anti-gay hostility while campaigning unsuccessfully for president.
In addition to having political goals for the conventions, these groups are also hosting parties for LGBT attendees coming to rally with their respective parties.
Stonewall has two official events during the week of the Democratic convention: a luncheon with the Victory Fund and the Human Rights Campaign for LGBT delegates and elected officials on Sept. 5 and another reception with Netroots Nation for which a date hasn’t yet been set, but will likely be Sept. 4.
At the Republican convention, Log Cabin is hosting four events throughout the week along with other LGBT groups: a welcome reception with the local Log Cabin on Aug. 26; an event for openly LGBT Republicans seeking political office with the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund on Aug. 27; a brunch for “Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry” with the organization Freedom to Marry on Aug. 29; and a closed press event honoring congressional Republican allies of the LGBT community on Aug. 30.
GOProud will host its annual “Homocon” party on Aug. 28 at The Honey Pot.
LaSalvia said Homocon “will be a ‘who’s who’ of the conservative movement,” including pundits and political figures, although he declined to announce any names. In 2010, GOProud made headlines when it announced conservative pundit Ann Coulter, who has sometimes expressed anti-gay views, would headline its inaugural Homocon event.
The Democratic National Committee didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment on plans for making the conventions more LGBT inclusive by deadline.